Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Retirement challenges through the eyes of a former Police Commissioner

Retired Botswana Police Commissioner Norman Moleboge says that emotional challenges in retirement can include insufficient money for personal upkeep or household sustenance, in the wake of newly acquired free time.

He says many retirees suffer depression because of overtaxing themselves, trying to follow a daily routine beyond their mental, emotional, and physical resources.

A conservative definition refers to retirement as “formalized withdrawal from active engagement in one’s occupation or profession” (due to advanced age, health challenges or out of own volition).

Due to the complexities involved, retirement comprises a paradigm lifestyle shift bordering on some generic form of identity confusion in worst case scenarios. It is in fact a process, and not an event and retirement, like any lifecycle transition, has emotional rewards and hazards.

Moleboge, who is also a proactive member of the Botswana Civil Services Pensioners Association (BCSPA), explained that when one goes on retirement, there are distinct phases retirees go through.
The initial phase, which feels like going on vacation, is often referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ period.

“You can sleep in, catch up on reading, pursue hobbies or fraternize more often than not with family or peers. However, once this ‘honeymoon’ period wears off, a psychological vacuum, characterized by low moods or depression, takes precedence.”

Moleboge, who served the Botswana Police for 42.5 years and another 5.5 years as Head of Mission to Namibia, is an ornately decorated recipient of the Presidential Order of Honour and a former Dean of the Diplomatic Commonwealth and African Groups and SARPCCO Chief of Police Chairman.

The happily married 65-year-old-Bobonong-born father of three sons and two daughters cherishes the goal of engaging full time in volunteerisms. Due to the wealth of knowledge, experience and diligent track record as Police boss at his disposal, Moleboge has been invited to address high profile seminars involving pensioners, such as the November 2012 Botswana Pensioners Society Conference held at the Sir Seretse Khama BDF Barracks.

“While on one hand some look forward to retirement as a time to slow down from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of work, relax and enjoy life, others envisage a busier, more exciting phase than when they were working,” he says. “Ideally, retirements should be a time when you can just relax and not worry about the daily grind that comes with work.”

After leading lives structured by parents, teachers, employees and offspring, the opportunity to break free from this yoke appears extremely exciting. They experience utopian euphoria look over when, what and how to do what they want to do; anticipating the unlimited leeway flexibility when on their ‘own clock’. They may use their newly acquired freedom to fulfill unaccomplished dreams cherished over the years, such as gardening, home repairs, golfing every day, volunteering, and traveling, to name a few.

Empirical evidence inexorably links the retirement environment to the reasons for leaving gainful employment.

For example, the voluntarily planned equivalent holds a much more closer fit into the rubric of positive and easier to cope with lifestyles as compared to forced or early retirement, retrenchment and illness-induced redundancy.

Financial issues comprise some of the biggest challenges associated with job retirements as fiscal obligations such as paying utility bills or buying food, warrant attention. Work provides not just money, but also lifestyle, self -image, purpose and peerage and remains a defining feature of daily lives and identity extending beyond the mental or physical tasks. Bringing it to an abrupt end may, however, not be an easy task inducing at times feelings of loss of self-worth once.

The resultant transformation of roles within married couples from the husband as decision maker and provider and wife being the nurturer, could lead to chaotic scenarios if not properly addressed. The best results involve partners cherishing complementary interests helping to deal with change outside the home.

If pensioners fail to use their retirement funds prudently they could end up in destitution, creating an additional burden for government.

In the 2013/14 Budget Speech, Minister of Finance & Development Planning Kenneth Matambo said Government continues to address problems of poverty and destitution by targeting the vulnerable and less fortunate members of the society through provision of cash transfers, food baskets, feeding schemes, shelter, labour based public works programmes.

As at October 2012 Government was supporting 93,090 old age pensioners; 2,110 World War II veterans; 30,906 destitute persons; 1,275 community home based care patients and; 40,766 orphans and vulnerable children. Further, old age pensioners’ allowance has been increased from P220 to P250 per month, World War II veterans allowance from P359 to P390 per month while destitute persons allowance was increased from P81 to P90 per month.

These increases range from 9 percent for World War II veterans allowance to 14 percent for old age pensioners allowance. This is a clear demonstration that Government is serious in ensuring available resources are shared with those who are worse-off in our society.

Moleboge said there are innate emotional challenges people experience when approaching, or soon after retirement, such as the proverbial “fear of the unknown”, or although having done the preparatory financial planning, few are at a loss on what they will actually do.

For instance, symptoms of depression may appear if people do not develop interests and activities that are relevant and meaningful to them such as watching too much television, drinking too many alcoholic beverages or taking psychedelic drugs before slipping into depression.

Hard driving women, and men in particular, whose identities are so closely connected to their careers, tend to have an especially difficult time in this transition if they have not cultivated other interests and neglect to seek help. “Daily routine and activities add purpose to life. If there is nothing in particular to do or look forward to on any given day, a person is more likely to feel bored and depressed than a person who lives an active meaningful life”, he warned.

A majority of grandparents for one reason or the other could baby sit or provide care for grandchildren. Married retirees who have been in a relationship for 20 years or more could hold conflicting ideas on retirement lifestyles, involving divergent plans on how to spend their time, travelling or chilling out. Retirement may create new problems for retirees that are married or have been in a long-term partnership. Many relationships have been in existence for 20 or 30 years.

Differences on who should control the finances, or family duties, once too often could create role discordances. Some spouses could miss the privacy they previously enjoyed when the other partner was working.

While working, the day is outer-directed and is shaped by the requirements of the job environment, performance and remuneration. Making the transition from work to retirement involves abrupt changes in expectations, however, the roles as a spouse, partner, parent, friend or others do not cease.
Financially, being single during retirement could be simple if you have only yourself to look after. However, complications might arise and there is no spousal partner to share burdens or emotionally lean on. Furthermore, research has shown that a majority of single retirees might suffer societal isolation and loneliness.

Giving tips on retirement, Moleboge said although the initial phases may pose teething problems, the process need not be emotionally painful, especially when prepared for. When approaching retirement age, talking to spouses, significant others or children, can have healthy benefits.

“Look at all the aspects, beginning with what you are passionate about, such as politics, sports, finance, art or music. Many couples consult a marriage therapist to get an emotional checkup, before taking the big step. Avoid making over commitments, like physically migrating to a new location resulting in either loss of work-related identity or relationship networks. Leave room for other options such as playing golf daily, taking a dance class, learning to play the piano, writing a book, starting a new career or a long list of to-do’s. Since we do not have role models to copy cat, patience becomes a crucial asset in the retirement process.”

On a more positive note, the investment of pension fund assets increased by 15 percent from P39.6 billion to P45.7 billion during the financial period, September 2011 to September 2012.

The insurance industry generated a combined gross premium of P3.1 billion, for the period ending December 2011, of which life insurers accounted for P2.1 billion, an increase of 11 percent from P1.9 billion in 2010. Introduction of the supervisory levies and licensing fee structure in February 2012 has significantly enhanced the capacity of the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority to carry out its functions, and this is expected to further improve the sectors’ performance.

“However, Botswana has specific retirement challenges that could exacerbate the plight of pensioners if not adequately addressed. For instance, there are generally no special considerations accorded to the elderly. Of note, public places, border posts, commercial banks or Omang registration in particular, do not have signs directing the elderly to more convenient or user friendly facilities, despite deteriorating health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis, to name a few. Instead they are compelled to stand in long queues with rowdy and inconsiderate youths. The irony is more pronounced in commercial banking halls offering expedited services like Premium, Prestige, Platinum or Excel beyond the reach of pensioners, who built these banks through their patronage over the last three, to five decades.”

Another disturbing practice is the non-existence of discounts or concessionary rates senior citizen for utility bills. More so, Botswana is probably one of a few countries in the world where there are no senior citizen tax rebates or tailor made tax thresholds. Preferential rates when visiting national parks to admire the diversified flora and fauna species, travelling by public transport or air, to name a few.

“None of these practices seem to fall in line with one of the Pillars of Vision 2016 of having: ‘a compassionate and caring nation’ denying retired person the dignity of living in Botswana.”

People who plan an active life tend to be happier and more successful during the transition into retirement, than those who have no plans or routines. Seek professional help if you feel prolonged anxiety, stress or depression as the achievement of a successful retirement is a process that takes planning, time and dry runs. Retirees who achieve emotional integration learn to know more about themselves and what will make the coming years more satisfying, rendering a passage to new opportunities and self-fulfillment.

Oftentimes, people do not realize that emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually being in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is a brand new experience. There has been a paradigm shift in the life tasks from when they were in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. There is more often than not less desire to be competitive and prove their physique in later life as they have less energy. And yet they could still be healthy, active, talented and mentoring younger people to carve out new, challenging, fulfilling roles in life.

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