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Posted on Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8 a.m.

Retirement can be more appealing in theory than practice

By Robert Faber

“Losing it” as a problem of possessions can be a costly nuisance, but as a reference to an emerging senior-disorientation, it can be a definition of tragedy.

After a lifetime of working to raise a family and protecting and providing for all the people under that umbrella, many seniors grab the first opportunity to escape those requirements of guide and guardian in order to leisurely and comfortably bask in the pleasures of retirement. The lure of a life free of the demands of continuing responsibility can be a temptation difficult to ignore, so when the opportunity arrives, many seniors choose to quit the exhausting demands of life in the “madding crowd” and to enjoy the fruits of labors long-past.

Hospiceplayground.jpeg

Volunteers from Ford Motor Co. put the finishing touches on a playground they helped build at Pittsfield Township's Arbor Hospice. Some find volunteering to be a good way of engaging with their community and breaking up the monotony of retirement.

Volunteers from Ford Motor Co. put the finishing touches on a playground they helped build at Pittsfield Township's Arbor Hospice on Friday afternoon. The playground is meant to offer a place for patients at the hospice to spend time with child visitors.

A great idea - for about 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, despite all its surface appeal, that unrestrained “life of leisure” can be more damaging than delightful. The early pleasures of retirement - working little, sleeping late, immersion in a life free of care - are more enticing than enduring. Having little to look forward to other than more of same - without the satisfaction of accomplishment or the thrill of competition or even the stimulating stings of failure in pursuit of something more - tends to dull the days. After a life of active participation in the affairs of family and community, such a retreat into ourselves has some appeal, but can leave us lost in a vacuum of disinterest.

Old age is not child’s play. The skills of survival gained during decades of aging quickly can fade from neglect. While it is appealing to just quit and enjoy the benefits that have accumulated throughout the years, many of us need something more, the continuing stimulus of improving the conditions of life - whether it be for ourselves or for others.

And it is that “others” that holds a special value for many of us. In a recent interview on CNN, Wolf Blitzer admired the strength and continuing activity of Israel’s President Shimon Peres and, noting his age of almost 90 years, asked him about retirement. “Oh no,” was the brief and enthusiastic reply. “Vacations are a waste of time. It is better to work, to be engaged, to be curious — and to care,” adding that involvement with the needs and affairs of others is the best way to stay young and strong. “The secret of life is good will.”

Peres was talking about projects designed to help some of the larger pockets of suffering humankind, but the same benefits accrue as well to working on small pieces of local community service. Too many seniors who have traded continuing participation for retirement simply have opted out of those many activities that largely shape each community’s environment — fighting for a new road or against a new regulation or in support of a political candidate or Party. They have resigned themselves to roles of passive observer - and that can be damaging to their core.

It is the projects of longer duration and of greater value that keep our minds and interests alive. It is the energy of staying active and involved, mostly in projects outside the narrow boundary of “self,” that keeps us alert and helps us avoid the curse of “losing it” — for whatever condition that “it” might represent.

Albert Einstein once expressed his belief that, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” That may not be as profound as some of his theories of the universe, but at least it should help some of we more fuzzy-thinking seniors from “losing it” quite so often and quite so far.

Robert Faber has been a resident of Ann Arbor since 1954. He and his wife, Eunice, owned a fabric store and later a travel agency. He served a couple of terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. He may be reached at rgfaber@comcast.net.

Comments

Boyd Lemon

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:19 p.m.

This is all good advice. For anyone planning retirement or recently retired, emotional planning, as well as financial planning is important. Going from a full time job to no job may seem ideal, but it is an enormous and difficult adjustment. Too many retire people end up feeling useless, with no purpose. Many suffer from episodic depression as a result, making what could be the best time of their lives, the worst time. Prepare yourself by finding a passion to pursue during retirement. Boyd Lemon-Author of "Retirement: A Memoir and Guide" (December 1, 2012); Eat, Walk, Write: An American Senior's Year of Adventure in Paris and Tuscany (2011); and 5 other books. Information, reviews and excerpts: http://www.BoydLemon-Writer.com.

Martin Friedburg

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 4:44 p.m.

I think the hardest thing for someone to accept about retirement is that one is replaceable. We seem not to understand that through thousands of years of recorded human history, every single human being has been replaced except for those currently living. We will all be replaced, and the world will go on. Having been retired for ten years, I find that volunteering and travel keep me fresh. I love to read, and yet, even in retIrement, still don't have enough time to do as much of that as I'd like. Go figure. It really isn't a joke when you hear "I'm so busy in retirement that I don't know how I had time to work."

jns131

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

Keeping the ole grey matter active is always top priority when it comes to aging. A lot of seniors I have talked to have told me they are more busier then when they were working. But at least it is more of a less controlled time schedule then just getting up at 5 and hitting the road by 7. They have a freer schedule and can make time to do what they want to do. I know there are things I want to do when I retire and sleeping in is one of them. Can't wait to sleep until 8.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

When my husband was nearing retirement we attended a couple of classes offered at UM for those like him. The best exercise we had was to list the things he/I didn't like about our jobs, and to make another list of the things we would miss most or like most. Then, we were told, in retirement, look for hobbies, volunteer work, whatever, that matched only the good list and enjoy it. Making those lists proved a valuable guide.

nicedoggy

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Nice article and good coments as well !

Mike

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:14 a.m.

Working into retirement is an economic necessity of many due to the melt down in the stock market and the governmental policies that destroyed the housing market. Government continues to grow and so will the ranks of the un-retireable..................

leaguebus

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

In case you haven't noticed, the stock market is back. The President and his part are trying to stave off the Republican assault on SS and Medicare. The biggest problem to retirement is the smaller government Republicans.

Skyjockey43

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 12:34 a.m.

Finally a subject that Robert Faber is qualified to pontificate about

WalkingJoe

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

Apparently I'm missing something here. I have been retired for eight plus years and I don't miss going to work at all. Maybe it's because I worked 33 years at an auto plant and when I wasn't on the afternoon or midnight shift I had to get up at 0' dark thirty and go into a place that was hot and smelly. Don't get me wrong, I made a decent living and worked with some good people. I have never had the urge to go back to work nor do I feel "unfulfilled" because I live my at my pace now.

Tom Todd

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

for the moment.

sHa

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 8:08 p.m.

I agree, Walking Joe. Retirement can be different things for different people. What one person considers to be "fulfilling" is not necessarily the same for someone else. There is not a one-size-fits-all for retirees. And that is the beauty of retirement. One can do as much or as little as he/she wants to do without worrying about the expectations of others. If someone feels the need to fill every day with activities, great. If not, that is fine also. There is no manual out there on the one and only way to live as a retiree. It is a very personal choice.

Tru2Blu76

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

Mr. Faber is certainly spot-on with his latest essay. I would only add that becoming more community oriented has been found to be a stage of life (past age 55). So going for the laid back life is actually contrary to most people's natural development. As I approach age 70, I find myself becoming more interested than ever before in being an asset to my community and to individuals who appear to be in need of something helpful, even if it's only some tips on living well or working to one's best advantage. Fortunately, I'm able to continue working - at new jobs requiring learning and improving some physical skills. I've been asked a lot lately, "When are you going to retire?" I've found the answer: "I see no need to re-tire, all of my tires are in fine shape." My only regret is that both statistics and my own doctor tell me I haven't got unlimited time to get done what needs to be done. I do have a "Bucket List" and so far that has been my only "acknowledgement" of that fact. I think having a bucket list is a good thing and may serve as a more practical alternative to "retiring."

packman

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Questions about the photo...are they Ford retirees or "job bank" employees? Was the work outdoors? If so, they weren't bundled up to tolerate "Friday afternoon's" low temperatures. With all due respect, the folks at hospice are called "residents" not "patients."

Dog Guy

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

When you're retired, everybody owns you.

leaguebus

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

Well written article! Did you ever think of holding a seminar for other AA.com writers? By the way, this is not a criticism of the reporters on AA.com., but a suggestion to apply your obvious expertise to help raise these younger reporters to higher levels in their careers. By the way, I retired 6 weeks ago and appreciate your input!

squidlover

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

There is a big difference between retiring and retiring "comfortably", which is something that I fear many of us will have difficulty achieving for a long time. I understand and agree with the need to keep oneself stimulated during retirement. Traveling, hobbies, volunteering and exercise are just a few examples of how one can hopefully make the most of retirement. However, these things are much easier to accomplish and enjoy when you have the financial stability that allows you to do these things without worry of how to pay for living expenses, and with the economy the way it is, how many of us can honestly see that happening anytime soon?

Linda Peck

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2 p.m.

Mr. Faber, I enjoyed this article. Most of the people I know who are retired are very busy and very happy. I don't know anyone who has nothing to do. I hope to have the continued good health to keep working through my 90s. Retirement has never been part of my future plans.