It Wasn't For Us
In June 2006, Dan and I retired and moved to Olympia, WA. We built a house and bought a boat to explore Puget Sound; Dan had his workbench and computer; I joined the neighborhood ladies’ craft group. We planned to spend time with my brother and his wife, who lived nearby.
That lasted about three months, and I was applying for teaching positions with online university programs. Soon, I was teaching for three, and I loved it. In the meantime, Dan accepted a full-time job as an online administrator for a financial website, and he loved it.
We still had time for the boat, the workbench, and the neighborhood group, but we also had something to “sink our teeth into” again. We worked for another ten years, which gave each of us a purpose.
As his dementia increased, Dan struggled, and the company asked him to retire, which was the right thing to do. Yet, he lost his will to live. Work provided the structure for his day and life - there was nothing to look forward to.
After Dan died, I was at a loss. Now what? How was I going to spend my time? I was no longer teaching for various reasons, but I needed something. Writing this newsletter has been the perfect solution.
Retirement typically refers to an age-related reduction in or withdrawal from employment. The word “retirement” conjures up many different things for people. To some, it is a long-awaited reward for a lifetime of work. To others, it signals the end of one's usefulness and relevance.
Many folks can’t wait to retire and enjoy that phase of their lives - less pressure, less time constraints, and more time to travel. But others, like Dan and I, found pleasure in work. So we were lost without the structure or at least a solid plan for the post-work years - because there is extra time, old friends fade away, and life can be tedious.
The Psychology of Retirement website discusses false assumptions we make about retirement.
People assume the personal side will fall into place and magically work out like, “Hey, we go on vacation, we do some things, we miss some things, but it all works out okay.”
They assume that with more time and fewer obligations, it will be the best thing ever; that’s what they’ve always wanted. It’s not always the case.
Couples like and know each other. Both individuals in a couple think the other assumes the same for retirement. It can be fertile ground for arguments and divorce.
Couples often need to see the whole picture before making retirement decisions.
Dan and I got along well before and after retirement - we were both introverts and enjoyed being together. I often joked that he was the person I would most want to be stranded on a desert island with - he was resourceful, great company, and a clear thinker.
The boat and house were a lot of work, and we got bored. Our assumptions about life in Washington didn’t turn out as anticipated, and our immediate family was not there.
In retrospect, our retirement plan would have benefitted from a test run. We could have rented a home and boat in Olympia and tried out this lifestyle, especially in every season of the year. We saw only the beauty of the summer and fall - we weren’t there in winter’s cold, snow, and power outages. If we had, we might have made a different decision.
The point is, as you work your way to retirement, it’s wise to have a plan for afterward and test it.
This little guy makes me smile. How about you?
P.S. Thanks for reading Aging Well News! If you know someone who might like this article, please forward it or share it below.
If you want to contribute to my work, consider donating to the Alzheimer's Association. This link takes you to their website. The choice is yours.