My Retirement Story
I was lucky, at 55, to be able to leave my role as a manager of a team of salespeople and engineers, selling and developing telecommunications networks to large companies. This was a rewarding but, also, a stressful experience so it was with mixed feelings that I attended my last sales conference. I was soon persuaded, by former employees of mine, to continue working for a further 5 years both in my industry and in IT, finally hanging up my commuter shoes at 60.
I had given much thought to what I should do with the rest of my life, determined not to slip into a ‘pipe and slippers’ routine. What haunted me were the familiar stories of retirees sitting back and stopping practically every activity, only to pop off this mortal coil far too early. My strategy was to keep my brain and body working by ‘giving back’ to society in some way and staying as fit as possible. I looked around for charities and organisations, locally, that could use my managerial skills and where I could add some value. I was fortunate in finding both; a charity providing family support to disadvantaged mothers with young children and a hospital trust looking for governors. These were not full-time occupations and I had plenty of time for the ‘keeping fit’ aspects of my plan – regularly swimming, playing tennis, walking, going to the gym and cycling, including a 2,000 mile Land’s End to John’o’Groats and back epic.
With whatever spare time I had I created global travel expeditions which have taken my wife and me to locations all over the globe. In my 80th decade I admit to having slowed down a bit but we still travel and try to stay fit (having added Salsa lessons in place of long-distance cycling). Giving back is still important to me but, now, it’s informally done by looking out for friends and neighbours and caring for our local environment.
I’m not pretending that everything has been smooth going since retirement. Adjusting to the loss of a long career is not easy. I’m only human and there have been ‘down’ periods which have been difficult to handle without help. Fortunately, today, it is much easier to admit to such feelings than it was in the past. From all of this I offer the following tips:
Find a purpose to get out of bed each day. There are always people worse off than you and charities are constantly looking for volunteers. These, as well as schools and hospitals, seek governors – there’s no excuse to be idle! No matter what your background, or experience, you have the ability to make lives better. In the process you will find personal satisfaction. There are also new skills to learn so start, as I did, by looking up the University of the Third Age for ideas.
Stay (or get) fit because you’ll need to be as you get longer in the tooth!
Stay young at heart by mixing with younger people wherever you can, be it relatives, neighbours or people you may meet as a result of getting out more.
Don’t give up on technology. This is becoming more important with each year that passes. Become good at using your smart phone and TV, iPad or laptop. Keeping in touch by email, WhatsApp or, dare I say it, Facebook (although this App is not for everyone, including me) is the new normal. ‘On-line’ is where it’s happening. Don’t simply rely on your partner for these things and don’t get left behind!
Finally, if things get a bit too much for you, don’t be afraid to seek help. Talk to a friend or your doctor. There’s help to be had to lift you up again and you owe it to yourself to be as happy as possible, for as long as possible!