Here, then, are six surprising perspectives on retirement, culled from the voices of people who are living and breathing it right now. These perspectives are based on interviews in “The New Senior Woman,” as well as “The Time of Your Life: Everyone Has a Story,” a book co-authored by Gayle Leona Jabour and Daniel Tigner, for which they interviewed Canadian men and women aged 50 to 100. For more on each book, visit their respective websites, thenewseniorwoman.com and revealinglightproductions.com.
1. Plan ahead for disappointment
Retirement is often portrayed as the ultimate goal of a life spent working, but all that free time isn't always what it’s cracked up to be. For some retirees, it’s a challenge.
“Freedom is not as exhilarating as I had imagined,” said a woman who had retired from a career in advertising and public relations, as quoted in “The New Senior Woman.” She added that she was embarrassed to admit that retirement isn’t as wonderful as expected.
One theme among happier retirees: They embraced new ventures or returned to a hobby that had made them happy. For example, another retiree quoted in “The New Senior Woman,” Joan, said the first year of her retirement “was a drag.”
She and her husband had moved to Manhattan from their Long Island home. Joan had few friends there, and her first foray into volunteering—at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—didn’t pan out, as they had a long list of eager volunteers.
But, she devised a plan. She signed up for classes and lectures, and joined a gym. “Through these activities, I met women who were often new retirees or women who, like me, had recently moved to the city,” Joan said. “We soon formed a nucleus of friends.”
She added that retirement is like new motherhood. “Suddenly one is isolated and hoping to find company and, like a young mother, must push herself to find people and activities that work in her new role.”
2. Don’t be busy just for busy’s sake
When you retire, take some time before deciding how, precisely, to spend your time.
“It takes a little while after you retire just to sort things out,” said 72-year-old Sylvia Sutherland, former mayor of Peterborough in Ontario, Canada, as quoted in “The Time of Your Life.”
“As soon as I retired as mayor, I got all these calls asking if I would join this committee or that committee,” Sutherland said. “Your temptation is to say yes, but I advise somebody who has just retired to step back and consider what they really want to do with their days and not to jump into everything all at once.”
Sutherland, who now works as a member of the Ontario Municipal Board, adjudicating land-use disputes, among other responsibilities, said she enjoys the fact that the job keeps her brain active and keeps her busy. She also is happy to be earning money.
“The money is nice,” Sutherland said. “I enjoy that, but I think more than that, the job really does give the brain something to do.”
The happiest retirees made an effort to find work or activities that fulfilled them, Fleisher and Reese write in “The New Senior Woman.”
“They focus on what they can do and learn, not what they’ve lost. And they are willing to make the effort to seek out rewarding activities that will fulfill and reward their days: make the phone calls, find the agencies, commit their time.”