For the first time in history, career women—women who have worked outside the home for most of their lives—are retiring. These women are highly skilled, educated and successful. They have achieved visibility, status and influence. And, because they are the first large group of American women to define themselves by their work, they have few, if any, models for retirement.
Longtime friends and colleagues Bernice Bratter and Helen Dennis first started discussing this issue back in 1999, and then began inviting other women to join them in a dialogue about life after career. Word spread about these unique gatherings, and soon they were asked to assist in establishing additional discussion groups.
Eventually, Bratter (a marriage and family therapist) and Dennis (an expert on the issues of aging, employment, and retirement) wrote a book, Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women, to communicate what they had learned and to help other career women make their own successful “renewment” transitions.
“Renewment” is a term that Bratter and Dennis created as an alternative to “retirement”—a word that is often associated with negative stereotypes and clichés. “In contrast,” they write, “renewment is positive, suggesting rebirth, choices, vitality, opportunity and personal growth.” They further explained, “It implies that decisions about the next chapter of life can be intentional rather than defined by the needs and expectations of others.”
Similarly, “Project RenewmentTM” defines the process of change that occurs when women transform the drive and energy they previously committed to a career into a source of energy to recreate their lives. In addition, Bratter and Dennis note that this term describes a forum for small group discussions where women explore post-career issues, concerns and aspirations:
“The women who participate are proactive, nonjudgmental and supportive. They discuss their priorities, losses and passions to intentionally design a future that will be equal to or more gratifying than their previous working years. Topics typically discussed include identity, relationships, money, health, productivity and defining what is meaningful during this new life stage.”
Their book also includes guidelines for creating and sustaining project renewment discussion groups. For more information, visit www.ProjectRenewment.com.