THE REALITY OF RETIREMENT: The Inner Experience of Becoming a Retired Person by Jules Z. Willing
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THE REALITY OF RETIREMENT: The Inner Experience of Becoming a Retired Person

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Acerbic, myth-puncturing observations on Life after the Gold Watch Dinner--with some remedial advice. To be sure, ex-Revlon executive Willing admits that his research has been confined to a small, select group--middle and upper-middle executives (predictably, white and urban)--but others in dread of being ""unplugged"" from a life's career won't feel out of place. ""Retirement transforms a world in which there was not only an active present, but also a meaningful future, into a world with no present and no future. It has become a recollection and not an experience."" Has what we've spent our lives on been worth it? The feeling of becoming a ""deactivated mechanism,"" the doubt that we have any worth beyond what we ""do,"" create deep wounds of which few are aware. Willing smartly puts down the ""fantasy"" of satisfaction in pursuing neglected hobbies, in trips, in wallowing about in all that free time--even in much volunteer work (the sort in which paid workers exploit the retiree). He warns of domestic power struggles or the mutual smothering of husbands and wives as the old, unseated provider invades his wife's territory, as a trainee. Do not, he stresses, confuse the problems of retirement with those of aging. ""The causes of the elderly may be security, care or equality. The cause of the retired is one of function."" But all is not lost. To vivify the transition period, ease off the job with vigor and an eye to maintaining that stride in retirement. And, once retired, aim for demanding, even risky projects--which ""kick off the conditioned responses within us that keep us feeling alive and worthwhile."" There must, however, be a reevaluation of values held during a working life (upward mobility, job status, etc.), and a strenuous search for those which further a sense of involvement with others. A trifle garrulous and repetitious, but for lifelong achievers especially, some home truths.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow