Thursday, April 12, 2018

Think retirement is about taking it easy...Think again

For most of us, we hope that when we retire, we will find the time to relax, but that is really not true. My friends and I are very busy in our retirement and finding time to relax is still a problem. This may surprise many of you who are looking forward to your time to relax as you plan to or think about retirement. Let me explain, we are now busy doing things that we love, which may be pursuing our hobbies, travelling, volunteering or working (part-time) but not many of are just relaxing and letting life go by. 

For some of us, retirement isn’t just a time to lay the goals of life down it is a time to look back over life at our unfinished challenges and then go back and finish them.  I have two degrees and am proud of the work, time and energy I used to complete them. Many of my friends do not have a degree and they have an unfinished goal to go back and get that degree. 

When I taught at the University of Phoenix, I was not surprised to see young and senior adults, taking courses to finish their bachelor’s degree or start and finish a masters or Ph.D. Working with those students and helping them achieve their goals was a highlight of my career. I understand how big a challenge it is to go back to the classroom and get that certificate, especially when you do it after you have retired.

So why do it?  This may be a question your friends ask when they see you going after such an ambitious goal so late in life.  But when you think about it, you may be a bit offended by the question.  Implicit in this ageist question is the implication of, “What is the point of you getting a degree since you are not going to do anything productive in retirement and you are so close to death?”

Many of my friends started entirely new careers after they retired.  With the advances in medical science today, it is a given that most people live 20-30 years or more “in retirement”.  That is plenty of time to accomplish great things.  So, starting out this era of life with a good education makes just as much sense as it did when you left school and started out on your first career. 

This is not to say that going back to school is going to be easy.  If finishing your high school degree is the goal, and going back to school is not an option, then taking a High School Equivalency program may be the answer. Every country has this type of program it may be called a GED or an ABD or an HSED or HED so you may have to do an online search to see what is available where you live.

The social situation you may face in a college classroom or school may be a challenge.  You will have to get used to being in the classroom and listening to lectures, reading textbooks, taking notes, doing papers and taking exams all over again.  If you go after an advanced degree and take several classes, you will be a very busy senior citizen just keeping up with your studies. Most colleges or universities that offer programs to adults understand that these adults may not have the skills needed so they may offer courses on how to learn.

But there are some joys you can expect from going after an advanced degree.  If you decide to take day courses, instead of online or evening courses, college life and being on a college campus each day is by itself a very stimulating environment.  Being with young people each day can be energizing and you may find yourself looking and acting as much like the youth you “hang out with” as you do your fellow senior citizens.

When I watched students at the University of Phoenix cross the stage, I could see the pride of accomplishment on their faces. Talking to them and their family at the reception after the ceremony, I could see the pride and joy that radiated throughout the room and it was uplifting.

If you are finishing your high school or bachelor’s degree, congratulations, it takes hard work and sacrifice to achieve that goal. However, don’t be surprised if you fall in love with academic life.  As an educator for over 43 years, I believe that learning is tremendously addictive and you may wish to go on for yet more studies in fields of learning that have always fascinated you. 

If you want to study for the pure joy of learning, there are free or lost cost alternatives for you, However, nobody will turn away your tuition dollars if you just want to be in college for the pure joy of learning.  And you will be an inspiration to your family and your grandchildren as well as students when they see you succeed and they tell themselves, “If Granny/Grandpa can do it, so can I.”

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