Retirement: A Time for Regeneration

by Deb Gerow

For many years, retirement was seen as a time for ceasing to work outside the home and a time to withdraw from active participation in the world. In a session given at the recent virtual conference of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), Chip Conley, founder of the Modern Elder Academy, a school dedicated to helping people navigate life transitions, suggests that instead we should think of retirement as a time of regeneration. 

But why regeneration? Conley challenges us to consider what we know now that we wish we had known ten years ago. Then he asks us to imagine what we will regret ten years from now that we did not learn or did not do. By pursuing this knowledge and these experiences, we will enrich our lives, body, mind, and soul. He posits that being curious and open to possibilities will help us to live longer, more fulfilled lives. In addition, curiosity is a great cure for depression and boredom from which retired people sometimes suffer. While pursuing these authentic interests, we will need to move from the mindset where we need to become perfect at something, to one where we can consider how much better are we becoming over time. It is essential to enjoy the process of learning and to forget the idea that “I’m too old to do/learn that.” 

Conley also believes that it is possible for regenerative communities, also known as seniors’ living facilities, to encourage this process. If these communities offer opportunities for their residents to engage in this learning process, then perhaps more people at a younger age will want to live there. With the wisdom accumulated by these residents, perhaps younger people could be invited in to be mentored, or the residents could undertake volunteerism outside the facility. The possibility of living in an active, vibrant community where the populace engages in pursuing their passions, discusses deep, important questions together and, when desired, takes part in common meaningful activities, is much more attractive than what is currently available for seniors’ accommodation. 

Many of the attendees at the ICAA conference were employed in meeting the needs of retired people. Hopefully, some of them who are in positions of authority will consider incorporating these ideas of as part of seniors’ living. While no one facility will fit everyone, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the option of living in such a regenerative community were available for those who would appreciate and benefit from it?