The Independent Elder Blob is traditionally a Blob of new life adjustments for those who decide to retire or become self employed. In today’s work oriented society, one is often not prepared for retired life often resulting in a feeling of being lost or uncertain. Studies show that up to 40% of retirees have difficulty adjusting. This is a time when spouses, friends and family can be of great help by encouraging those in this re-creation phase to join clubs and entertain in new social engagements in order to adapt to this new lifestyle.
For some couples, retirement can bring about added challenges due to the increased time that they need to spend with each other. As described in the book “The Retirement Maze”, they might realize that they do not have as much in common as they thought they did, or they may have misaligned expectations on how they want to live the rest of their lives. Not seldom, wives feel inhibited in their freedom and independence, when the retired husband becomes dependent on them for social entertainment, or starts interfering in their responsibility areas and starts ‘managing’ the wife and household, just as he was used to doing at the office.
Changes in the financial situation are also imminent in this Blob. Very often spending drops, as work-related expenses, such as specialty clothing and transportation, decrease. There is often a change in food habits also resulting in some savings. On the other hand health-care expenses increase. Holiday and travel costs may also increase, e.g. in Britain this blob maintains the fastest growth rate in travel related spending. The category with the highest spending remains by far housing and related expenditure.
With time, most couples adjust to their new situation and find a balance with new hobbies, work and friends. But increasingly, one hears of divorces due to the inability to adjust to the new retired life. In Britain, for example, the divorce rate of the over-60s is thrice the rate today compared to 1990. Also, if the retiree fails to find a new purpose in life, very often this is followed by sickness and accelerated decline in health. The elderly population aged 65 and over accounts for almost 4 out of 10 single-person households in the EU and the women are more than twice as likely to be living alone than men (either due to divorce or widowhood). Children may or may not be able to help out sufficiently due to complications in their own lives (family or work) or due to geographical constraints. Thus friendships may become more important than family in this Blob. Philosophical and spiritual interests may emerge and intensify as one confronts death amongst peers, or if one is forced to become a care-giver himself.
Physically, skin continues to lose elasticity, muscle strength diminishes and joints become stiffer. Reaction time slows further and hearing, vision, taste, touch and smell become less sensitive. The immune system weakens, increasing the risk of chronical diseases.
Mentally, the brain becomes physically smaller and functions more slowly, resulting in a general decline in memory and attention span. Concentration on more than one object becomes difficult and performance on complex tasks drop. At the same time the ability to receive information, store it in memory and organize and interpret it declines (fluid intelligence). Crystallized intelligence, that stays relatively stable across most of adulthood, also begins to decline after age 65. Due to the general slowing down, tasks take longer to accomplish, making one less able to cope with difficulties.
The challenge in this Blob is to come to terms with these physical diminishments and to expand the mental potential with wisdom, or expert and practical knowledge based on life experience. In this way, it is possible to make oneself socially useful, instead of getting stuck in the past. For many this is also a time for spiritual growth and the beginning of an inward journey to find peace with oneself.
Click here for Blob 13: Contemplative Elder
Understand why the 7-year life stages are outdated in this Blog.
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire by Rob Pascale, Louis H. Primavera and Rip Roach
Surveys of retirement spending in the US
Adult Development and Aging by John C. Cavanaugh