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Retirement: Peril or pleasure?

Published October 20. 2012 09:01AM

When I went to see my friend Allen at the shop he manages, he had a wide grin and an announcement: "11 more months," he said gleefully.

Eleven more months until he can retire.

Eleven more months until he can live the life he's been longing for.

Like so many people, he's anxiously counting the days until he can retire.

In answer to my question, he said he is most looking forward to fishing anytime he wants. He's an avid fisherman but with his work schedule, that only leaves weekends for his favorite pastime. If it's windy or rainy or the sea has too much chop for his little boat, he has to wait another week.

He can't wait to do what he wants with every single day.

But some people long for retirement then don't like what they find when they get there.

"Boredom," said my friend Joyce's husband. "That's what I found when I retired. The first few weeks were fine, loafing around and getting some things done. But after a while I found there were too many empty hours of the day."

Used to a busy work life that consumed his days, he didn't like being confronted with an empty schedule every day. So he got a part-time job with a delivery service.

He's not the only one who opts to work during his retirement years. Our local grocery store boasts that it has the some of the most educated part-time workers in the area. Most people have no idea the cashier checking them out is a retired engineer who didn't like staying home. A retired psychologist works nights stocking shelves.

For some, working isn't about money. It's about filling up time.

I love to talk with people and I often find myself having conversations with relative strangers about retirement. People seem to fall into two camps: Those who have so much to do in retirement that they can't get it all done and those who claim they "have nothing to do."

I've talked with plenty of people who are enjoying each and every day of their retirement. They stay busy with activities and relish the chance to try new things.

When I get together with friends, we often mention how wonderful it is to have time to enjoy our local paradise. There are so many opportunities for fun and we often find schedule conflicts from having two nice events at the same time.

What we don't find is boredom. Nor do we have empty space on our calendars. With boating, kayaking, dancing, biking and many social events, it's hard to fit it all in.

Many of us discover that the more we do, the more we find to do.

We keep asking ourselves, "What did we do before retirement? How did we ever have time to work?"

The answer, of course, is that when we worked, we didn't have many leisure activities because leisure time was hard to come by.

For some, the transition from work to leisure isn't as pleasurable as they thought it would be. It depends on their willingness to get involved in the community and to try new activities.

One psychologist said the question would-be retirees should ask themselves is this: What are you retiring to? There are so many choices. Having a plan ahead of time eases the lifestyle transition.

Our vital community services such as Meals on Wheels flourish primarily because retirees give their time for this worthy cause. Hospitals, nursing homes, and community centers are just a few of the places that rely on retirees.

Volunteering for these activities also has social rewards for retirees. "Getting out and meeting new people is part of the fun," said one widow.

I saw a tee shirt that said: If I would have known retirement was this much fun, I would have done it first.

I enjoyed each and every day of my writing career. I often said I was having so much fun I should pay to work there, instead of the other way around.

But this second childhood I call "retirement" can't be beat.

Let me know your experiences. It will be fun to hear other perspectives.

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