Everything about how we age is changing. The population of seniors is growing — it’s expected to double in the next 23 years or so. Our life expectancy is increasing as well — to an average age of 110 by the year 2030. This silver tsunami is going to transform the realities of growing older, from how we age to what we do and where we do it. For men, there’s another issue: they have far longer to live after traditional retirement age, and are often active and healthy enough for a veritable third career. But they need a roadmap for this next phase of their lives. In The New Senior Man: Exploring New Horizons, New Opportunities, by Thelma Reese and Barbara M. Fleisher, they get it.
Reese and Fleischer are experts on life during retirement, including all the issues that people face going into it. Their incredibly popular blog, Elderchicks, is a vibrant forum for people facing retirement who want to thrive and not just survive. For Man, they picked up where their original The New Senior Woman left off. Everywhere they went while on their book tour for Woman, they got asked the same question: What about the men? Why isn’t there a book like this for men? Retirement has a whole new meaning for men as well as women, doesn’t it? Men wanted a book to help them navigate far more than just their 401K.
As the authors found while working on this book, men have long been expected to grin and bear it. There’s an assumption that they will simply “man up,” walking out of the office for the last time and into their senior years with chin up and no questions. But there are endless questions, from emotional to practical to physical. Forget the gold watch, in other words.
It may also seem surprising, but of the many men the authors interviewed, most have complicated views of slowing down. In some cases they simply refuse to. They have no plans to play shuffleboard, or a long lazy morning of golf. They’re more interested in adventures, goals, new ambitions, new challenges.
It was smart of Reese and Fleisher to let men talk for themselves: it echoes the sense of self-empowerment they’re trying to help senior men feel, instead of that odd powerlessness of suddenly having nowhere to go. We meet men who retired from one full career only to embark on another; men who simply redefine their role in a job, stepping away from certain tasks and digging into others.
We meet men who move to wild locales, and men who found love and sweet satisfaction after losing their long-time partner. We meet executives, firefighters, doctors, veterans, artists. The thru-line is reinventing retirement: seizing the time they have left to make a difference in the world. The other recurring theme is that men often face a kind of ageism that could cripple the soul — but instead, they find ways to fight against it, claiming their right to continue participating in life and work
Along with these real-life personal stories comes practical, do-able, helpful guidance: the stories trigger topical discussions that are then distilled into smart strategies and good advice. But there’s no sugarcoating here. There’s a section with the wonderful title, “Meandering” about how to handle that “what next?” sensation following retirement. The best solution is to turn it into a sense into optimism and hope for new experiences and adventures.
The section on sex and intimacy offers guidance on managing different expectations in a partnership — there are bound to be some mixed signals — both emotional and physical. The authors also provide revealing tales on how retirement can upset a long-held but fragile domestic balance at home — and how relationships can be rebalanced and made solid again.
There are sections of handling loss, finding community, and on how to avoid the many pitfalls of retired life, including spending far too much time alone. While women tend to have their own emotional support networks in place, the authors point out, men often need to create them from scratch. The wonder here is that men do: the men in this book are resilient, resourceful, and often, revitalized by the prospect of the years ahead. For men facing retirement or for anyone looking to make sure their father / uncle / brother / husband / boyfriend or friend doesn’t feel like they have to go it alone, this is an immensely helpful and inspiring book.
For more about the authors, visit Elderchicks.