Making the most of retirement takes careful planning
North Shore resident Lorna Goodwin likes to stay busy. Even though a leg fracture slowed her down this summer, since retiring she’s managed to stay involved in her community and to feel good about making a difference. In her career as a manager of an employment program, she helped people find work that was meaningful to them, so she was surprised that after retirement she felt a little lost.
“I sat there in my living room like a deer in the headlights, thinking, now what?” she says.
After her initial reaction, Goodwin decided to join a local walking group, which helped her feel better physically, but she also developed some significant friendships. That positive experience got her thinking about how she could get more involved in her community. After a brief search she found a volunteer position with North Shore Community Resources interviewing volunteers and helping them find volunteer jobs best suited to their skills. It’s a job that she loves and which taps into the expertise she developed in her former career.
As well as her work for North Shore Community Resources, she has attended a number of elder college courses and, most recently, volunteered to sit on the board of the Lionsview Seniors’ Planning Society. Goodwin’s life is now full of activities that bring her satisfaction and meaning.
“I really love what I do and I like helping people and doing what I can to make a difference,” she says.
While many of us look forward to retirement, like Goodwin, when it actually happens we can feel adrift.
According to a report published by the Conference Board of Canada, Leaving Work: Managing One of Life’s Pivitol Transitions, close to one-third of Canadians have difficulty with the shift from work to retirement. It also found that those who make that transition most successfully have done some careful planning.
The report recommended a number of strategies that can help us prepare to make the shift:
- Talk it over with friends and family. These conversations will help you explore not only what you want to do in your retirement, but also how you feel about leaving work.
- Get engaged with your community. You may be busy with work at the moment, but take a look at the organizations in your community that interest you and help out with a one-time event or join a committee.
- Identify your interests. Over time we can get so caught up with work that we lose touch with the things that really interest us and it’s hard to imagine what we would do with all our free time. One way to identify some of the things that interest you is to reflect on the things you loved most when you were very young. Can you re-engage in them in some way? If you were one of those kids who always brought home stray animals, you may enjoy volunteering at a nearby pet shelter. If you played an instrument, this is your chance to dust it off and revive those skills.
- Think about how retirement will affect your relationships. Do you plan to spend all your time with your already retired spouse? If your spouse is not retired how will your roles change? How much time do you think you – or your spouse – need to be alone? If you’re single, identify your support group – work friendships tend to fall by the wayside once someone leaves the work place.
Those who do make a positive transition to retirement had a number of characteristics in common: They were able to derive satisfaction from areas of their lives other than work; they viewed life as a journey made up of various stages; and they had a positive attitude toward retirement and looked forward to it.
Lorna Goodwin has some advice for those who are thinking about retiring.
“I think one of the best things to do is to write a mission statement. What are you all about? What do you want to do, now that you’re in the third age? What do you want to accomplish before you finish your life?” she says.
Like many things in life, retirement is what you make it. It presents us with an opportunity to grow, learn and enjoy the later years in our lives, so it’s no surprise it takes a little planning.
—Josie Padro is a writer/researcher for the North Shore Caregiver Support Project.