Agin’ is Changin’

“No one can avoid aging, but aging productively is something else.”
– Katharine Graham

Change happens. It can be as simple as grass growing or as profound as birth. Simple or profound, it is constant fluctuation. How we respond to this fluctuation in our immediate surroundings governs our attitude and inspires growth or indifference. Above my computer is posted the following: Respond, don’t react. Allowing time for response is a positive action. A kneejerk reply is almost always negative. Hesitation, sometimes no longer than a single breath, is essential for turning a situation from negative to positive.

In our highly volatile world, change, whether self-initiated or naturally occurring, commands our attention. What happens when a pebble is dropped into a pool of water? The pebble sinks, but the ever widening ripples continue long after the pebble disappears from view. From the moment of birth, life is a series of ripples, some inevitable, some not. Retirement is one of those inevitable changes. Endeavor to make it positive.


Top Ten Reasons to Retire:

  • To be able to complete a task without interruption.
  • To discover passions worth visiting or revisiting.
  • To respond to new opportunities with wisdom garnered through experiences in the workforce.
  • To get up and out where and when you wish.
  • To volunteer and encourage others to do the same.
  • To enjoy the freedom to take a risk without the baggage of dependentchildren or elderly parents.
  • To pursue learning experiences that in the past seemed frivolous.
  • To realize dreams before it’s too late.
  • To enjoy family.
  • Because I want to.

If retirees were to analyze their lives, most would agree that some change is voluntary, like getting married or deciding to have fish instead of hamburgers for dinner. However, other changes are beyond our control, such as downsizing in the workplace, a sudden disability, or a fire at home. Either way, change is intrusive and disruptive, but with forethought, negatives can become positives.

While retirement may be inevitable, aging is involuntary. Squinting at wrinkles or a gray hair or two when approaching a milestone birthday is normal, but unless a health issue interferes, aging is taken for granted. We notice it only when we glance in the mirror. Though we judge others by how they look, we judge ourselves by how we feel. A whole generation matures before you realize that the new office manager looks like a high school graduate.

Ready or not, age fifty-five is the threshold to the senior years. Society as a whole is aging. This phenomenon is causing change in politics, social interactions, and medical coverage. Presented with more flexibility and opportunity than our parents ever dreamed of, it would be logical to think that we, as seniors, would be happy.

However, as age accelerates, attitudes fluctuate. A fervent desire to live life fully may be curtailed because of illness or stress, turning smiles to frowns. A while ago, I referred to this type of individual in a poem:

I spoke with a neighbor of mine yesterday
about . . “aging is changing . .”
… she snapped back to say,
“Now what do you mean? We’re still getting old! …
missing the point with her negative scold,
misplacing the blame for her ungraceful finish,
‘til family and friends growing weary, diminish.

– Excerpt from The Pleasure of Aging, 2005

Some people are old at twenty, others young at eighty. Those who attended high school or college in the 1950s remember homes with bomb shelters, but without televisions, microwaves, personal computers, and cell phones. All these conveniences are due to advances in technology. Long ago, I embraced technology and assimilated myself into this new age via on-the-job training. It was a matter of survival. Practicing daily at the keyboard, it became second-nature to enter data, marvel at the elimination of carbon paper, advance from the manual to the electric typewriter, to the personal computer.

Today, laptops are commonplace, cell phones ring in bathroom stalls, instant communication, instant news, instant macaroni and cheese. Most people welcome innovation, although some are hesitant to accept the intrusion of technology, just as some were opposed to the Model-T or the Beatles. We may wish to halt, postpone, or forestall change, but like the sunrise, change happens.

Think of how much positive and creative energy is wasted by resistance. Growth, if accepted with grace, is not painful. Change, like clay, is waiting to be molded into a personalized vessel. Take control of life, irrespective of its limitations. In the words of the English playwright George Bernard Shaw, “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want.”

I mentioned earlier that our family moved eighteen times. Talk about change! I felt like a railroad engineer, hand poised to switch schools, switch jobs, switch in and out of relationships. The busy-ness I experienced changed my life from living to existing. When life is in constant turmoil, all of your energy goes into existing. Participation is superficial. Life should not be a spectator sport. The person who chooses to live a purposeful life voluntarily participates in the future.

No one knows how much time is allotted to accomplish goals, dreams, or possibilities. Participate fully in every aspect of impending or evolving retirement. With significant increases in life expectancy, it is projected that retirement will last longer and longer. But you don’t simply retire one day and wake up without an alarm the next. As with any change, retirement is a journey, a migration of stages through distinct emotions which impact our lives, along with the lives of family and friends.

The following five stages are meant as a guide to those emotions:

Five Stages of Retirement

  1. The First Stage—IMAGINATION: throughout our working lives we imagine possibilities. This is why we wake up at two in the morning with wishful thinking, dreams and daydreams.
  2. The Second Stage—ANTICIPATION: This takes place just prior to retirement. Emotions intensify as the day approaches. This is a time of excitement and hope, but there are also feelings of worry and doubt, financial and social, and reaction to change.
  3. The Third Stage—LIBERATION: This happens on the day of! We awaken enthused and full of hope. So begins the “honeymoon” phase.
  4. The Fourth Stage—TRANSITION: This is a period of challenge as the retiree tries to adapt to a new lifestyle. A positive choice, carefully planned, will be joyful; if not, perhaps the challenges will outweigh the liberation. But sometimes desire overshadows reality, and liberation can be a two-edged sword.
  5. The Fifth Stage—RECONCILIATION: The retiree has adapted to what is. This stage comes later, when contentment and acceptance become apparent.

Each stage in retirement means change. The urge to counter the passing of time may manifest itself as a hurry-up-and-do-it-before-it-is-too-late feeling. Becoming older should be acknowledged as a meaningful and indispensable phase of life. Take a moment to reflect on those who did plan, but did not live to experience those plans for whatever reason. We may dismiss it as a cliché, but life really is short.

To prepare for the change of retirement, take a piece of paper and make a timeline with stages one through five, along with associated expectations. For guidelines, see the self-evaluation forms in the back of this book. Do not be tempted to discount the first stage since imagination and possibilities are still very relevant, even if retirement is imminent or you’re already beyond retirement age. It is never too late to take the road less traveled.

…………………………………. (end of excerpt)