Survive Retirement and Stay Alive

Survive Retirement and Stay Alive

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

capitalist society dehumanizes people

Derek Milne on coping issues in retirement:

With "physical and other age-related declines, another stressor is our growing inability to sustain a purposeful function in life.
This function would normally have been achieved through our work. Work is a powerful, defining phenomenon in society, contributing significantly to our sense of self, our well-being, and the feeling of making a useful contribution.
"In the modern world, people may increasingly be seen as commodities with production [& consumption] as the primary objectives of society”.

"Many older people experience rejection - the views of retired people are discounted by society, simply because they are retired. They are seen as 'old fashioned’, out of touch, sooo last century. Such "negative interpretations may destroy peoples' self esteem, confidence and hope".

On retiring, the amount or extent of one’s ‘social capital' is very important (ie having supportive relationships of as wide a variety as possible), especially as work may have alienated one from family as well as from friendships outside of work.
“Capitalist society can dehumanize people, as it only has an interest in their patterns of consumption”.
“Alienation refers to how individuals experience despair, hopelessness and disengagement from society" as a result of dehumanization - this is a deliberate process, for a variety of reasons, implemented for the financial benefit of corporations - which are greedy, "insensitive, ruthless in their handling of...human beings", relentless in their drive for ever higher percentage of profits each year.
Part of the negative nature of work is that it can be all-demanding and all-consuming of one's time, focus and attention, which can lead to a situation upon retirement where one (even if married) can be isolated alienated, bored; lonely...and hence, soon depressed - with possibly disasterous consequences.
@ Men's Shed North Shore, AK, NZ
For those who have been in positions of authority the sudden alienation and relegation from 'hero to zero' may have severely negative consequences. Even the loss of status in a small team can be marked. In addition, one looses one's sense of 'place', as well as a loss of routine. Even prisoners upon release can experience disorientation when suddenly relieved of the rules, regulations and restrictions of incarceration.
This can all be compounded by one‘s personality-type: those of a gregarious & outgoing nature will find it easier to attend social events and to strike up conversation with strangers, or further engage aquaintences on matters of mutual interest,join clubs, etc.

Negative experiences of “redundancy are associated with various mental health problems (anxiety, depression, and substance abuse) as well as relation-ship difficulties. Moreover, the loss of work in a community (eg due to the closure of a local firm) has been associated with declining neighbourhood quality - including higher rates of crime, violence and apathy”.
Further, ignoring/refusing refusing to accept the problems/issues may lead to the deepening of the issues....blanking-out the problems may be sought through the use of alcohol and/or drugs, overeating, becoming a hermit or some sort of social misfit”.

Next up - good news! - successful coping..

Saturday, 11 July 2015

adapt to survive!

Derek Milne  on coping strategies - finding hope...or hopelessness

After a lifetime of work, society is done with people, they have reproduced, consumed, and kept the whole show going. On retirement, Western society is thru with its workers, like all commodities they are thrown into the trash once their “useful” purpose is past.

Hence the title of this blog is “Work-Buy-Consume-Die”.

Ending a lifetime of work in this manner can be experienced as a period of severe loss, and many men struggle to manage or cope with the transition to retirement. In his book “The Psychology of Retirement,” Derek Milne identifies two basic post-work coping strategies: one successful, the other definitely not so. He terms these “approach-based”(adaptive coping), and “avoidance-based”(maladaptive coping).

Approach-based (adaptive) strategies for coping have positive results: people adapt to their new situation confidently, they help themselves, keep busy, find interests, socialize, create, travel, volunteer, or even work part-time. They continue to participate in life, make plans and have hopes for the future.

On the other hand, avoidance-based (maladaptive) strategies have negative outcomes: drug addiction, alcoholism, obesity, isolation, mental problems, loss of money (eg thru gambling) - leading to homelessness, as well further degradation, despair, and hopelessness. When hope is lost, all is lost.

Charles Darwin:"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change" - ie those willing and able to adapt.

And so it is upon retirement - when faced with a totally unexpected set of (often extremely adverse) circumstances, those who can adapt their thinking, responses and actions in a positive manner will enjoy a far better quality of life than those who cannot instigate creative change, but instead seek refuge in ultimately destructive patterns of behaviour.
At the Men's Shed North Shore, Auckland, NZ
Milne: “Instead of retirement being the great opportunity many people look vaguely forwards to, the extent and severity of loss and change can instead render the experience an extremely confusing one. The rate of change in our Western money-orientated world has speeded up immensely with the invention of computers and the internet, to the point where long-cherished dreams, plans, assumptions and opportunities are rendered invalid and lost. Suddenly facing this realization can be extremely disorientating, it can be very difficult when faced with goal posts which are continually widening and moving to pull oneself together  and evaluate the situation in order to understand the new possibilities and formulate new plans, projects and successful ways of coping."

Next up - more on the unexpected issues encountered upon retirement....

Thursday, 9 July 2015

the importance of work

Theme: identity, purpose, & meaning are found in work - this is all lost upon retirement.

Most of us have to work for most of our lives to make money - to pay the bills/rent/mortgage, raise the kids, eat, move around, pay for the gear to go fishing or hunting, buy tools to make stuff...even to save for our retirement.

Some people are fortunate enough to enjoy their work - for them it’s a vocation, a calling, a fulfilling and extremely satisfying way of making a living. For others it’s a drag, demanding, tedious...a schlepp.
Either way, many of us don’t realize the extremely important roles work plays in our lives. Other than its pros and cons, work provides us with a meaningful and purposeful role in life, as well as all-important social connections. In fact, many of us define ourselves by the work we do: “I’m a mechanic”...”I’m a barber”...I’m a painter”.

 Unfortunately, it can be all-too-easy to mistake our jobs for our lives.

This error can become painfully evident upon retirement when we find ourselves missing the purpose, direction and social interaction which was provided by work. Suddenly, there may be no good reason to even get out of bed in the morning, or, if we do so, to change out of our pajamas, or go past the letterbox.

We may find ourselves in a period of loss and grief.
Work made us matter. It provided self-esteem, cameraderie, stimulation, a sense of life direction.

This experience of loss has been described as: “like a roller door coming down....looking down the barrel of a gun...being in a world falling apart....experiencing a complete loss of motivation and inspiration...becoming a dead man walking”.
For sure, the prospect of decades of daytime TV ahead provides a bleak future.

We men like to solve problems. Retirement is the biggest problem we will ever face, and we will have to do it on our own. Unfortunately many men find retirement an extremely stressful event - one for which they are ill-prepared. Many do not know how to cope. Given the events described above, they can become isolated, feel obsolete, lost, meaningless, and face a future which holds nothing for them.

Depression, illness, and early death are proven to be the inevitable outcomes of this situation.

However, there is hope - if we can develop successful coping strategies to survive.

In his book “The Psychology of Retirement”, Derek Milne identifies two basic coping strategies: one successful, the other definitely not so.

In my next post I will discuss Milne’s findings in more detail.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

the importance of parachutes

A successful transition to retirement entails a drastic change in one’s thinking...all of a sudden the goal posts have been moved radically....the rule book has been re-written...all bets are off......the brain has to be rewired...entire thinking software systems have to be updated, & perhaps some mental hard-drives have to be replaced...radical stuff......

The passing-thru of life-stages up until this point have been progressive. Retirement often entails a sudden, abrupt, brutal reality check. One of the most difficult aspects of this new deal is that you are on your own.....crowds of relatives, chums,and hangers-on attended and celebrated with you on your 21st birthday, your wedding, funerals, promotions, birthdays, and Christmases.

This time you are doing it alone No-one cares. It’s like pissing in black pants - you know something has happened, but no-one else notices.

Overnight the phone stops, the emails stop, no-one comes to the door. You are likely to find yourself excluded from all the activities and networks you relied upon in your work incarnation. In the words of Ken Kesey - you got off the bus. Many people are pushed off the bus. In the middle of nowhere. Without you the bus continues on in a cloud of dust - rocking with music, as empty bottles, condoms, and roach ends fly from the windows. No-one looks back. It as if you are left standing there in the middle of a featureless, unfamiliar desert with no map, food, no water, no possessions and no direction.

What complicates this issue is that fact that a lifetime of work has conditioned most of us into certain ways of thinking...our working lives are largely structured around routines. These structures suddenly disappear overnight. We are left rudderless, directionless, purposeless.

In the words of a Sufi sage: “Our lives begin in institutions where others have gone before. Eventually we encounter the trackless wastes. At this point we must become our own scout”.

Change your thinking and you change your world.

Remember: the mind is like a parachute - it only works when its open!!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

still fit for purpose

For those of us born around the middle of the last century, it can be rather amusing to observe over the passing decades how certain theories come and go. How panels of “experts” laud one theory, assuring the public that solid inconvertable scientific evidence backs up that product X is bad for you/society/the planet...only for completely contrary ‘validated’ (read purchased) scientific evidence to emerge a few years later repudiating the previous stance.

Sadly we cynics perceive this pattern as a purely commercial one - “buy cigarettes - they’re good for recommended by doctors” (remember these ads?).....”dispose of your old ‘fridge - buy a new one which is CFC free and help protect the ozone layer” - now scientists say that the hole in the ozone layer helps heat escape, reducing the effect of global warming (!?).

And so it goes: beef bad/beef good...butter bad/butter bad/coffee good...margarine good/margarine bad...carbohydrates good/carbohydrates bad...

Here’s a specific example - the Canadian airforce’s 5BX exercise programme. This simple regime was introduced long ago last century to maintain the fitness of Canadian flying crew. It is very effective, basic, and DIY - no expensive gyms, weights, or supplements required, just plain old-fashioned physical exercise (which is probably why it fell from favour as fitness became an industry in the ’80‘s, morphing in to the diet industry a little later - but that’s another story).

Recently 5BX has made a come-back, with media articles now praising the regime for its simplicity and effectiveness. Evidently the “latest scientific evidence” shows that the likes of this brief but intense workout are ideal for maintaining a good level of fitness.

I dug out my old copy of the book - it pays to keep things in case they may be useful later!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

death and vulures

From “Daniel Boone - A Biography” by Robert Morgan

Here is Morgan’s description of death and dying in Western culture in the past which I found both touching and thought-provoking:
In the nineteenth century people talked about a ‘beautiful death.’ It was as though one's death was a work of art, something to be crafted, an achievement. Deaths were described and critiqued, commented on, compared to others’, and admired. A beautiful death was one's final accomplishment.

Before the age of retirement homes, hospitals and nursing homes, the old died at home...children and grandchildren, friends and cousins gathered around in a death vigil.... the old felt death coming on, and recognized it....perhaps even welcomed it. People gathered in the bedroom and said their farewells, and the one dying had his or her final say. There were kisses and hugs and sharing of memories. Quarrels and grudges were resolved, grievances aired, forgiveness offered and received. Final requests were made. There were prayers and hymn singing. The person passing might describe the sensations of dying, the gathering of stillness and ease, the feeling of weightlessness and coolness....sometimes they heard music or saw a light in the form of an angel. Sometimes family members saw a dove or other bird perch at a window...

In 1817, aged 73, American pioneer Daniel Boone ordered a coffin of cherry wood, which was prepared and placed under his bed...The cherry coffin was a handsome piece of work, and the old man took pleasure in showing it off...from time to time Boone would take it out to admire and study...he would ‘rub and polish it up, and cooly whistle while doing so’ .... he would lie down in the coffin to show how well it fitted him, and sometimes he would take a nap in it, scaring the children. His coffin was the finest that could be had, and he was determined to enjoy his treasure and to be seen enjoying it.

No doubt Boone took comfort in making death so familiar. He had witnessed the often-violent passing of many compatriots and family members. The box he would later rest in was right here now, and he could dust it and rub it with oil. His hands had never been idle, and he was a fine craftsman - having made and repaired many functional items on the frontier, as well as carving and decorating beautiful powder horns for his grandchildren. Daniel Boone was a consummate craftsman, and as such he was determined to make his last days a work of art.

In modern times most people die in hospitals or hospices, often far from family and home. Usually the old have been isolated for years in nursing homes and hospitals, in a cold and sterilized world run by professionals. Death in western society is hidden away...

Sadly today we are too distracted [read ‘screwed’] by the persistent and invasive commercial demands of Apple/Google/instagram/facebook/Samsung/Twitter to be able to give any thought to living an adventuresome and meaningful life on our own terms.
Meanwhile, we are quietly being groomed for entry to the retirement farms by the vultures who run the nursing homes - where we will be denied the opportunity of dying in such a personal, conscious, and dignified fashion as this old-timer.