What happened when Bobbie, age 61, decided to ‘Un-Retire’
By Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N., attorney, mediator
Lots of people around our age are retiring. We hear about it all the time. When our aging parents retired from work, it was usually by or before age 65 and they were absolutely done with working. But our generation of 50 and 60 somethings is different.
Boomers of many occupations and professions may decide to work after the usual retirement age. It may be out of necessity. It may be because we want something more than sitting around with too much time on our hands.
What is becoming clear in current research on our Boomer work lives is that we are not like our elderly parents. We don’t consider ourselves “senior” or “elder” or old. And we may not be satisfied with just leisure in our lives. A lot of Boomers are not going to just retire and that’s it. We want more, as usual.
As long as we remain energetic and well enough to do it, Boomers are starting businesses, staying in the workplace or deciding on what gerontologists call their “encore careers.”
As a generation, perhaps some of us feel more vital when we have the structure of work in our lives. Many Boomer-aged women, particularly, are also the primary caregivers for aging parents and they need flexibility to be able to meet those responsibilities.
A colleague, Bobbie, is a good example. She had a successful career in the nonprofit world. Then, she got downsized out at age 61. She thought, “OK, I’m ready to retire anyway.” She did. And after a few weeks of twiddling her thumbs, being bored and restless, she was done with retirement.
She started to look for a new job. That was a challenge because she knew she would face ageism. It reared its ugly head immediately. Bobbie is a fit, healthy and highly experienced person in her field. She’s also had a couple of other careers in her younger days. So there were choices of where to apply for work.
She sent resumes to websites and it felt weird. Looking for a job? She put the word out. She was ready to go back to what she had done in her 20’s. But then a lucky break happened and she got an interview in her favorite field of nonprofit management.
Bobbie, at age 61, negotiating for her employment package was a very different person from the way she was when she was younger. She landed the job and got a load of perks to make it well worth taking. The organization wanted the wealth of her experience and she successfully asserted herself with confidence into a meaningful position where she is appreciated.
Successful retirement takes planning and so does the choice not to retire as we age. If you want to keep working, even if it means a different job after leaving what you used to do, it can take considerable effort to find it. Bobbie got a job that will not be overly stressful and she has congenial people around her.
She will do some traveling for work, which she likes. She has fashioned a life for herself that allows for healthy aging. She has time to exercise, time to relax and time to pursue her social interests. Most importantly, she wants the structure in her life of a job, the sense of community and the purpose of the new position.
I’m a big fan of all things about healthy aging as Mikol and I are pursuing it ourselves. Our work at AgingParents.com focuses on advising Boomers with aging loved ones and also on how to age in a healthy way ourselves. Like most encore careers, this one is less stressful for me than the life of a litigator. And for Mikol, it’s less stressful than a full therapy schedule five days a week.
Having purpose in our lives is a feature of being emotionally healthy whether we are retired or not.
Likewise, we need structure, whether it comes from a job or from self-imposed structure we find in retirement through volunteerism or other pursuits we enjoy. The sense of community Bobbie craved after sitting around isolated at home too much is one she’ll find at work.
It can also be created by participating in any group or charitable organization that needs you. You can choose to seek paid work if you want or need it, or simply work on making your community a better place in a way that suits you.
Here’s to successful retirement if that feels right or to unretirement if you prefer that. My colleague Bobbie created a win-win: they’re lucky to have her vast experience and she was smart enough to search for a right fit job and negotiate a great position with confidence.
My fellow Boomers, whatever you choose, I wish you the same smarts.
Until next time …
Carolyn Rosenblatt is a Whittier native and an attorney and mediator now living in San Rafael, Calif. Contact her at 415-459-0413, visit AgingParents.com or e-mail her at email@example.com
Together with her husband, psychologist Dr. Mikol Davis, she is a founder of AgingParents.com, a resource for families located in San Rafael. Together they provide expert advice and dispute resolution services to individuals, families and institutions. She is the author of “The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents,” a help for those who are taking on the caregiver role in their lives. She has a personal mission to protect elders, keep their caregivers in emotional control and to instill confidence in all of us as we face the challenges of aging.