It’s time to retire the word ‘retire’

It’s 2022; so why are we still using a word from the 16th century to describe life after full time work?

When I stopped to google the word ‘retire,’ I was shocked at how ageist the definitions were:

  • to withdraw
  • to retreat
  • to stop working because of old age or ill health
  • to cease to participate
  • to take a machine or piece of equipment out of use because it is old and no longer useful.

Yet for many people, ‘retiring’ from a 9 to 5 doesn’t mean stopping work entirely; in fact, almost 1 in 4 people aged 65 and over remain in paid employment. Both of my parents (who are in their late 60s) work 3 or 4 days a week. For them ‘retirement’ means choosing when and how often they wish to work.

Others may choose not to work at all when they reach 65 (or earlier if they have the financial resources). My father-in-law, for example, is set to retire in the middle of this year on his 65th birthday; he can’t wait to spend his days on the golf course, traveling the country, and having the time to give to volunteer work.

New Zealand’s economy certainly reaps the benefits of these people who apparently ‘cease to participate’ in society. By 2036, it is predicted that those over the age of 65 will contribute $50 billion of consumer spending to the economy, $25 billion worth of unpaid or voluntary work, and $13 billion in taxes.

So, can we establish that the word ‘retire’ doesn’t do justice to the 759,800 kiwis who are 65 and older? A better definition for this stage of life is ‘Third Age’ (a term coined in the 1980s by English historian Peter Laslett) meaning referring to ‘the period after middle age where people remain active.’  

Photo by Greta Hoffman from Pexels

About Mason Head

Content Creator and Publication Lead at Eldernet

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