What’s Your Vision of Retirement?

A new generation sees new possibilities

Posted Jan 05, 2015

Retirement—the word has different meanings to different people. For those tired and disillusioned with their jobs, it means getting away: retiring from. But more and more people these days are seeing it as retiring to.

In the last few years, I’ve seen Steve retire from a high tech career to teach science in elementary school, Katherine retire from a career in management to write science fiction, Dave leave his appliance repair business to play in a musical group, and Don sell his dental practice to become a highly acclaimed nature photographer.

There’s a message here. As psychotherapist and coach Lorraine Banfield writes in Second Act Soul Calls (2013), a new generation is redefining retirement—no longer either a perpetual vacation or an inevitable surrender to diminished resources and declining health. Instead, in what she calls, “the possibility years,” men and women are searching for new paths to joy and meaning, new ways to contribute to their communities.

Staying active in retirement is not only good for our communities; it’s good for our health. In Finding Meaning, Facing Fears, psychologist Jerry Shapiro cites research relating part time work in retirement to better physical and mental health (2012, p. 167; see Zhan, Wang, Liu, & Shultz, 2009). If you’re approaching retirement, how you define this stage of life makes a tremendous difference in your health and wellbeing. New research in the journal Psychological Science found a significant improvement in the physical function of people in their 60s to 90s when they overcame negative age stereotypes with a four-week intervention (Levy, Pilver, Chung, & Slade, 2014).  

So if you’re considering retirement, it’s time to ask, “What am I retiring to?”


Banfield, L. (2013). Second act soul calls: Your guide to the reinvention of your life at midlife and beyond with passion, purpose, and possibilities. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press.

Levy, B. R., Pilver, C., Chung, P. H., & Slade, M. D. (2014). Subliminal strengthening: Improving older individuals’ physical function over time with an implicit-age-stereotype intervention. Psychological Science, 25, 2127-2135.

Shapiro, J. L. (2012). Finding meaning, facing fears in the autumn of your years (45-65). Atascadero, CA: Impact Publishers.

Zhan, Y., Wang, M., Liu, S., Shultz, K. S. (2009). Bridge employment and retirees’ health: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14, 374-389.


Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, personal coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.


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