Ageing, retirement and God

How to make the most of the gift of long life.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

Retirement is changing because, in the developed world, we’re living longer. This comes from better health and nutrition, better medical care, better sanitation and public health campaigns (anti-smoking, for instance). Importantly, there’s also an expectation that people will be living younger for longer.

When the Australian age pension was introduced in 1908, men could receive it at 65 years of age, and women at 60. However, the life expectancy was only 55.2 years (males) and 58.8 years (females).

Owen Weeks, from Lifestyle Matters Pty Ltd, has been in the retirement industry since the 1970s. Back then, he says, people retiring at 65 were usually dead by about 70.

In 2008, 100 years after the introduction of the aged pension, the life expectancy for males had risen to 79.3 years and for females to 83.9 years.

Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, from the London Business School, predict that a child born in the developed world today has a 50 per cent chance of living to 105; a 20-year-old an even chance of reaching 100; one out of two 40-year-olds will live to 95; and a 60-year-old has a 50 per cent chance of living to 90+.1

Currently, the number of 100-year-olds is increasing dramatically. A decade ago, one person handled the cards the Queen sends to centenarians around the Commonwealth. Now it takes a staff of seven.

In Japan, the government began giving a silver sake dish to all who turned 100 in 1963: 153 that year. In 2014, 29,350 were sent, but it was discontinued the following year. It had become too common! There are currently about 59,000 centenarians in Japan.

This is why governments worry about funding pensions into the future, why retirement ages are being lifted, and why having a plan to not run out of money before running out of life in retirement is important.

The retiree’s calling

Calling? Isn’t that for pastors and church leaders? Yes, but not limited to them. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, begging them (and us) to “lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God” (Ephesians 4:1, NLT).

Every Christian is called by God to live for God. We can’t simply shrug off our calling at retirement. It matters. And it comes in at least three forms:

It starts within the church. Paul added: “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2, NLT).

Retirees have much to offer in our churches as supportive, caring and open people. Life experience should have taught them the value of the individual.

Then, Jesus called us salt and light (Matthew 5:13,14). Our role is to give the world an enhanced flavour with good deeds shining “for all to see”, bringing praise to the Father.

We’re to be a presence. A neighbour. There for people—particularly when they’re in a dark place.

Finally, each of us has gifts and skills. Gifts are God-given (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, NLT). Skills come naturally or are learned. How can you use these for God? Only you will have the best answer to that question.

The road best travelled

“Long life is a gift from God, to be stewarded with wisdom and imagination,” say Richard and Leona Bergstrom in Third Calling. They urge retirees, “Follow your calling and what you believe God wants you to do in this season of life.” Besides, retirement “can be an exciting and liberating time as you begin to think about your life not as a mission accomplished—but as a time for finding new purpose that will give your life meaning and might just become your most joyous and nourishing time on earth”.2

Don’t get me wrong, retirement is an opportunity to live at a slower, more measured pace. But with the possibility of 8000 days or more of retirement, it’s also an opportunity to live them with purpose—for God.

“In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. . . I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel” (Ephesians 4:1, MSG).


Dr Bruce Manners is a retired pastor and author of Retirement Ready, available from Adventist Book Centres. An interview with Dr Manners about the book can be found on the Adventist Record website.

  1. Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, The 100-Year Life, Bloomsbury, London, 2017,
    p 13.
  2. Ken Dychtwald cited in Richard and Leona Bergstrom, Third Calling, Re-Ignite, Edmonds, Washington, USA.