Re-Imagining Retirement Through Metaphors

Welcome to my blog. I have never done this before, so it will be an adventure corresponding to my upcoming retirement. Here are some thoughts on retirement and in the weeks to come I will be exploring various metaphors associated with this new phase of life.

Demographic data indicates that seniors are the fastest growing age group in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2011). It is estimated that by 2051 about one in four Canadians will be 65 or over. This trend reflects greater numbers and also the fact that people are living longer. In 1922 life expectancy for men was 59 years and for women 61 years. By 2009 the numbers rose to 79 years for men and 83 years for women, and it is still going up.

Within this context what does retirement mean? Dictionary definitions refer to leaving one’s job, withdrawing and being out of circulation. Career theorists such as Donald Super (1980) have referred to this stage of life as one of decline. This may fit for some people, but there are a growing number of people that seem to be propelling themselves into a higher, more creative, and vital sense of consciousness. In describing this latter stage of life many authors are using a more dynamic set of metaphors to describe what is happening (Sadler, 2004; Sadler & Krefft, 2007; Leider & Webber, 2013; Cusack & Thompson, 2003; Freedman, 2011). Metaphorically speaking many people seem to be gearing up for a takeoff rather than a landing.

In this series of blog posts I would like to examine some of the positive ways in which this retirement phase of life is being re-imagined. Sadler(2004) describes the retirement years (the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s) as the third age, and uses the following four age model to describe the overall life course: First Age – Preparation; Second Age – Achievement; Third Age – Fulfillment; and  Fourth Age - Completion.

One way to explore re-imagination is to examine some of the metaphors that people are using as they discuss this period of life (Amundson, 2015). Each of these metaphors highlights different facets and serves to broaden perspective and enhance creativity (Combs & Freedman, 1990). Metaphors are much more than a rhetorical device, they have a profound influence on our thoughts and actions and help to define our basic conceptual system (Lackoff & Johnson, 2003).

In considering a range of metaphors it can be helpful to consider each of them thoughtfully, encouraging people to step inside or dwell within each of the metaphors that are offered (Amundson, 2010).  It is important to take the time to fully engage with each metaphoric image. The metaphors that will be listed are not arranged in any particular order, and people should feel free to examine them in any way that they would like. So stay tuned, and lets explore retirement and metaphors together.