Let’s rid retirement of shame

by | Nov 24, 2021

There’s no shame in retirement…

Ask any retired person what they do, and most will respond with, “retired teacher”, “former salesman” or “well, I used to be a doctor, mechanic, cook…”

It’s rare for someone to simply say, “I’m retired.” So why is this? Well, the answer is simple. It’s because of shame.

Retirement today is, sadly, for many people a place of shame. Somewhere they feel devalued, misunderstood and a burden on society.

Retired man feeling shame

This is especially true of men.  For them, shame occurs when their identity, i.e. their work, is taken away from them. At work they had purpose, worth and self-esteem and when they enter retirement these things are eroded, almost overnight.  They suddenly feel vulnerable, lost and empty and unsure of what to do with themselves. They talk of the ‘good old days’ and reminisce (usually through rose-tinted spectacles) about life in ‘the office’ and they do their damnedest to keep the connections to their old life alive.

Women who retire react slightly differently in my experience, as their identity, on the whole, is less routed in their work.  In retirement, they tend to focus more on being a daughter, mother, grandmother, carer, teacher or volunteer.  These roles become their purpose and their identity. They’re more adaptable to change, more malleable – and this is why I believe women are better at retirement and why, it comes as less of a shock.

Why shame sucks

Shame is a hideous emotion. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. For many of us, it’s short lived.  It doesn’t take long to get over being issued with a speeding ticket or getting a dressing down from your boss in public.

Shame in retirement

But in retirement shame sticks.   Both men and women internalize shame, so much so, that it becomes their biggest critic.  Reminding them on a daily basis they have no value, they’re worthless and making them feel they should retreat from society and from life.

These ‘shame demons’ cause a vicious cycle of depression and desperation – impacting mental and physical health.

It doesn’t have to be this way

The good news is, that shame doesn’t have to win.  There is another way.

I felt deep shame when I was forced to retire.  I lost my identity and self-worth overnight and it took time to get it back, but get it back I did.

Now I help others do the same by guiding them as they discover their true purpose.  The thing they’re passionate about, the cause that makes them want to jump out of bed in the morning.

I’m here to tell people that they are worthy and valued and that they will be till their dying day.

There's no need to feel shame in retirement

And it seems this message is getting through. In a recent study by Edwards Jones and Age Wave which looked at retirement today in America, nearly all retirees said, “it’s important to feel useful in retirement” and 87% of those surveyed said that “being useful helps them to feel youthful.”

And what’s more, research shows that being useful and feeling youthful can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and depression.  And is essentially the key to a long, happy and healthy retirement.


And this is a BIG but… it’s not just about getting this message through to individuals.  We all need to change the way we think about retirement and view old age.

Ask yourself this – how often have you dismissed an older person? Ignored their views because they’re ‘old school’?  How many times have you (maybe unwittingly) patronised them?  Talked down to them?  Avoided them? None of us are blameless in this regard. It’s something we all do, whether we intend to – or not.

Society has, for generations, labelled retirees as ‘past their sell by date’. This must stop. No one is past it, useless, wasted. Everyone has value.

If we all started to believe this, then we would make it easier to rid retirement of shame. Don’t forget, it’s a place we’ll all visit, someday.

For more information about my course and the way I help retirees DARE TO DISCOVER THEIR PURPOSE. And if you’re about to retire or feeling shameful in retirement, why not take the first step to finding your true purpose by taking my retirement quiz.

George Jerjian
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