Retirement raises question, ‘What do we do now?’
It is never too late to be what you might have been. — George Eliot
My parents are both retiring the end of this month, and I am worried about them. I would not be worried but both have come to me individually over the past few weeks and made the statement, “I don’t know what I am going to do with all that time.” They have both retired from jobs before, but then returned to work part time or on contract. There has never been a time in my memory when they did not work or go to school to further their careers. They are both asking the question, “What do we do now?” My parents raised two families, children and grandchildren and will for the first time in their 50 years of marriage be responsible for no one but themselves.
Thinking about retirement brings to mind financial concerns, but psychological preparation should also be a consideration. Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg found that retirement is not one, but many transitions. Her findings showed that coping with these transitions depends on family, timing, work satisfaction, retirement planning, health and financial security. Based on her study with retirees, Schlossberg identified the following ways in which people approach retirement:
• Continuers who continued using existing skills and interests;
• Adventurers who start entirely new endeavors;
• Searchers who explore new options through trial and error;
• Easy Gliders who enjoy unscheduled time letting each day unfold;
• Involved Spectators who care deeply about the world, but engage in less active ways;
• Retreaters who take time out or disengage from life.
My father-in-law retired several years ago, and while his satisfaction level has had some ebbs and flows, overall he has settled into a life of retirement that most individuals dream about. He began his retirement consumed with building his retirement home. After their home was complete, he became involved in civic organizations and volunteer work in his home town. My mother-in-law fell right in making new friends and getting reacquainted with old ones. She joined clubs and organizations and they were both kept quite busy. Currently, my in-laws travel, spend time with their grandchildren, visit friends and family all over the country and enjoy their life in a quaint small town on Cape Cod.
My parents are planning to retire to a similar quaint small town on the coast of South Carolina, but will there be enough to keep them busy? My mother and father have always been hard workers, but the transition to retirement may prove to be their greatest challenge yet!
Retirement was once viewed as a right to a person‘s lifelong devotion to hard work, but is slowly becoming a privilege. In today’s economy, many retirement age individuals are either choosing to work longer or may be forced to continue working until a later age. Their dreams of retirement could possibly be put on hold or altered to fit the changes they face or difficult choices they must make to keep their standard of living intact. As the retirement age slowly creeps up for future generations, the psychological effect could be significant. So, my wish for you, my wonderful parents, is that you will approach your retirement as you have embraced every challenge throughout your life together. Take this time to enjoy each other, spend time with your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, travel to the places you have always wanted to see, socialize with friends and family, but most of all relax and enjoy a well deserved retirement, because as in the words of Bill Watterson, there is never enough time to do all the nothing you want.
Brenda-Lee Duarte, executive director at LifeLine Counseling Center, 294 Gamble Ave., Maryville, 981-7400, is a licensed professional counselor and therapist. She and Megan Rapien, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, will contribute columns on mental health issues the first Sunday of each month in the Sunday Life section.