Let’s retire the word “retirement”

Who would think the word “retirement” would cause such a negative emotional response when so many folks seemed to look forward to this stage of life. I started by looking up related phrases.

retire (rî-tìr´) verb

1.    To withdraw, as for rest or seclusion.
2.    To go to bed.
3.    To withdraw from one’s occupation, business, or office; stop working.
4.    To fall back or retreat, as from battle.
5.    To move back or away; recede.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

retired person (noun)

old person: old person, elderly person, retired person, pensioner, old-age pensioner, senior citizen
Source: The Original Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

With definitions like this, no wonder folks have such a negative reaction when I say I’m retired. “You can’t be – you’re too young – you’re too active” are the common retorts.

I think of retirement as a time when I can do things I want to do. Where work is done more on my terms. And where I can finally focus on work/life balance. It doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing and from the inspiring “retired” folks I’ve met, none of them are withdrawing or retreating from battle per se. We are still working just with a different perspective.

Some of us are pensioners, some of us no longer work for the companies we used to, but we are not receding, in fact, many of us are going forward with more boldness than ever before. And when it comes to the age question, I would challenge you to define “old.”

So I need a new word for this stage of my life. Retirement doesn’t work, pardon the pun. I’ll take your suggestions.

  1. cindyrp said:

    Thoughtful reflection by Ian Brown in today’s Globe and Mail triggered by the death of 77 year old crime novelist Robert Parker whose life was devoted to writing, a job he loved and died doing.

    Ian writes, “What I long for ….is to have genuinely lived before I die. To that end, we tell each other we wish we’d “worked less,” but we really mean we wish we’d worked at something more meaningful, more daring, and more personally authentic.”

    Well said, Ian.

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