PRB (Post-Retirement Blues)….

It strikes me that none of the management schools have any courses to deal with “after”….the years after one’s active career is over, the “vana prastha” that Hindu scriptures deal with. Ambition is great while it is applicable, but I find that very few people, who have been driven by their careers, can deal with life after retirement; indeed, to many of them, “retirement” seems to be synonymous with being “useless”. Shifting down the gears does not come easily, nor does finding other interests to occupy oneself with, particularly when one has not had the time to cultivate such interests in the hectic pace of one’s career.

What are your ideas on this…those of you who are all approaching the Pearly Gates of retirement (or have reached it)? I find that no one wants to be a “human being”, after decades of remaining a “human doing” (a telling phrase created by our sambandhi, James Shaffer.) “What are you doing these days?” is a question which one feels defensive about answering with, “Oh, nothing much”. One feels that the skills one has picked up during a working lifetime should continuously be put to use, and one becomes a consultant, working as hard, if not harder. The thought of retirement brings on depression even when it is not the thought of the lack of income. The loss of income, with children still to be educated in college, elderly parents or sometimes spouses to be cared for medically, can be quite a factor, in deciding to go on working at something, but I feel that this is not the primary cause of the “retirement anxiety” that so many people seem to feel.

The increase of life expectancy in our own lifetimes, and the shifting of the “old age” horizon, from the late fifties or the sixties, to the seventies or even the eighties, also, in my opinion, increases this problem. If, at sixty, one is pretty physically and mentally active (I’m not talking of just thinking so!) and can reasonably expect another decade or two of life, how on earth does one occupy all that time?

The loss of power and clout is also a major factor in the onset of retirement blues. One is used to a strong leadership role, envisioning paths that one’s organization can tread, and taking one’s colleagues along. The trappings of power are quite addictive, and the sudden loss of these perks can lead to very real withdrawal symptoms.

I’m sorry to perhaps be politically incorrect, but in my (limited) experience, women seem to deal with retirement much better than men. They seem to be able to take on other roles with relative ease (particularly when the “relative” means children who need help with the grandchildren!). For the men of your generation, who often do not take much of an active role in the household or the family, the prospect of suddenly getting into anecdotage, retailing the recollected memories of powerful positions, is not appealing at all.

Should management institutes offer courses that deal with this phase of life? I think not, as they are preparing people for active careers and ambitious goals. But then, retirement is a natural process, the aftermath of a career, so, if one needs professional training to manage one’s career, surely one could use training to manage the post-career life well, too? To make one understand that one’s self-worth is not bound by the power that came with one’s career, but is a very real entity…to teach one to avoid the “retirement traps” (ennui, a loss of self-esteem, a need to keep on working at the same pace)…all these may address a real need in our aging population.

If I were a management graduate, I would expand this into a nice book, launch it on and off the Net, give lecture tours, conduct “post-retirement adjustment” seminars, make money…and make a career out of it! Perhaps someone, or several someones, have already done it 🙂

Do let me know your thoughts…I am not widely read, and I like to listen to points of view over friendly conversations, rather than read them in books!

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