Identity after retirement.


When we retire, who do we become ? How do we describe ourselves when our ‘working’ lives are over? No longer labelled by a profession, or an institutional association, or a corporate title, how do I introduce myself at a party, or any social event after I say my name ? What part of my life do I choose to focus on in conversation? What sartorial choices am I going to make when I get up in the morning to reflect my changed way of life?

What’s going on ? Am I at last free , all other things being equal, to make different choices about how I spend my time ? Is it about giving back – using some of that time to volunteer in my own community or in the wider world? Is it about new learning – reviving dusty holiday French, for instance, or taking an online course in ‘Strategies for successful ageing ‘ through a learning platform like  ? Is it about paying more attention to my health and well being, for some of us on the principle of ‘better late than never ‘? For a while, perhaps it’s about travelling – a couple of big trips,  South Africa, Costa Rica, India – and then it’s about settling, or is it? And always it comes back to the new identity – who am I ? After retirement what choices will I make ? Where will I decide to be ? With whom will I want to be ?

Money, the only currency that seemed to matter during the salaried or earning life, while still important, now seems much less important than time .Perhaps for that reason, experiences -the good ones ! seem to be all the more intense and to be more important.

So many questions, so many options, a little less time. As I sat in the garden in the sun this week after a pleasurable long lunch with old friends the talk turned to retirement and someone said , “It’s all about identity now. I am an old man who gardens.” I looked at the vegetables he has grown, the roses and lavender that have flourished under his care this year and thought, ” Yes , that’s true, that’s partly who you are now. And there’s so much more. ”

So I think what I am trying to say is that after retirement life becomes at least as interesting and challenging as it was before ; that getting to know a person means taking a different approach – perhaps through a shared interest, for example. Like decluttering , it’s about letting go and making room for a  new or at least reshaped identity.

What do you think ?