On Sunday, February 11, 65-year-old Andy Reid coached the Kansas City Chiefs to their second Super Bowl win in as many years—a feat last accomplished two decades ago. It marks the third time the Chiefs have won the Super Bowl during the past five years.

The game’s MVP was 28-year-old Patrick Mahomes. It was also the second time he has achieved such recognition in as many years—and, like the team he leads, it’s his third time to receive this honor during the past five years.

After the game, an off-camera announcer asked Mahomes the same question posed to Super Bowl MVPs every year for the past 36 years: “Patrick Mahomes, you just won the Super Bowl! What are you going to do next?” To which Mahomes replied, “I’m going to Disneyland!”

Conversely, in a pre-game interview with retired NFL coach Bill Cowher, Reid was asked an entirely different question: “If you have a chance to win a Super Bowl, is there any chance Andy Reid coached his final game?” To which Reid replied, “I get asked that. I’m good. I feel great. They say it just hits you, (but) it hasn’t hit me.”

When are you going to retire?

Now, as reported by CBS Sports, Reid has never had a losing season with Kansas City in his 11 years as head coach—and he’s had double-digit winning seasons in each of the last 10. It’s also important to note that while Bill Cowher retired from coaching at the age of 49, Reid’s winning streak with the Chiefs didn’t even begin until Reid was 53. And, based on comments made by Chiefs’ players Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and others, the Kansas City Chiefs are “just getting started.”

Which begs the question, why does the one of the most frequently-asked questions of people in their 60’s and beyond—including those seemingly at the top of their game—constantly default to something along the lines of “You’ve accomplished this great thing! Now, are you going to retire?”

Had the situation been reversed, would Bill Cowher have posed that same question to 44-year-old Kyle Shanahan, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers? I suspect not.

Clearly, the prevalence of ageism in the workplace extends beyond the office to include the gridiron—and the press box.

Perhaps it’s time we ask ourselves WHY. 

Has our society been so programmed to expect adults in their 60’s to move on from careers they’ve loved and excelled at—simply because they’ve hit some arbitrary chronological milestone? Do adults in their 60’s, 70’s, and beyond harbor such internalized ageism that we blindly place those expectations on ourselves as a matter of habit—rather than a matter of cognitive choice? 

What IS the hurry, after all?

Shouldn’t the goal of our work lives be to pursue careers we love so much, we can’t even fathom retiring? Doesn’t the knowledge and experience we’ve cultivated over decades of work UP the value of our work, rather than diminish it? Haven’t we demonstrated our ability to adapt to new ideas and ways of doing things (contrary to popular belief)—especially since, in many cases, we’ve helped to create them?

On September 6, 1995, at the age of 35, lifelong Baltimore Oriole and Baseball Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr. (a/k/a the “Iron Man”) broke Lou Gehrig’s long-standing appearance record by playing in 2,131 consecutive games—a feat most experts agree will never be repeated. A little more than three years (and another 501 games) later, Ripken decided to end his streak—in his own way and on his own terms. In fact, as the Washington Post reported, on September 20, 1998, after taking batting practice prior to that night’s game, Ripken simply said to then-Orioles manager Ray Miller, “I think it’s time.”

No, he didn’t retire. In fact, he went on to play another three seasons, contributing to his team’s offense and defense in variety of ways—as a hitter, shortstop, and third baseman. And then he decided to move on.

Imagine that. Talented, experienced, and successful people being utilized to the best of their abilities and given the chance to contribute—until THEY decide they’re ready to try something else?

To me, that’s precisely how it should be. Because for many in their 60’s, 70’s, and beyond (including yours truly)—capable, skilled, energetic, with lots left to give, and the continued desire to make a difference—it isn’t a question of what’s left. 

It’s a question of WHAT’S NEXT?

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Barbara Raynor is an award-winning writer and strategic marketing and communications specialist with a particular passion for Adults 50+ and the challenges they face as they grow older. Based in Denver, she fervently believes AGING IS LIVING and frequently writes and speaks on topics related to aging and ageism.

Read her blogs for Changing the Narrative.

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