Parallel play is a form of interaction where children play adjacent to each other but do not always try to influence each other, or even engage with each other. They benefit from proximity, they are interested in what each other are doing and they’ll sometimes modify their play accordingly.
I wonder then, in these days of independently minded thinking and living, is the traditional concept of life after work an accurate reflection of how many people see retirement, with their partners? A more satisfying approach to retirement may be one of ‘parallel play’, or more accurately, ‘parallel retirement’. In fact, I spoke with Clare (she of this parish) about this last week, and that chat made me come up with this blog.
I’m not suggesting a life in self imposed isolation in order to support trendy dogma, a life where ‘he’ spends his life in the potting shed and ‘she’ spends her days at the WI is the norm - far from it. But more and more couples are finding that an easier, more harmonious existence where diversity and independence is not advocated and promoted – but recognised and accepted where it is appropriate is becoming more popular.
Reported this morning on the BBC, this is interesting.
Ivy Singh and her husband Lim Ho Seng had their retirement all planned out. They planned to move to Margaret River in Western Australia and have a place with enough land to grow plants. But circumstances have a funny way of changing things. The death of her best friend’s husband meant they successfully tendered for a lease on a 10-acre plot and turned it into a farm called Bollywood Veggies. Instead of the life of languid comfort, they found themselves thrust together to focus on a common goal.
This idea, of course, doesn’t always clash with the traditional view of retirement, where togetherness and mutual dependency have long been seen as a virtue. Many couples imagine that being joined at the hip when they’re no longer working, is a vision of contentment and peace after (invariably) a hard life in the service of the Crown and usually, an airline afterwards.
But then, if I entered retirement in say, 2023, I will have lived a dramatically different life compared to my mum and dad, and their parents. Women and men of my age (harrumph, 40 something for the record) have experienced womens lib and we are all aware that women have held responsible professional, voluntary and commercial positions.
As a man, I have worked with women and for women and as a member of the RAF, I have saluted them. I respected them and I see them without question, as a equal and not an underling. When I see reps from pension houses, insurance companies and fund managers, they are invariably female and I value their calm insight and patient, objective qualities. Indeed (whisper it quietly), I have even learned to cook and clean a little and as you see from the other week, know my way around an ironing board.
Men and women in their 50s are more adventurous than previous generations and have been, as well as much more independent, very comfortable with change. We have fewer social rules and constricts, we are less judgmental, and we are more accepting of people who are different from us – and the norm.
Why the shock horror then, that couples in retirement are becoming less tied to each other, and more interested in parallel play? It meets our needs for freedom and involvement and is quickly becoming the system in which many older adults are thriving.
I’m not supporting the idea that we trash our ideas of togetherness (the idea of spending the next 40 years or so with my girl makes me very happy) and neither am I advocating wholesale changes to society which see aged retirees burning, not so much their bras, but their compression stockings.
But for so many reasons, whether they be financial, legislative, legal, emotional, rational.. partners should plan for, and grow their own pension funds. Whether not wanting to be being the victim of a shabby pension sharing order in divorce or simply wanting to be as tax efficient as possible, or maybe having income of your own and a sense of independence is what you’re after.. the sooner you start setting money aside for yourself so that you might live that harmonious retirement, however it evolves, with your partner the better.
Here’s the bit to keep my insurers happy. A pension isn’t for everyone so as ever, always take regulated financial advice you trust!