"In this sticky web that we're all in, behaving decently is no small task." -- Novelist Stacey D'Erasmo

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What's Your Retirement Role?

     The obvious difference between working and retirement is that we no longer get up and go to work five days a week. Now we have to fill our own time and structure our own lives.

     We've been working for 30 or even 40 years, raising a family, taking part in the kids' school or sports activities. Our identity is tied up in our jobs and our families, and we’ve gotten used to the routine, the structure, the social life. We had places to go, people to see, and a schedule to keep. Now that we're retired, there's no place for us to go in the morning, and no one who cares whether we get there or not.

     So after we retire we may feel disconnected, like there's no purpose in life, no focus. I had one friend who, for the first few months after he retired, had nothing more to do than go with his wife to the grocery store and follow her up and down the aisles -- until one day she stopped, turned, looked him in the eye and said, "This has got to stop!"

     Retirement is a new stage of life, and we need something to do, especially if we’re retiring at a fairly young age. So what’s the answer? One suggestion I've heard -- and tried to embrace -- is to find a new role, a new identity, a different way to define ourselves.

     So instead of being the lawyer and Little League coach, instead of being the nurse and PTA member, we can find some activity we’ve always wanted to pursue, but never had the time. Or maybe we need to do some research and figure out a role we can take on that uses our expertise and talents, and that suits our interests. That way, when someone asks what you do in retirement, you can answer:  I volunteer at the school, or I’m writing my family history, or I take care of my grandchildren.

     Here are a few examples of retirement roles:

     The Volunteer. Many people find that retirement offers a chance to give back to their community. So they talk to their friends, or attend a meeting of the local service club -- or as I did, turn to Volunteer Match -- to find out what needs are in the community and how we might fit in. We may find ourselves helping seniors with their taxes, or delivering meals on wheels, or helping kids learn how to read -- and making connections in the community that we never had before.

      The Sportsman. One friend of mine liked to hike and camp, so when he retired he set a goal to hike the length of the Appalachian Trail. It took him three years, making three different trips, but he finally did it. Another friend took up pickleball and now teaches lessons at the local recreation center. (She's the one who got me involved, with the result that I busted out my knee, but that's a different story!) My brother-in-law is president of his senior golf league in Florida. It doesn't matter what your sport is, or even how good you are (luckily for my brother-in-law!). What matters is that you enjoy it and make some friends.

Grandparent. According to one study, over 60 percent of retirees cite spending time with grandchildren as a major reason for retiring. Honestly, I don’t know of any better use of your time and talents than helping your children and getting to know your grandchildren. Doesn’t it warm your heart to think that 50 or 70 years from now your grandchildren will recall special moments they shared with you, as they in turn share moments with their grandchildren?

      Traveler. Some people make a bucket list of destinations; others focus on one particular region. My sister is learning Spanish and has made three trips to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. Other people like Road Scholar or other cultural organizations. But you don't have to be rich to travel. One friend of mine lives in upstate New York and she's made it her mission to discover the back roads of New England, exploring old factory towns, tracing old stone walls and graveyards, all within a couple of hundred miles of home.

      Craftsperson. I was at a party after Christmas and met an older man from Michigan. "What do you do?" I asked. "I'm a woodworker," he replied confidently. Later, it came out that he had worked in computers. But that's not how he defines himself anymore. He had just finished crafting an oak bed for his daughter, and now he's working on a series of keepsake wooden boxes for his grandchildren, which he plans to give to them next Christmas. Other retirees make glassware or throw pottery or make clothes, and may even sell their wares online or in a local store.

      These are just some ideas. What am I? I'm a Volunteer, and maybe a Sportsman, since I play golf and table tennis and I tried pickleball -- and I just got another idea yesterday. When my knees won't let me get around anymore, I think I'll take up pool.

      So have you found the chance to try something new in retirement, something different, perhaps even unexpected? What do you really like to do, what engages your interest? What is your role in retirement?


Jono said...

There is plenty to do or get involved in if you can afford to retire. I'll have to sell off the assets, simplify the day to day stuff, and then I can retire to doing all the fun things I don't get enough time to do. And hope I stay healthy.

Celia said...

A few years ago I volunteered at our local history museum and I just re-upped to work in the gift store and doing data management for the collections department. I also poke around in their reference library and help people with research. The first week I met several old friends and a couple of new ones. I love it!

Then there's grandkids. I've been involved with my grandkids ever since I first retired 10 years ago. Overnights, visiting to museums and the library, do art, & lots of park time weather willing. Same stuff I did with my kids. It's good.

My current odd entertainment is visiting some of the old hotels in E. WA and E. OR. Some have been restored, some are derelict and all have an interesting history if you can find it. Always thought there was a book in there somewhere. :-)

Anonymous said...

Heads up, Tom.
Relook at your title.
Check the spellings.
'nuff said.

stephen Hayes said...

I turned to blogging in my retirement.

retirementreflections said...

Great post, Tom! One of the many things that I love about retirement is that it truly can be what you make it. It gives you a chance to explore different things to see if you like them, often without having to make a long-term commitment. In my work life, I was a School Administrator. Although a complex role, it was easily summed up in two works (or even one). So far in retirement, I have dabbled in yoga, curling, fitness programs, hiking (including the Camino trail), various forms of travel, painting classes, euchre, book clubs, volunteer at our local SPCA and volunteer Social Media Director for our Newcomer's Club. I have discovered the amazing world of blogging. I have also been enjoying extensive time with my parents, children, grandchildren and friends. Some of the things that I have dabbled in have stuck (so far), while others were a shorter-term fling. I love that 'retirement' is often difficult to sum up in just a couple of words. I am ready to explore much more!

Tom said...

Oops, sorry for the typo. Thanks Cindi!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tom I got a chuckle on this one "Now that we're retired, there's no place for us to go in the morning, and no one who cares whether we get there or not."

Still the Lucky Few said...

I fumbled around for a few years, wasting time, until I started my blog. Now there aren't enough hours in the day! So if people nag me to volunteer, or try to lure me into golfing (never!), I just say I'm a writer. Suits me.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! Clever post! The only role I can think you "might" have left out is the "semi-retired" person who still continues to work at either her former work part time or at another paying occupation. And that includes of course the many people who really can't afford to quit cold-turkey and must continue to work at something just to keep the money coming. One way or another it's important to have a "role" that gives us purpose, right? ~Kathy

Linda Myers said...

I never imagined I'd be volunteering at a refugee camp in Greece. But that's where I am as I type this. Fabulous, in retirement, to be able to say yes to what comes along.

Rian said...

Well, Tom, not sure I have a 'role' as such. But I do spend time going to pottery and yoga classes, sketching, writing, quilting, cooking, etc. (not really enough time in the day). Also volunteer for our neighborhood crime watch patrol... and do find time to spend with the grandkids - as well as a road trip now and then! And if I really think about it, my favorite part of retirement is knowing that I don't HAVE to do something that day if I don't feel like it... there's always tomorrow (or at least we hope there is).

Barb said...

Im not sure I have a role either. I do know many days I have more things to do than time, and I probably qualify as a dabbler or putterer. I volunteer weekly, Im also an active craftsperson,and a traveler just for startefs.

I agree that one of the advantages to retirement is being able to say yes, and while I definitely leave time in my life for serious homebody time, I love the saying yes to new things part of retirement.

Savoring Sixty said...

Definitely food for thought. I am kind of leaning toward moving closer to more grandchildren in about two years. Big move, so hopefully in two years we will be up for it! Thanks for the post!

Olga said...

I do all those things to some degree. It's an amazingly busy time and I am loving it.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm linking to your post Tom. It's a great one to comment on at more length, thank you.


Snickelfritz said...

I raise chickens. Never had time for them earlier on, but now I can stop and just watch them clucking and scratching and I gather the eggs, that taste like butter, that we eat with relish. Love being out of the rat race, sitting on the sidelines watching the world go by. If I had known retirement would be this great, I would have done it earlier.

Retiring Jeff said...

Hi Tom. Great post. I just "retired" last Friday so I am very very new to what this next chapter in life should be. As of now I am a bit lost but know it will be an exciting time. And I am looking forward to see what my new role will become.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you do, just go and have a good life.

joared said...

I was semi-retired for a number of years, meaning I worked part-time, so guess I've eased into retirement beginning only a couple or so years ago. Still I stay current with requirements to maintain my state license and national certification, so that takes some time. Otherwise, I devote more time to pretty ordinary activities I never had enough time for before. A few years when working, after I became a widow, I scheduled myself with all manner of activities. These years later I have most relished not having a schedule -- being able to spontaneously do or not do whatever I might be in the mood for.

Bob Lowry said...

I have found some real satisfaction in different volunteer roles. I spent several years involved with prison ministry and found that both gratifying and, frankly, a little out of my comfort zone. Since that engagement ended I have spent time with a children's theater group and now, teaching Junior Achievement material to a 4th grade class.

Is there a theme? Teaching and sharing experiences seem to fit me well.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

What is retirement really? A dream of no more daily work to go to? To do as one pleases?
I have been retired 25 years but work every day at many of the things that began at age 10, caring for family.
I love it most of the time.
But our alarm clock is a bit more flexible now.

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