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Retirement is a destination many perceive as a luxurious payoff after a lifetime of hard work and dedication, while others experience it as a loss of purpose and competency. Whether you hustled to arrive by choice, or it’s a crushing reality delivered by old age or critical injury, the inevitable battle many will face is navigating their new identity and unending amount of free time.
The effects of retirement
The event signaling the end of a career can be an ostentatious, gaudy and garish one or simple, mundane and non-memorable. Regardless of how one’s career concludes, studies show that within the first few years of retirement, people are 40% more likely to become depressed, and 60% more likely to begin abusing substances. “I was in tears, in my bed, after a Super Bowl victory,” said Robert Gronkowski, who had to retire at the age of 29 due to a grueling series of injuries and mental health concerns. At the age of 39, astronaut Buzz Aldrin became the second man on the moon and subsequently returned to earth, becoming an alcoholic and enduring three failed marriages. Although these are exceptional post-career examples, the universal truth we can surmise is that everybody needs a sense of purpose, perhaps even more so upon retirement.
Young celebrities are not the only ones watching the sun set on their careers, as most people will reach a point in their lives when they can no longer physically work. My mother has been a nurse for over 50 years. Her five-decade career in patient advocacy came to an end when she was no longer able to continue with the rigors of nursing. Ten years after hanging up her scrubs, she has settled into a lovely retirement complete with Netflix marathons, book clubs and grandchildren. While physically she may not be able to save lives like she did for a half century prior, her mind is undoubtedly every bit as sharp as ever, and she would relish any opportunity to impart her medical wisdoms to the world.
How the metaverse can help
Enter in the metaverse: A collection of persistent virtual worlds born out of the internet’s dream to reimagine itself without boundaries, while connecting people on a global scale. This new frontier of limitless experiences can open the doors for every walk of life imaginable. Someone like my mother can now virtually work within a health care facility free from any restraints caused by physical limitations. An elderly teacher, whose restricted mobility might severely limit their ability to stand and lecture, can still connect with students virtually and conduct the same coursework as they would in a traditional classroom setting. Companies like VictoryXR are creating fully immersive virtual classrooms where students can learn about dinosaurs within arm’s reach of a life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex, or read To Kill a Mockingbird while standing alongside Atticus Finch in a digital recreation of Harper Lee’s actual courtroom.
Steady progress is also being made to help make the metaverse even more inclusive; not just for the elderly, but also for the disabled. Virtual reality companies have already come up with AR-enhanced hearing aids and glasses to address hearing and visual impairments, respectively. For people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), the Project VOISS (Virtual Reality Opportunities to Integrate Social Skills) has been introduced, utilizing virtual reality to reenact social communication and assist individuals with ASD therapies. In the metaverse, persons experiencing paraplegia, who have immense difficulty traveling to see new places, can now visit many destinations that their former financial and physical limitations might have inhibited.
With companies like Disney, Apple and Microsoft entering the metaverse, as well as entire cities creating their digital replicas, there is renewed hope that our physical bodies will no longer restrict our exploration of the universe, and that the only limitation we may soon face is our imagination.
Siri: Set a reminder to read about the metaverse every morning, so I don’t miss out.