Perfecting the "Art of Retirement"
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".
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
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
So what makes for a successful, fulfilling, enjoyable
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
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.