Retirement is more than leisure for baby boomers

Rear view of a mature man waking up in bed and stretching his arms

Image: lightwavemedia/

Boomers are changing the concept that retirement is mainly a time for leisure into something more intentional. And that’s because, say Richard and Leona Bergstrom in Third Calling, most Boomers want to ‘age with purpose and possibility’.

They quote the authors of Generation Ageless (J Walker Smith and Ann Clurman) who suggest that Boomers share ‘three foundational beliefs about this season of life:

  • Youthfulness: A belief in an ageless engagement with life that is active, spirited, and exuberant.
  • Impact: A desire to have an enduring influence in making a difference.
  • Possibility: A sense of personal development built upon empowerment and continuous progression.’

If true, this means that while leisure will be a part of Boomer retirement, it will not be the focus.

Here’s their point

The Bergstroms suggest that the generation at the forefront of change in the 1960s still have the potential to fulfil many of the unrealised hopes and dreams of their earlier days and should act on it.

They’re calling for Boomers to ‘challenge the predominant attitudes that discriminate against and limit the possibilities of ageing. We can model new ways to live a long time with purpose and passion’.

This is a reminder that there’s still a life to live in retirement. And a challenge to those thinking of retirement to plan to live life with purpose.

There’s another side to the story

One of the realities for current retirees is the possibility of long life. In most developed countries, our life expectancy has grown by about 30 years from 1900 to 2000. It’s reasonable to ask what will we do with the extra years our great-great-grandparents never had.

Linda P Fried, a doctor specialising in geriatrics writes, ‘As they shared their lives with me, my patients taught me that many of the ills associated with ageing were worsened—or even created—by the lack of meaning and purpose in people’s lives’.

So, it’s important to have this sense of purpose, even if only for health reasons. It does help you to go back to the 60s attitude of attempting to make a difference in the world, or to someone’s life, or to a cause.

Fried continues: ‘Too many of my patients suffered from pain, far deeper than the physical, caused by not having a reason to get up in the morning’.

So, what will be your purpose in life? In retirement?

Asking this question doesn’t mean you can’t get out on the golf course three times a week. Or meet with friends regularly at a café. Or chill out. Leisure and relaxing is an important part of retirement. But what will you do that will add meaning to life?

Many Boomers still have within them the desire to change the world in some way.

And why not?

As you plan your retirement, it’s worth thinking about what you’ll do that has potential to change the world and also give you that reason for getting up in the morning.

Retirement, like any other stage of life, is about living your life with purpose and on purpose—for life satisfaction and your health.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Attitude, Lifestyle, Purpose

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