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Category: Retirement / Topics: Coping COVID-19 Faith Hopes & Dreams Planning Retirement

What DO Retirees Want?

by Richard Bergstrom

Posted: October 3, 2020

Coping with retirement and the 'new normal' of the COVID pandemic…

In July 2020, Dr. Ken Dychtwald and Robert Morrison published their book, What Retirees Want: A Holistic View of Life’s Third-Third. The summary states, “In past decades . . . retirement was often viewed as a time of gradual decline and financial contraction. But thanks to increased life spans and better healthcare, today’s retirees, particularly Baby Boomers–are experiencing a distinct and rewarding phase of life, ready to explore new activities, new meanings, and new opportunities.”

As usual, Dychtwald paints an optimistic and visionary picture of the road ahead for the Boomer generation. Ironically, the book was released to the publisher in mid-January 2020, just as the novella coronavirus was gaining a foothold in the United States. As I read Dychtwald’s book, I found myself in ;what seemed like an alternative universe from the one he was writing about. The images of Baby Boomer retirees living out the good life, “forever young” and ready for the next adventure, seemed a world away in the midst of a pandemic.

The Rolling Stones song, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, seems like an important qualifier to the title, What Retirees Want. The sad truth is that none of us are getting what we wanted or expected out of this stage of our lives. Whether you were planning your next travel adventure, volunteering for your favorite non-profit, attending a major league baseball game, or simply enjoying a night out for dinner and the theatre, COVID-19 has robbed you of life’s simple pleasures.

Notably, there is a second line in the song that states, “but if you try sometime, you might just find, you get what you need.” The song, written in 1969, paints a contrasting view between what we desire and what we actually need. The underlying tone is somewhat optimistic. We may have thought we needed all those things on our want list, but we’ve also found that we can live without them.

What are our needs during these uncertain times? Following his book's publication, Ken Dychtwald and his company, Age Wave, partnered with Edward Jones Finance and The Harris Poll to conduct a nationwide survey to pinpoint needs. The resulting report, entitled “Four Pillars of the New Retirement,” identified the basic and primary needs of today’s retirees. They are health, family, purpose, and finances. Recognizing and focusing on these four pillars may be the key to adjusting to retired life in today’s “new normal.”

  • Health:  Good health is foundational to all other aspects of retirement. 
  • Family.  “Retirees consistently say family is their greatest source of satisfaction, support, joy, and even purpose.”
  • Purpose. “Retirees with a strong sense of purpose,” the report goes on to say, “are happier, healthier, more active, and socially engaged, and they live longer.”
  • Finances. “For retirees, money isn’t an end in itself, but an essential means to the end of achieving well-being in retirement.”

While the report gives a passing reference to growing spiritually under the category of “Purpose,” we feel compelled to add “Faith” and a “Faith Community” as fundamental needs of retirees. Faith is the foundation of life for a Christian, without which we have no solid base from which to live. As I Corinthians 3:11 says, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

For our constituent group, the inability to gather as a community of faith represents a significant loss and a strongly felt need in their lives. The pain of not being able to assemble is great for some, and a major contributor to the sense of isolation amongst older adults.

Although we may not get everything we want in retirement during these times, as the Rolling Stones remind us, “If we try sometime, we might just find, we'll get what we need.” We need our health to sustain us, our family to support us, our purpose to define us, and finances to undergird us. In addition, we need to build our lives upon the firm foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ and live in community with other believers.

Search all articles by Richard Bergstrom

Richard Bergstrom is president of ChurchHealthRe-Ignite in Edmonds, Washington

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Posted: October 3, 2020

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