Who Are You? A Retiree? A Pensioner? An Old Fart or Fartess?
by Jeanne Savelle
(Atlanta, GA, USA)
Recently, I reached out on Facebook and LinkedIn to ask the following (unscientific) question:
“What would you call people who are retired? Retiree, elder, senior, mature? We need new terminology as people get older. Words that reflect forward movement and engagement, not withdrawal or disengagement. Ideas welcome!"
I was curious to hear people’s thoughts after reading Ken Dychtwald’s book, "What Retirees Want" and learning about “Modern Elders” from Chip Conley. I agree, as they do, we need new terminology around this stage of life.
As we Boomers age, we reinvent everything, and now we are reinventing retirement.
My own life is an example of how retirement has changed. I left my career at the age of 62 during a company reorganization, happy that I could retire with my pension, 401K, health care, and a severance.
But, then I thought, as many people do, NOW WHAT?
Thinking I wanted to write, I learned copywriting and content writing for the web. With professional certification, I went on the search for clients, getting lucky with a great wine client. I combined my interest in writing with my most favorite hobby.
I didn’t want another career, though. I wanted time flexibility, a little bit of income, mental activity, and to indulge in my hobbies and interests. I got all of those things, but something was missing.
What I wanted, needed, was to learn more about myself. During my 30-year career, I knew I hadn’t spent enough time understanding myself. Now I had the time.
Ultimately finding life coaching, I started the journey into my mind, becoming a certified Life Coach. Again, it happened. NOW WHAT?
My path became clear when I realized, at the age of 64, that internal growth and personal connection were more important than outward success. At this age, I want to continue to learn and grow, be engaged in the world, contribute in a meaningful way, connect with others, and have fun.
Life coaching has allowed me to do it all. As a Retirement Coach, I help others traveling a similar path. Together, we develop a road map taking them from where they are to where they want to be.
Today’s Boomer wants more than to “be retired.” They want what I wanted: connection, community, support, contribution, legacy, fun.
The word “retiree” does not encompass all this, so we need new terminology.
Everyone Has an Opinion
The total number of people who responded to my simple question was 181.
A summary of the responses:
18% Don't Care
18% Free/Happy/Lucky/Happiness Consultant
8% Life Grads
4% Job optional/Funemployed/Self-employed/Post-employed
4% Financially independent/Secure/Smart
4% Senager/Recycled Teenager/Queenager
3% Old (Fart)/Pensioner/Parolee
2% Next Lifer
2% Elder/Modern Elder
2% Time Affluent
2% Wise Ones
2% Reinvented/Re-engaged Adult
Other unique entries were: Golden Ones, CEO of your Destiny, Silver, Socializer, Third Ager.
Some of the comments:
•I don’t like classifications...
•I guess chronologically advanced is out.
•We’re just freakin’ old! Older than dirt.
•In 10 years, the word Retirement will no longer be used in conversation. Like cigarettes, it will come with a “health warning” limiting.
•A person who is retired is not necessarily an elder, a senior, or mature. So, I guess that narrows it down to retiree, or simply retired, which takes you back to “Go.”
•I don't see how the term retiree could be offensive.
•Retiree just means from a job, not from life, so that should work.
•Modern elder. An elder with a purpose in life.
•I call this stage of life “Reinventing Adulthood.” I guess my preference is “senior.” I agree; we need a more uplifting, engaging, and optimistic term.
•I prefer “Elder” because no matter how you slice it, “old” carries negative connotations. “Elder” recognizes the element of time spent living and includes the accumulation of wisdom that (potentially) comes with that.
•Rehired. Because there is plenty of life after leaving a paying job.
•"Next Lifers" We're Retired, but Many are Working on Our Next Project or Hobby!
•Chillin... We’re not living at work now, we’re working at living.
•Just call us. Call me a friend.
The suggested terms and the comments reveal what people think about retirement, where they’re coming from, how they relate to it, and what they believe about it.
What Does Retirement Mean, Really?
According to Merriam-Webster:
Retiree: re·tir·ee | \ ri-ˌtī-ˈrē
Definition: a person who has retired from a working or professional career
Example of retiree in a sentence: a group of elderly retirees
Retired: re·tired | \ ri-ˈtī(-ə)rd
1: secluded a retired village
2: withdrawn from one's position or occupation: having concluded one's working or professional career
3: received by or due to one in retirement
Retirement: re·tire·ment | \ ri-ˈtī(-ə)r-mənt
Definition of retirement
1a: an act of retiring: the state of being retired
b: withdrawal from one's position or occupation or from active working life
c: the age at which one normally retires
2: a place of seclusion or privacy
3: of, relating to, or designed for retired persons
Retired means withdrawing into seclusion and having finished active work.
It’s clear some people believe this.
Many people equate retirement with past work, not future work. Some equate work with a profession or career, but not with a vocation.
None of this feels right to me.
My 30-year career ended, but I did not withdraw - just the opposite.
I created a space to explore new connections in my mind and in my life, engaging with the world in a way I hadn’t before. I have not concluded “active” work. I am more active than ever, doing work I choose for how it feeds my brain and heart.
Many Boomers want more. We want a holistic way to think about the progression of life: life as a moving stream, not as a succession of boxes.
We need more relevant, expansive, and imaginative words which express life’s full journey with a hopeful and exciting spirit.
My Comments About the Suggestions
•Happiness Consultant is a great title for a Retirement Coach. I chose Retirement Adventure Coach because I LOVE adventures. Finding our own happiness, an adventure in itself is the goal.
•Life Grads – we graduate from many stages in life, but we don’t want to graduate from life.
•Job-related and money-related terms don’t apply to every retiree and are only aspects of life.
•No one wants to be thought of as “recycled.”
•Queen-ager/King-ager – too British?
•Senager (senior teenager) merges fun and wisdom, which we hope to achieve.
•Next Lifer has been associated with life after death.
•Third Ager has been widely used (Ken Dychtwald,) but we could be in the third or even the fourth stage of life as we live longer.
•Retirement – would we be called “retirees?”
•Seasoned – signifies four seasons, four stages. Would we be called “seasoners?”
•Elder/Modern Elder – Chip Conley founded the Modern Elder Academy.
•Time Affluent – babies are time-affluent.
•Wise Ones – we wish this applied to everyone.
•Re-invented/Re-engaged – we can reinvent ourselves at any stage of life.
•Golden Ones – Golden Girls, anyone?
•CEO of your Destiny – we can be our own CEO at any stage of life.
It’s not easy coming up with a new lexicon, but creative Boomers will come to a consensus.
If you have a favorite, put it out there, put it here, and see where it goes!