Retirement in the 21st century
After years in the workforce, most people look forward to retirement with much eagerness and count down the days until they can relax and finally put their feet up.
Retirement is a relatively new concept — when the Australian retirement pension was introduced in 1910 (paid to men from 65 years of age and women from age 60) it wasn't a huge expense to the government because life expectancy was only 55.2 years for men and 58.8 years for women. Most never had the opportunity of accessing the aged pension. However, things have changed considerably and we are all living much longer — on average, men to 80 years and women to 84, therefore many people are likely to have a number of years of retirement ahead of them. Because of this increase in life expectancy and the concern of very high costs to government, current governments have raised the pension age to 67 and wanting to increase it to 70 in Australia — not allowing anyone to access the aged pension until they reach 70. Likewise, they will tie in superannuation (personal retirement fund) also to these ages. Whilst this doesn't affect myself and others now in their late 40s and 50s, it will affect our children and anyone in their 20 and 30s. People will have to work much longer than in previous years.
The bible doesn't mention retirement and that is understandable for the reasons mentioned above — most people didn't live long enough, instead they worked hard and then they died. It is said that the Romans had a life expectancy of about 25 years. The story of much of human history. Today's world population will live more than 280 billion extra years than those born under the Caesars. Living longer has had major impacts on society. One being retirement and how to keep some many people busy and not idle.
However, even though we may retire from our places of work, we should never retire from serving the Lord, although the way we serve Him may change. The bible gives two examples — Anna was an elderly widow who ministered in the temple daily with fasting and prayer and in Titus 2 older men and women are to teach younger men and women how to live. There are many ways to serve the Lord, from helping others, working in the community as a volunteer, visiting the local nursing home to talk to the elderly who do not get any visitors, helping younger families in need, helping one's own family or even making things like blankets, quilts, scarves for the homeless.
One's older years are not to be spent solely in the pursuit of pleasure. Paul says that the widow who lives for pleasure is dead while she yet lives. This is contrary to modern views of indulging in pleasure activities once retired. This is not to say that retirees cannot enjoy golf, social functions, or pleasurable pursuits. But these should not be the primary focus of one’s life at any age.
“Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.” (1 Timothy 5:5-6)
For those already at home, retirement is often a continuation of what they are doing. But things do change when their husbands retire from employment and now home full-time. Many women struggle with this, suddenly having their husband around the house during the day when they had enjoyed this quiet time alone. Husbands without activities can really find retirement difficult (and their wives complain that their husbands are "under their feet" all the time) and they need to find things to keep their mind and body busy and active during the day. My dad use to help some of the elderly ladies in the neighbourhood with their gardens, other men join "Men's sheds" and build toys for underprivileged children, others start new hobbies etc...
My husband retired a few years ago and is at home (he is older that me) and I am still at work. He is home almost all the time as he isn’t one for going out much and finds plenty of things to keep him occupied. My husband does the gardening, he walks the dog, does maintenance around the house, work on a few hobbies and areas of interest (which take up the bulk of his day) plus he will wash the clothes, make the bed, clean the floors, cupboards doors, wash windows, dust (occasionally), clean the bathroom etc.. He likes the variety of activities and enjoys doing them. It took a little time to get use to him doing some of these activities that I thought were my domain — but to be honest, the house belongs to us both and we need to share the tasks that need to be done. I don't ask him to do these things, he offers — often as a surprise for me.
My dad is 83 and lives alone. He has been retired for a number of years and spent much of his retirement as a full-time carer of my mother. As a result he learnt to cook, clean, buy clothes for his wife, buy the groceries plus continue with gardening, growing his vegetables and helping others. He is the keeper of his home which is not the tradition of the past but due to our longevity this is become much more common. In fact, these activities are really important for his well-being and keeping him healthy. If he stopped doing them, I think his health would really suffer — they give him a reason for getting up each day.
We can all look forward to retirement as it will allow us to reach out to those in need and to spend more of our day serving God.
But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”