So here it is; retirement is looming. Some enter this phase of life with trepidation, while others transition in a seamless way and never look back. The options today in retirement are endless. We all have choices. Some plan ahead and things work out just fine, but for some, this new period, despite the planning leads to unhappiness, boredom and loss of purpose.
The following stories demonstrate different paths that people take into their retirement years.
George – A highly skilled surgeon
George professionally was a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon. By the time he reached age 70, he had realised that his hands were not quite as steady as they once were and he was starting to suffer some arthritic changes in his joints. So he decided to retire. George was very well off from years of earning a high six-figure income.
Initially, George and his wife decided to travel extensively, and they did so for a couple of years. Once he returned home, he thought about how he would spend his remaining years. It wasn’t long before opportunity knocked. George had been an excellent skier for many years, and on one of his skiing trips to Colorado, he saw an advertisement for a kids’ ski instructor. He thought that it would be fun.
Once that ski resort observed how skilled George was and how he loved children, he was hired for the following season. He and his wife bought a condominium in the mountains, and he was able to follow his passion plus get paid for it, though the pay was secondary at that stage in his life. He just felt appreciative of having the opportunity to make a difference to the young ones.
Rebecca – A Tragic Past
Rebecca, age 76, was born in Poland, just as the Nazis started to round up Jews for internment in concentration camps. Her parents were frantic because they could see the inevitability of what was to happen. In 1941, real friends who were non-Jews volunteered to
hide Rebecca in their home. Her parents were arrested, and they were transported to Auschwitz. Luck, however, was to shine on Rebecca; she avoided capture until the Allies liberated Europe, though she would never know her biological parents.
In the 1960’s, Rebecca went to America on a student visa to study nursing. She had a desire to help others and continued her career in the USA until she retired at age 65. When Rebecca stopped working, suddenly she started to experience a loss of identity. She then embarked on a couple of trips to Poland, searching for her native past.
It was after she retired that she got the inspiration to write a book about her life and that of her family, and what it meant to grow up knowing that her natural parents had been exterminated during the Second World War. Rebecca’s story about the Holocaust was shared by many. This renewed life-purpose was cathartic and she was able to express her true innermost feelings in book form.
Phillip – An Inspired Working Life
Phillip’s story demonstrates how we can change from an uninspired existence to finding a cause that we are passionate about.
Phillip spent most of his working life in the health department of the government, sitting at a computer and dealing with bureaucracy. When he retired at age 65, he felt relief because he was now able to have time off, money to travel and enjoy new-found freedom with his wife. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as planned.
Six months after Phillip retired, his wife was diagnosed with cancer, which, it turned out, was malignant and very aggressive. One year later, she was gone, and Phillip was devastated and all alone. At the funeral, an old school buddy turned up to pay his respects. Phillip hadn’t seen him in many years, but they agreed to stay in touch.
Over the ensuing months, the two pals got together on several occasions and Phillip was inspired by his friend’s success in the field of law. One day, a moment of inspiration struck him like a bolt of lightning. Why not go into the area of law and pursue one of his passions; righting the wrongs of employer discrimination. So at age 67 he passed the mature age requirements thanks to a Bachelor’s degree and scoring well on an entrance exam.
At the age of 72, Phillip was qualified as a lawyer and even dared to open his own practice as an employment lawyer. He was inspired and never looked back. From having lost so much, he now had a renewed purpose for life with its accompanying fulfillment.
These vignettes tell us that it’s never too late. Let age not deter you. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what is important is the thinking between your ears. We all have untapped potential at any age.