This past month I turned 71 years old so it’s time for a report from the field. I’ve now taken to introducing myself as “I’m Rick Moody, and I’m retired.” Why do I do that? Because I’m in favor of retirement, even more so since I retired 2 years ago from AARP. Someone jokingly asked me, “How do you retire from AARP?” More seriously, a major national authority on life planning said to me, “You can’t be retired. You have so much to contribute.”
Interesting food for thought. True, I’m working on three books at the moment, I give speeches and do consulting, I spend lots of time, as a volunteer, helping small nonprofits with fund-raising and marketing. I also edit several newsletters. (Do I qualify now for “productive aging”?) More to the point, I’ve taken Tai Chi, ballroom dancing, white water rafting, and gone on wonderful Road Scholar trips. These days I take weekly voice lessons and will soon start training in mime and in contemplative photography. Hmm, too self-centered? Robert Browning said it well: “The last of life for which the first was made…”
There’s a move abroad these days to attack the idea of retirement (“You’re too young to be retired”). Some prominent political voices have a hand in this: for example, proposing to raise the age of eligibility for Social Security. Others attack retirement itself as “bad for your health”– a false claim refuted by 50 years of research on the subject. But urban legends don’t die easily.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of elders giving back and taking care of future generations. That’s why I serve as Board Chair of Gray Is Green, the National Senior Conservation Corp, and why I’m proud to have served as a judge for the Purpose Prize from Encore.org. Yes, we need Encore careers and those of us who are elders have not outgrown our obligations.
We also need to appreciate that “It’s not your grandfather’s retirement.” But it’s still retirement, even as its face is changing. At a time when defined benefit programs are vanishing and when entitlements are under attack, we should think long and hard before opposing the idea of retirement.
As a privileged person myself, I want to make sure that more people have this benefit in years to come.