Retryerment…Not Retirement: That is Reality

Image by DALL·E. '60-year old man playing guitar'

In this guest post, Dave McCaughan challenges the theory that people over 60 are winding down, suggesting that they are in a ‘retryerment’ phase, where they revisit things from their past. He argues that it is vital for businesses and governments to cater for these adventurers.

In 2007 the first of Japan’s baby boomers (I hate that limited term but forgive me ) started to retire. 1000s of 60 year old men. So what was the fastest-selling product that year? Retirement or medical insurance? Retirement village living? Health supplements to help them “keep going”?

No, it was electric guitars!! Yep, electric guitar sales grew faster than any other product or service in the country.

Why? Getting the band back together. All those men started thinking about “what will I do now I am not working”. For many their wives suggested they “get out of the house and do something”. So what to do?

Well, why not put the band back together So literally we saw these late middle-aged men either get their old guitar out of storage or buy a new one, take a few lessons or more likely get together with the guys they played with at school or uni and start again. Reforming bands and connections and habits.

That is all true. But it is not a unique example. I have had the good fortune to be able to track generations of people passing through the 55 to 75 age range all over the Asia Pacific region for the last 30 years.

And whether it is in Tokyo or Hyderabad or Brisbane. Whether we were interviewing upper middle class or battlers all those research studies highlight two things about the way businesses, brands and governments should be thinking about these people:

NEW LIFE BUILDERS: that is the name we came up with for that life stage. Not silvers or the ageing, or retirees, of empty nesters. What we found common was that people in that stage of life may have good or bad health, and may be financially secure or struggling. But…they are all wondering “what is next”. They are always focused on variations of a simple question “What will I do now”.

The kids may have left home, or maybe returned home. The mortgage may be paid and the Super set, or they may know they will need to work or they choose to work for years to come.

A poor 70-year-old villager in upcountry Thailand told me a few years ago “I know my life will still be hard but I am looking forward to the next ten years and wondering what I can do?”.

Why should businesses care? Well, partly because it is the reality that a lot more of us are living longer in relatively good health and are just active. Most governments and businesses have not gotten used to the idea that 60 is not “old”, it is in fact middle-aged.

Think about it. Just 30 years ago if you heard about someone dying at say 67 ( my age ) you would have said “Well, he had a good life”. Now if I die tomorrow people would say “67, so young”. We just expect to live longer.

In one piece of research I did across ten countries we found people always expected to live longer than their parents and uniformly at least into their late 80s. This is a new development in history. A LOT of people expect to live healthily from 60 to at least mid-70s. A New Life to be Built.

RETRYERMENT: and so we get back to guitars. Of cycling, or running, or dance classes, or any classes. Or travel, whether it is far or near. Often we hear of people in their 60s doing “the big trip”. An Alaskan cruise, a month renting a place in Italy, driving around Australia.

It’s all part of trying something new or retrying something from our youth.

Of course, it does not have to be a global trip. I was just reading a report from South Korea where one of the world’s oldest population live. A big trend among 60-70 year olds? Once or twice a week they will jump on the subway, go to a stop they have never been to before and just spend the day wondering. I know my wife and I sometimes do that here in Bangkok where we live.

I am guessing by this stage a lot of you are nodding and thinking “I get that”. People all over 60 get what I’m talking about. But, and I emphasise BUT, most companies, brands, and even governments do not.

They remain stuck in old myths that people over 60 are “winding down”, that an ageing population is all about waiting for the end, and that people don’t try new things, buy new things, or go on new adventures big and small.

I collect stories like those of the guitar retryers and the Korean urban explorers to help correct those opinions.

New Life Builders are the future and retryerment is what they are about. I would love to hear your stories

Dave McCaughan

Storyteller @

Dave divides his time between his home in Bangkok, Sydney and helping companies around the Asia Pacific region to understand what really matters to people.


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