Personally I’ve never understood the concept of retirement. Four days into a beach vacation I am itching for a meeting, and the idea of chasing a little white ball around acres of green grass just isn’t my cup of tea. I once worked for a vibrant, inspiring man who died in his business suit at age 90+, and at 50+ I think I have decades of cool work ahead of me.
I think there are lots of women out there who shun the word “retirement” and consider the years past 60 as opportunities to go down paths you might not have been able to consider before.
But that insidious “confidence” word can creep into a woman’s psyche at any age. Once you leave the corporate umbrella—especially one that sheltered you for many years—carving out an entirely new niche for yourself can be a daunting prospect. Your age should not be what keeps you from moving ahead, though. At any age you can make a valuable contribution and keep yourself interested and interesting—whether or not there is money involved.
There’s no better example than my 85-year-old friend and mentor who still finds that there are not enough hours in the day for all that she wants to accomplish. She was a respected college administrator and she has a very wide circle of friends and colleagues, but there have been plenty of obstacles that could have stalled her well cultivated personal growth. When others may have given up, she has just kept going.
Here’s a note I received from this friend that shows that anyone, in any circumstances, at any age, can lead a purposeful and engaged life:
“I’m celebrating 43 years of recovery in AA. My life is full—socializing with friends, sponsoring several women in recovery, playing bridge twice a week. I am number two in the AA General Service hierarchy in the local district, which means sitting on two Boards of Directors, attending 10 monthly Standing Committee meetings, four area assemblies a year and conducting 10 how to workshops each year. All contribute to a most productive life. Getting my M.Ed. after retiring has paid off in many ways.
Currently I am preparing my second “To Thine Own Self Be True” spiritual workshop. At the first I hoped for 35 to 50 attendees and 100 appeared, many clamoring for a follow-up.
At my age health is an ongoing issue—however my doctors refer to me as their poster child. I’ve survived open heart surgery, two heart attacks, six stents, two cancer surgeries—and so it goes. I am blessed with a healthy attitude and a zest for living.”
After the often stressful working years of early mornings and late nights, I get that resting—or playing—during retirement can sound pretty appealing. But my message is this: be confident that if you want more, you still have years of productivity ahead. Use the gift of time wisely—whether that time will paid in dollars or words of gratitude.
- Be confident that you can be productive, engaged and active well into your retirement years.
- Don’t let life obstacles stunt your personal growth.
- Check out organizations that seek out the talents of retirees for high-level assignments—such as NESC, the National Executive Service Corps (www.nesc.org).
- Consider ways that you can be a “leader” not just an occasional “volunteer” at the non-profit organizations that interest you most.
- Put on an “independent contractor” hat and seek out consulting assignments that can provide paid work on your own terms.