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SeniorSite.com - Perfecting the Art of Retirement
SeniorSite.com - Perfecting the Art of Retirement
Perfecting the "Art of Retirement"

George Fulmore, is a retired educator and programmer who retired on the younger side of the scale. With this column, George will introduce you to the concept of "The Art of Retirement".

Surveys of recently retired people show that 30 to 50 percent have difficulties in the transition to retirement. Many simply don't like it. Others aren't good at it. Most are uncomfortable with at least one or more aspects of it.

So then, is retirement a science or an art? My sense is that it is definitely an art, and an individually defined art at that. What one decides to do with all the "free" time, what projects or retirement obligations one takes on, and how one feels about oneself in these day-to-day activities are all subjective areas. There is no science to it. The stuff involved her is simply too personal.

I guess that it is strange that I became so fascinated with the subject of retirement before I was very close to actually doing it, but I did. My father never did retire. He actively worked until his death at 82. And it wasn't that he was perceived by anyone as having done the wrong thing. Retirement simply was not for him. He thrived on work all his life; his goal was not to stop; and, fortunately for him, he wasn't forced nor told to stop.

But my father was part of a generation that didn't have models of retirement, didn't have a lifetime of life insurance ads touting the dream of retirement and making it look like the goal of working, not the enemy. No, retirement is a thing of the late 20th century for the most part, and it is just beginning to pick up steam.

The real bulk of retirees, of course, are coming in the 60 million or so baby boomers who are now working. Surveys show that most of these think that they will retire before 65, with the desire to retire earlier if feasible. With them leading the charge, one could estimate 3-5 million Americans retiring per year from now on. And it is those who are now riding on their final waves to retirement who may perfect the model and that "art" of retirement.

So what makes for a successful, fulfilling, enjoyable retirement?

An essential element has to be finding pleasure in life that is equal to if not greater than the pleasure one had when working. The book - "The Joy of Not Working, A book for the retired, unemployed, and overworked", by Ernie J. Zelinski is the best book that I have found on the subject. It does a convincing job telling how one can learn to live "The Life of Riley" without guilt, anxiety or boredom. But it doesn't assume that for everyone this will be an easy task.

People who have worked all their lives have learned to live under the structure, purpose and community connected to the workplace. It has been their life, along with family, friends and activities. Now, under retirement, Zelinski says, people need to continue to have a structure, purpose and sense of community despite the loss of work.

For many people, taking it easy is difficult to handle, he says, citing boredom with oneself and others, having a hard time deciding what to do, and feeling guilty about having fun and enjoying oneself as some of the common problems recently retired people have with their leisure time.

In my class, "The Art of Retirement," which is offered three times a year by the Lifelong Learning department of the Mt. Diablo Adult Education program and as an adult education course at the Walnut Creek Seniors' Club, we look at who retires or doesn't retire, when, why and where people retire, plus a host of related topics. The typical profile for people taking the course are people with one or two years of retirement, either before or after actual retirement. But there also are people who have been retired for a decade or more who simply want to get more ideas on how to "get it right."

What we are able to do in the first session or two is to identify the "squirmers" and the "non-squirmers" in relation to the transition to retirement. As was said earlier, some people find it a joyous task ahead; others find it scary, with all kinds of worries about finances, activities, obligations, and other areas.

But make no doubt about it. There are plenty of retirees who are getting it right every day and really enjoying themselves in retirement. And they are the ones that we need to learn from. They are the ones who appear to have mastered the "art" of retirement as it applies to themselves.

In some ways, the class can been seen as a retirement support group, with those getting close to retirement getting support from those who are mastering it in ways that meets their own needs. And in that sense, the goal of retirement becomes developing one's activities within a structure that can be defined as "the best job I have ever had." That, in short, is the essence of the Art of Retirement.

Perfecting the Art of Retirement

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