For many men in our culture, identity revolves around a number of central roles and skills:
• being ‘successful’
• being a good provider
• being ‘useful’
• being independent
• being an achiever
In order to adjust successfully to retirement, men have to start redefining their sense of self. Without the role of breadwinner to rely on, you may start to ask, ‘Who am I?’ Self-esteem can start to fall and depression can set in.
Other social roles may evolve in retirement, such as:
• being a good ‘carer’ for one’s partner
• being a community elder
• being a good grandparent
However, the greatest challenge post-retirement is coming to define yourself less in terms of your roles and activities — what you do — and more in terms of simply ‘being’. Instead of answering the question ‘Who are you?’ with a ‘doing’ answer such as, ‘I am a father/engineer/teacher/handyman’ etc., you come to answer simply, ‘I am me.’
The achievement of this degree of self-acceptance is one of the great gifts of later life.