len serafino

The subject of retirement often deals with money. How to get through your retirement, including expenditures for the things you’ve looked forward to for years; travel, hobbies, and helping others. But do we pay sufficient attention to the other often unspoken realities of retirement? In my last column I talked about how you will spend your time, addressing the many options available to retirees and acknowledging the value of pre-planning one’s retirement.

There is another aspect to retirement that deserves our consideration as well. Whether we decided willingly to step off the stage or were pushed off, when it comes to business world, we are no longer in either a starring or supporting player role. It doesn’t take long to realize that, for many of us, no longer being essential to the workforce can leave a gaping hole in our lives.

You’re out of the loop. Your opinion is no longer sought. Eventually it dawns on you that no one has called lately to ask for a reference. What role do we play in society after we leave our personal version of center stage? Even our adult children don’t seem to need our advice.

Offering it without being asked is often not well received. And, frankly, at this stage in our lives, even when asked for advice, unless the situation is dire, we probably serve best by treading lightly. There is a certain wisdom in keeping our thoughts to ourselves. A friend of mine put it this way.

“When people ask for advice these days, more often than not, they are only seeking confirmation for what they already believe.” He added, “Typically, people will not take your advice unless it’s what they want to hear.”

Another friend had this to say about giving advice as a senior.

“I used to give advice freely. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that my advice might well be wrong. That’s a lot of pressure if someone has something important on the line. The truth is, I’d rather not be asked,” he said. “If things go wrong, they might blame me.”

While our feelings are bound to be hurt when our hard-won wisdom is no longer sought, there may be good reasons for younger people’s reluctance to seek our advice. In times past, elders were often called upon to dispense wisdom. They were listened to because they had experience and could often help younger folks avoid mistakes. Why is this less true today? I believe it’s because in the past, change happened at a much slower pace. The way a younger generation experienced the world was not vastly different than the experiences of older generations. For one thing, information traveled much slower. The pace of change began to accelerate, though, during the second half of the twentieth century. Thanks to rapid and often dramatic shifts in technology, including communication, it’s less likely that succeeding generations see the world the way previous generations did.

Today, change happens even faster and information travels instantaneously. We are all affected by these changes of course, but as we age, many of us are not as attuned to these changes the way younger people are. What interests and concerns us is often driven by our season in life. After all, what a younger person might see as an opportunity, an older person might see a threat. The bottom line is younger generations have grown up and formed their world view under circumstances distinctly different than the world we grew up in.

None of this is to suggest that we can’t be relevant to society anymore. We still have much to offer. Charitable work is a wonderful place to start. It’s rare that any charity has too many hands already and can’t use more help. Now that we have the time, we can still make huge and meaningful contributions to the community, albeit in a different role. We may find it refreshing to be the rookie again, the one seeking advice and learning new skills. We can actively participate in problem solving too.

As for freely offering our opinions, don’t worry. We can still exasperate people from our own generation, offering our thoughts on everything from what’s wrong with the current political landscape, to why it’s so hard to get the guy at the deli counter to listen when I ask for half a pound of ham. Invariably he asks “Did you say a pound?”

Len Serafino is a published author, seasoned writer and an experienced writing teacher.

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