A single, female friend retired a couple of months ago. Retirement involves adjustment at the best of times but it can be especially challenging if you’re single.
We think of women as adapting to retirement more easily than men, largely because women often invest more time and energy into friendships and other interests.
If they’ve scaled their work back to part-time it might not be such an issue to finally call it quits. But if you’re single and need to set yourself up financially, every dollar counts and you’re more likely to have been working full-time.
Some retirements are planned well ahead and unfold according to that plan, but many happen unexpectedly. Sometimes a job ends and we simply can’t get another one.
The proportion of women over 50 on unemployment is now four times what it was 20 years ago, to the extent that JobSeeker has become an early age pension for many.
In shutting so many businesses COVID has also ended a lot of working lives prematurely. On top of that it’s extinguished huge numbers of retirement travel plans.
My friend is at the stage of trying to piece together a meaningful life in lieu of a job she loved and threw herself into.
Finances aside — although finances are a major issue for women who don’t have a healthy super behind them — replacing the structure of a working life takes time and effort.
The status and recognition that work can provide might never be replaced. As much as that can be hard to deal with, it’s an opportunity to develop other aspects of ourselves.
I recently read about a New York therapist who’s been advising retirees after COVID upended their plans. Many have barely left their homes in months.
She suggests they make a ‘curious list’ of things they’d like to learn more about. Or things they enjoyed in the past but put on hold.
Like us, an army of older Americans has taken to technology to do all sorts of online courses and classes. One particularly creative one involved a live virtual tour of Lisbon followed by a Portuguese lunch delivered to participants’ homes.
Of course, even grand parenting is happening online.
So in addition to grappling with life after work, new retirees are doing it in a dramatically changed world. Being single can add an extra layer of challenge.
The therapist’s suggestion to get curious will come more easily to some than others, and it may well take patience and persistence as well as an open mind.
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