These days, a man facing retirement may have at least a third more of his life — a gift — to spend on living. His first, second or even third career may already be over. That means there’s a whole new array of experiences and opportunities ahead. Granted, all the challenges that can come with aging still exist, but the means to deal with them have changed and so have the strengths that what I call “the new senior men” have developed.
This is what my co-author Barbara M. Fleisher and I found when we met with more than 100 men, ranging from age 60 to 100, to find the 50 true stories for The New Senior Man.
One of our key conclusions: today’s retiring men will have many advantages their predecessors didn’t have. Here are four of them:
A recent report by Pew Research Center found that only 17 percent of people over 80 have smartphones. But over half of those age 65 to 69 have smartphones and 82 percent of them use the internet. While the very young may seem more tech savvy than their grandparents, all generations are virtually on common ground where communication and access to information are concerned. Remember those cumbersome but fascinating encyclopedia sets that took up so much space at home when you were a child? All they held — and much, much more — is literally in the palm of your hand or on your computer.
The Medical Advantage
It’s not that the twinges, aches, pains and illnesses won’t come. They will. But for retirees of yesteryear, they often led to seriously limited physical activity; resignation to a restricted life; retreat to the sofa rocking chair or bed and even an early disappearance — if not from life itself, then from the outer world.
Remarkable advances in science and medicine, however, have led to treating some diseases as chronic rather than fatal, replacing worn and injured joints to extend years of active exercise and recognizing the impact of emotional, spiritual and social engagement on physical health.
A wise 92-year-old we interviewed taught us that “pain is not the same as suffering.” Adaptations to physical and sexual changes are not only possible in retirement for men today; they can provide surprising upsides to aging.
The Visibility Advantage
In the 1930s, the average life expectancy for men in the U.S. was 58. Life expectancy rose to nearly 70 by 1960, and now it’s near 80. The changing demographic makes the senior man visible because he is part of such a rapidly growing number. The person who used to disappear from view in retirement in his sixties isn’t there anymore. Just watch the commercials. Notice how attractive retired men are to the marketplace. There is power in numbers. According to a Census report, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over 65 by the year 2029.
The Developmental Advantage
This is surely the most important advantage of all. Today’s man who enters what used to be called his “retirement years” is on the threshold of a period of self-discovery and personal growth that is unprecedented. And he probably hardly had the time to consider what it would mean when he was working.
Retirement is a time to develop what many men have lacked in the true sense previously: a support system of friends who listen to each other. For so many retiring men, this is going to be a time of deepening personal relationships, of exploring interests that always beckoned but were out of reach and of learning new ways of self-expression.
It is a time to repair the family if it needs it and to repair the world with his skills and ideas.
He really is lucky!
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