Retirement Means You Quit Working — Not Living.
By Bob Aronson
“Working people have a lot of bad habits, but the worst of these is work.”
Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.
Dwight L. Moody
Retirement: It’s nice to get out of the rat race, but you have to learn to get along with less cheese.
How many times have you heard about “Uncle Joe” who retired from his 50 year long career to a recliner chair and died an unhappy man? That story is all too common and totally unnecessary. Take it from this 75 year old retired guy who is busier and happier than at any other time of my life.
At some point all of us retire from our chosen profession or trade and you should know early on that retirement from a job does not mean retirement from life. Frankly, retirement should mean new opportunities and exciting new experiences that serve to restore your old enthusiasm for life. Retirement is not a sentence it is a destination and you can write your own ticket.
Often retirement is not by choice but by necessity. In my case the need for a heart transplant made it a necessity, but so what? While everyone knows they will retire few are ready for it. Retirement is a drastic change in lifestyle, one in which you have to change some major habits and behaviors and learn new ones.
Prior to retirement I was a communications consultant who traveled a great deal. I absolutely loved my work. I trained and coached executives, was a frequent keynote speaker at conventions and wrote extensively about communication. My days started at 5 AM and often didn’t end until midnight. I had a closet full of suits, ties and freshly pressed shirts and rarely wore anything else, there wasn’t time.
When I retired all of that came to a sudden and screeching halt and the shock was as intense as if I had been shot head first from a cannon into a brick wall target. I was used to getting up and meeting with the captains of industry, but now in retirement I got up to Captain Crunch and an empty day. I knew for a very long time, 12 years to be exact, that this day would come. I had been told I would need a heart transplant and would get weaker and weaker until I got one. The prediction came true in 2006. Reluctantly I retired and late that year we moved from Eagan, Minnesota (a twin cities suburb) to Jacksonville, Florida because the Mayo clinic there had a great record of obtaining transplantable organs.
My first rescue from boredom came two months after I got a new heart from the very people who had saved my life, the Mayo Clinic. One of my Mayo friends called to ask if I would like to write a blog (this one, Bob’s Newheart) and start a Facebook group with a focus on organ donation and transplantation (Organ Transplant Initiative). This required some learning because I knew nothing about social media or blogging. Both were in their infancy. I dove headfirst into cyberspace and found it fascinating and fun because it called upon many of my old skills.
My second rescuer was my wife Robin. She ran two businesses out of our home one of them was
designing and making anodized aluminum jewelry. She sold her colorful creations at art shows all over the south, and southeastern U.S. In order to do that she not only needed a tent but the furnishings, too. Items like display cases, necks for necklaces, pedestals, pictures and frames, and other items used to display her work are necessities and can be expensive. She knew I had an interest in woodwork so she asked if I’d like to build some of those things.
“Oh fun,” was my first thought, but I had few tools. Slowly and with great deliberation I built a woodworking shop and began to build what she needed to furnish her booth. It became a never ending job because as styles and tastes changed so did the need for new and different furnishings.
That takes me to today. This blog, Bob’s Newheart, is my 222nd since November 3, 2007 and the Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) now has nearly 4,000 members. I have branched out in the woodworking department as well and have built a number of items for gifts for friends and family. When I am not at my keyboard I am In my shop and have found that I am at least as busy now as I was when working and even happier.
So I got lucky, I stumbled into avocations that interested me and kept me busy to the point where I don’t miss the job from which I retired at all. Now…what should you do? How do you keep your mind and body active and engaged and avoid all the fears every spouse or partner has about retirement? How do you avoid becoming a couch potato, the stereotypical old person who sits in front of the TV all day eating unhealthy food and feeling sorry for him (her) self? It’s really pretty easy and I can sum it up in one word –planning, but you have to do it now! Check out this link. “http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/aging/retirement/10-tips-for-adjusting-to-retirement.htm
Whether you retire through necessity or choice you will retire and, as I said earlier, it can be a major shock to the system. Going from working a full-time job to having nowhere specific that you “have” to be each day may sound wonderful but it doesn’t always work out that way. Some retired people feel bored and unproductive and when that happens, the days can seem endlessly long and empty. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Options for Action
Have you considered teaching? Even if that wasn’t your profession, it’s still something that you can do when you retire. Teaching others what you’ve learned in the years spent in your chosen trade or profession can be very rewarding and some colleges and technical schools like to employ people with real-world experience. You will also find that some companies employ speakers to share their knowledge and often those engagements result in contracts for more speeches or even training sessions.
Speaking and/or Training
Speaking and training could be a paying gig, or you could do it simply for the joy of helping others. One organization that might be of help is SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE bills itself as “counselors to America’s small business.” Volunteers with the organization mentor small business owners, provide counseling, create and lead workshops, and write articles.
Move to an exotic location
I have a friend and former boss, Rick Lewis, who retired big time. He moved to Cotacachi, Ecuador.
He sold almost all his earthly possessions and took with him only what he could carry, which wasn’t much. He lives in the shadow of some beautiful mountains. He walks everywhere, has lost a some extra pounds, buys food at open air markets at wonderfully low prices, has a much healthier diet, writes blogs about his experience and started a company that will help South American women be more independent. He travels extensively and is enjoying life to the fullest and while he has access to all the modern conveniences he uses few other than his computer and cell phone.
Go Back to School
I am convinced that to really enjoy your retirement years you must keep your brain actively engaged and what better for that than the learning environment. Taking classes ins something that interests you can keep your mind razor sharp but even more importantly it could give you the opportunity to learn more about a lifelong passion, or the start of another career. Maybe you wanted to play a musical instrument or learn woodwork or how to write a book…the possibilities are endless.
Best of all…you can go to school again at little or no cost. There are grants and scholarships available y for senior citizens to attend college but often you don’t even need them. Some colleges, universities and trade schools provide tuition waivers or discounts for seniors.
And…you can always audit a class, if you have no interest in getting a degree. Auditing simply means that you attend and participate in the classes, but don’t take exams or receive a grade or credit for taking the class. Check with the college or university of your choice. You likely will find several Audit opportunities.
ow about a hobby? Yeah, I know everyone who counsels retirees says the same thing, “Get a hobby,” but it is good advice. When I was a kid I used to play the harmonica. At age 70 I took it up again. Robin is already an accomplished musician and we often practice together. Better yet, we are now involved in a once a week local jam session and my hobby has morphed into ownership of 15 harmonicas.
If you are at a loss as to what kind of hobby suits you, don’t give up. Keep looking. Hobby and craft stores conduct free or inexpensive classes in knitting, scrapbooking, leatherwork, jewelry making and more. You’ll also fin
d that places like Home Depot and Lowes have classes in carpentry and other woodwork skills along with instruction on gardening. Stores that sell kitchenware often have cooking classes. There’s no end to what you can learn, but you have to look. . Maybe you don’t want to learn how to do anything, but you’re interested in starting a collection. Whether you want to collect autographs or antique dolls, there are plenty of online groups and forums dedicated to your new hobby. Some of them meet in person or even hold conventions. No matter what your interest, you can find others out there with whom to discuss it.
Ok..you don’t want to take classes, free or not, you just want a hobby that’s fun. How about starting a collection? As a youngster I always carried a pocket knife, they can come in very handy for a whole lot of reasons. I remember, too, seeing a movie starring Allan Ladd called, “The Iron Mistress.” It was about Jim Bowie of frontier and Alamo fame and how he developed the Bowie Knife. Ever since then I wanted one of them. At age 72 I started a knife collection (you can get some very nice knives at a very low cost through Amazon and other internet sites). Today I have seven fixed blade knives (variations on the Bowie theme) and ten folding pocket knives.
Then there is Volunteering. God knows we need volunteers in almost any pursuit. The University of Michigan conducted a study of retirees who were active volunteers and found that 40 percent were more likely to be alive at the end of the study than people who did not volunteer. [Wheeler]. If that isnt’ reason to consider volunteering for something I don’t know what is and — it keeps you moving and engaged.
Other volunteer opportunities include, helping out at local schools, animal shelters, museums and churches. And…the area in which you can likely land a volunteer job right way…HealthCare. Hospitals and nursing homes always need volunteers and you could be in on the ground floor of making a significant contribution in those two areas alone.
I know, too, that there are organizations that specifically recruit senior citizens, such as Senior Corps where the Foster Grandparents program matches exceptional children with adults ages 60 and older who mentor them and help them with reading and schoolwork. Talk about a rewarding experience…that one alone could give your ego a much needed boost.
If you like to travel and see the country consider an RV, the come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes from trailers to buses and in every price range. We own a 30 foot travel trailer so when we go to art shows (we do about 20 a year) we bring our home and our dogs with us. Of course that means you have to do some serious research into how you want to use your RV. This can be a major purchase and it pays to take your time and thoroughly investigate every angle. We love our RV and are old hands at it now and can highly recommend it if you like to travel, meet new people and live, “on the road.”
Become an employee again
Yep…that’s another term for work. Maybe you need it so keep the door open to returning to the world of the retired but employed ranks. It doesn’t have to be a full time job and it doesn’t have to be as a Wal Mart Greeter, although there is nothing wrong with that. I have a 75 year old friend who works part time at a Menards store. Menards is a Home Depot type story in the Midwest and they employ a good many senior citizens as do many companies. Here are some ideas on what you could do:
- Hire out as a consultant on based on the expertise you gained while employed
- Do research in your field for colleges and universities
- Check city, county, state and federal government listings for openings that might appeal to you
- Maybe you only want money for special occasions if so try seasonal work. Companies are always seeking help during holiday seasons.
- Entertainment venues like ball parks and theaters may need ushers to lead patrons to their seats
- Customer service reps. You could get a job answering the phone, working in sales or returns or even store security.
- If you are handy with tools and can fix things around your home perhaps you can hire out as a handyman or woman on specific projects.
- Tutor a student. The money may not be great but there is some to be made tutoring both college and high school students.
- Make things at home and sell them on line through Craigs list or by opening your own website.
- Home care. If you have some medical or therapy credentials you might quality to help care for either an adult or a child in their home
- If you have bookkeeping or accounting skills many a small business could use you and chances are you could work from home.
- Clerical work. If you can type and if you are computer literate you might get a part or full time job doing just that.
It’s the 21st century and almost any job you take on is going to require computer literacy. If you don’t know how to type it would be to your advantage to take a typing class and to learn basic word processing and even PowerPoint.
There is virtually no job anywhere today that is not going to require some computer skills so if volunteering or becoming employed again is an option you want to consider then by all means brush up on your computer and typing skills.
Mental and Physical Health
So far we’ve talked about what you can do to keep from being bored and to feel as though you have some value. What’s missing from this blog, though, is how you take care of your health. That issue beings with a word few like — Exercise.
No matter what the state of your health you must find ways to be active and to exercise. Health expenses can be not only a huge financial burden, they can destroy your quality of life. There are two kinds of exercise I recommend. One is mental and the other is physical. You should read, research and write as often as possible and social media offers incredible opportunity to do all of that. Even games of solitaire or crossword puzzles can keep you mentally engaged and fit.
When it comes to physical exercise it is important to do what you can when you can. A brisk walk every
day can do wonders for you and if that sounds boring, try Mall walking where at least you will see other people and interesting displays in stores and in the hallways. If you play golf or tennis all the better, but any kind of activity that will exercise your muscles and elevate your heartbeat and respiration is good for you.
Remember above all else that you have great value. Your years of service have given you invaluable experience from which others can learn. Studies indicate that the years beyond midlife are one of life’s most creative, innovative and entrepreneurial periods for many and that us older people can be incredibly creative when given the opportunity. Check out this link for more information.
When I was working I believed I had a mission and a purpose for being and that feeling was reinforced daily by clients who continued to hire me for my advice. My fear was that upon retirement I would no longer have a purpose and that I would become irrelevant. Well, that’s possible if you only think of yourself in terms of what you used to do, but what if you change the paradigm? For example, I am no longer a communication consultant. I am an advocate for organ donation and transplantation and that has become my new relevancy, my new purpose and my new identity. More and more there are people who know me for my new purpose and know nothing about what I used to be and do. That’s an old life and frankly, I don’t miss it at all.
Finally, the most important consideration of all, your relationship with your spouse or significant other. Many of us who have worked outside the home for an entire lifetime are a pain in the butt when we are home all the time. Our life partners aren’t used to it either and both have to make a concerted effort to work on strengthening this new relationship. In my case Robin has her business and I do what I can to help her, but otherwise am pretty much involved in my own activities. We enjoy each other a great deal and often plan outings or dates when we can spend time together talking about and doing things unrelated to business or hobbies.
Retirement can be very rewarding, if you plan for it, but if you view retirement as the end of life you will be in for a miserable time because it can be the beginning and it should be. It’s all in your attitude. You can choose to quit or you can choose to explore new frontiers. I am not a quitter and I’ll be most of you aren’t either and if that’s the case…get out and find those new frontiers.
And….if all else fails try some of these:
- Make a bucket list and start doing all the things on it
- Make bird houses
- Become a master gardener
- Become an expert Starcraft player
- Sail, backpack, walk or cycle around the world
- Enter ham radio competitions (contact every state, etc.)
- Read trashy novels
- Have a lot of sex while your body is still in full working order
- Fix up cars or motorcycles
- Build a boat
- Build a log cabin
- Research your family tree
- Watch birds
- Amateur astronomy
- Finally get adequate sleep
- Become as healthy as possible
- Save the world
- Rebuild civilization from scratch
- Live very well without money for a year
- Go to the top of a high building and throw away $100.000
- Burn $100.000 on a public place
- Spend the last day in the job speaking all the truth to clients
You can find more here http://earlyretirementextreme.com/wiki/index.php?title=Long_list_of_things_to_do_when_you_retire
I always try to practice what I preach so let me recap where I am today at age 75 after a career that I absolutely loved. My life has changed completely and I love every minute of it. I am not only not bored, I don’t have time to be bored. I am having too much fun doing the following:
- I took up the harmonica after a 60 year hiatus from it. Now I own 15 of them and once a week my wife and I play in an old time music jam session. Robin plays several instruments and often we spend an evening playing together.
- Woodwork. I’ve always loved working with wood but never had time. Now I make fixtures and furnishings for Robin’s Art show booth. I make jewelry boxes for friends and family, and recently completed making a CD storage unit that looks like an accordion.
- Social media. As you know I started and run Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative group (OTI) and recently wrote my 223rd blog on Bob’s Newheart for WordPress.
- I am in the process of writing two books. One is just a look at life from my earliest memories until now . So far I have written about 145 pages, and that only got me to when I was 23 years old. There’s a lot more to write. The other book is fiction, it is about the first Hispanic President of the United States and the challenges he faces. It’s part SCI FI, part James Bond type action and heavy on political intrigue.
- I do the grocery shopping, some cooking a little housework and very little sitting.
- We travel the country going to art shows in which Robin sells he Jewelry creations.
I think you can tell, by that list that at age 75 I am a very busy guy. Rarely do I sit still for long. I absolutely refuse to be bored. I think I lead a rather exciting life and I’m enjoying every moment of it. You can do the same. Retirement can be like being born again because it is what you make it.
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.