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Baby Boomers are redefining retirement in lots of ways.  For many it means the freedom to travel, explore, volunteer, reconnect with their interests and hobbies, get fitter, take care of family, or just relax on their own timetable.
  For others it means a whole new career!


Suzanne Cook of York University is doing research about the kind of transitions Baby Boomers are making into whole new identities, activities, businesses, and careers.    They are having, as Mike Drak and Jonathan Chevreau's new book calls, a Victory Lap Retirement.  With folks living longer and healthier lives, many want to remain productive, active and engaged in the world of work.  Some contribute by volunteering while others want an income.

About half of those who continue to work have debt, and mortgages to pay, while others want to continue to fund their lifestyles.  The other half want rewarding, and fulfilling paid work as well as a way to stay socially active.  The Conference Board of Canada can demonstrate a rise in retirement ages as Boomers delay leaving work.  About 250,000 people retire each year in Canada and that translates to 2 retiring for every 1 hired.  The workforce needs older workers in many cases.  There are still examples of ageism and discrimination, of course, but employers are rethinking their work forces to include older workers too.

Older workers bring skills, experience, knowledge, and perspective to their work places.  Health, of course, can be a factor that can exclude continuing but, as long as that is in place, many can stay as valuable employees.  Policies need to echo this reality with continued education and training, flexibility in scheduling and with barriers removed for these workers.

Lots of retirees are starting their own businesses as well and adding to the economy that way.  Check out Lisa Taylor and the Challenge Factory, your local Chamber of Commerce for courses, ideas and support, take courses and do what you want to do.  Retirement can last 30 years and so why not make some dreams come true!


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Mary had a lamb

You have to start somewhere and Mary started with a lamb.  She learned to spin, dye with natural dyes that she made and then to knit.  She made dish cloths and scarves and sold them locally.  She build her little business until she was hiring knitters, breeding prize sheep, and teaching felting courses.  Her line of products grew as did her market until she was exporting her products to Northern Europe as well as across North America.

Her daughter inherited her woolly empire but always kept the picture of her mother, Mary and her lamb close by to remind her of the beginnings of her business! 

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More World Travel...On the Road Again

After the cave visit, I stayed with friends, helped with a family talent show, and enjoyed a welcome rest from the road with lovely company.  Then off to Melbourne and another gracious and welcoming couple.  I got the royal treatment and tram lessons, guided tours of the area, and lots of learning about life there. 

I then headed to the airport, got a car and set off for the goldfields area where I met a couple from just down the road at home.  They took me on a drive of the Great Ocean Road.  We saw students on their learn to surf school outing, breathtaking beaches, rock formations, and the countryside.  Then, on my own, I saw real gold mines, a recreated mining town from the mid 1800's, a Book Town, and woollen mills.

Next stop was New Delhi and the Canadian High Commission where I have family.  I saw Old Delhi, 13 of us went to see the Ellora and Ajanta Caves and stayed at a Taj Hotel there. Shopping happened as did learning about life in India,  swimming, and exploring.  I met lots of good spirited Canadians living there and forming community and taking time out to look for a lost cat to welcoming visitors like myself and then my brother and sister-in-law who arrived just before I left.

Then I went to Istanbul where I had a day to myself too get oriented before I met my sister at the airport.  We visited Topkapi Palace and the harem and saw many full of flowers gardens there.  We walked, took a boat tour on the Bosphorus, ate looking over the city at night, saw the Cistern, and then joined our Gate1 tour group.  We started at the Blue Mosque and the St. Sophia and the Hippodrome.  We visited Troy, the old Roman healing centre of Asciepion, Ephesus, went ballooning over Cappadocia with its surreal rock formations, saw a Whirling Dervishes ritual after visiting a caravanserai where those travelling the Silk Route could take shelter.  We saw Rumi's legacy where he and his family are laid to rest.  In Ankara, the capital, we learned about the legacy of Kemal Ataturk and what he means to their country in its secular and democratic history.  We said goodbye to the group back in Istanbul.

We stayed for two more days of final shopping and packing and eating and strolling the summer palace. We were upgraded to a four star hotel right beside the Topkapi Palace.  I took one last mint tea and one last walk in the Gulhane Park with its nesting blue herons and thousands of blooming tulips and spring flowers.  We learned that tulips came from Turkey and made their way to the Netherlands from there.

Back to Canada and more snow, ice storm damage, and a slow reentry to regular life.  But what a three months of variety, challenge, learning, meeting and reconnecting with many fine people!  I am truly blessed!

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Travel: Now or Later

I just returned from a trip to Spain that was mostly with a group tour but was also a few days on my own in a new city.  Each had its pluses and minuses.  The food, wine, art, and history were a joy to experience.  My travel companions were an interesting bunch.  I was lucky to have had such a great experience.

Travel requires a good stomach, pain free feet, a head for both flexibility and organization, a taste for adventure, and a willingness to explore and deal with new environments.  Stuff often happens from missed transport, Montezuma's revenge, lost or delayed luggage, to pleasant or unpleasant surpises with food and lodging.  Most of the stories I have heard from fellow travellers have been positive.  Buses and trains in Mexico to river cruises in Europe had been deemed worthwhile and more despite minor hitches.

I have also heard the horror stories of the cruise ship that had a bug go through and infect many passengers, to a heart attack in a faraway place, to lost reservations, and stolen belongings. I once got plantar problems and could not walk without searing pain. I had to take to my bed in both Egypt and India.  I had a car die in the mountains of New Mexico but only temporarily thank goodness.  I lost an airline ticket in England and had to stay for a bit of extra time until it got rebooked.  These are only minor Life Happens set backs though. 

My midlife health problem made me want to travel even though my doctors were not very encouraging.  I have done a fair bit since then and no regrets.  I am glad that I have done the trips I have done while I can fully enjoy exploring new worlds.  I know too many who have delayed their travel plans until they cannot make them come true.  Health issues, the loss of a companion, pre-existing conditions, insurance costs, and travel costs can put a stop to those travel dreams. 

That is why my choice is to go while I can!

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The wind is howling around the house, the streets slick with ice, it is snowing again, the car is a frozen metal hulk that just might warm up while I shovel.  Cabin fever has me muttering to myself.  I have family in Jamaica, friends in Florida, and a sister in Victoria who send their sympathies.  So what am I doing here?

Bad planning is all I can think of at the moment.  Arthur Black, who is probably leading a cruise somewhere warm right now, put it this way.  "Winter is not natural.  There's a perfectly good reason it is silent out there.  Anything with legs or wings and two brain cells to rub together has left."

So for next year, here are some options.  Visit sister in BC remembering that BC means Bring Cash.  Lots of folks are heading to Vancouver Island like the Parksville area, Sidney, Comox, Campbell River, Victoria or the mainland like The Sunshine Coast...such a tempting name on these too dark days!  Flowers are poking up in January or February, hardly any snow unless you want to go skiing at Mount Washington or Whistler.  Cherry blossoms coming out in February sounds good to me right about now.

Then there is visiting our neighbour to the South.  Florida, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, or my favourite, New Mexico.  Check the Wackometer for crime rates and politics if you are concerned. I could just go for the Mexican food, Texan BBQ, seafood, the smell of sage brush, fresh fruit or simply the sunshine.  Lots of options and choices depending on budget and tastes.

I could go even further afield.  More exotic and far cheaper once there are destinations like Panama, Equador, Nicaragua or Honduras.  Brush up on Spanish, check for safety tips, and learn about another culture.  International Living has lots of ideas for away time across the world. 

I could  check out Malayasia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam or India where the living is cheaper and full of ex-pat communities.  Start doing research and dreaming now.  By next year I will be ready to head for warmer climates and a whole new adventure! 

Europe has some great destinations as well in Portugal, Greece, Spain, the south of France, the Dalmatian coast, or Sardinia, for example.  Check out average temperatures, rainfall, costs, and find a winter escape.

Meantime I will be saving my money and googling some options for next winter, and muttering about why I did not do this last year!

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Ducks In A Row

As I talk to those who are approaching retirement, I hear lots of comments about figuring it out when they get there, lots of golf, travel, or sleeping in on weekdays.  This may be a part of the new found sense of freedom, the honeymoon stage of retirement, but real life goes on.  Those who have more well thought out plans tend to have better experiences than those who do not.


Even if you do not follow that plan exactly, it does show you have given some real thought to how you want to be in retirement.  The retirement plan helps  deal with uncertainty, doubts, fears, and anxieties that you may have about this new stage of life.  Finding out about the experiences of others, making some concrete plans for the usual hours of work, reflecting on values, interests, and dreams can prepare you for a new life.

"It's like being a teenager again.  There is the freedom, the range of choices, but also the fear of really screwing it up," commented a retiree in the first year of not working.  "I can see why some want to go back to work at least part time so that they can predict what they will be doing, you know."


Take a good look at your financial situation, your health, and then figure out the timing for retirement that will work best.  Health and layoffs sometimes force retirement.  Have a Plan B.  Get your legal ducks rounded up too with estate planning, an updated will, powers of attorney, insurance needs in retirement, and benefit replacement if that is necessary.


Phased in retirement is ideal.  Going part time or taking a short leave gets the process started.  Beginning new activities, finding new friendship groups, planning your first year off, begins to shift the focus from work and saving to not working and adjusting to your new reality.

Consider your resources, values, relationships, personality, and interests.  Figure out if you will relocate.  Figure out how you will regenerate so that you will have an engaged, meaningful, healthy, and contributing future. 

One woman put it this way:  "OK after I have had my coffee and read the paper, then what?"

At least 2000 hours extra a year can look like a yawning eternity for those who have had fast-paced, high energy work lives.  They do not want to feel bored or lost.  They do want the next adventure and a world of possibilities on their own terms.

Those who have a retirement plan do better than those who do not and are able to roll with the punches better.  Get started now.  Diversify your friendship groups and your activities so that you have lots to retire to and are looking forward that retirement.

Dream and dream big. Start now!

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Retirement: Now What?

"We sold the house in the city and moved up to Collingwood area because we both like to ski and hike but we miss our neighbourhood, friends, favourite hang-outs in the city.  It is as if the fabric of our lives has been shredded.  We've thought about getting an apartment or condo in the city again but jumping back into our old lives would not be easy either."

"Do you do courses for those of us who are having trouble with retirement? I have been retired for 2 years and all I want to do is get back into the classroom with some students.  That is just who I am. Septembers are the worst!"

"Since my husband retired, he wants much more of my attention that he had before.  I have my routines, my friends, and pastimes and told him he needs to find his.  He refuses to go down to the Seniors' Centre, and has been moping around the house for weeks."

"She does tai chi and I tell people I am a tai chi widower.  I have a hobby but it is expensive and part time and so I find I have lots of time on my hands.  I miss the intellectual challenges the most I would say."

"We went on an outing and stayed in Bed and Breakfasts and the talk at each was what are we going to do when we retire.  The men and the women were concerned that they would be bored or expected to look after in-laws or grandchildren or volunteer for stuff they did not want to be doing." 

I am happy to hear that people are talking about what to do in retirement.  So much of retirement preparation is focused on personal finances that folks think that is all there is to do to plan.  Many couples do not discuss or share what their visions of retirement are for each individual or for themselves as a couple.

One fellow told me that retirement is like jumping off a cliff and hoping you will sprout wings before you hit the bottom.  This is an apt analogy for too many.  You may want to take some flying lessons now or start building that glider.  Experiment with new activities, fitness routines, volunteering, or plan a business or new career.  Reinventing yourself takes some time and thought.  

Think about where you want to live, how to revocate and regenerate, who you want to meet and hang out with, and what a typical day might look like.  Retirement is not a long series of weekends and holidays.  It is real life with the challenges that come with that.

For those who enter retirement because of a pink slip or an injury or illness, these considerations are in your face and immediate.  Now what?

Give some thought to the lifestyle you want to have and test drive some of your plans and ideas ahead of time.  Keep talking to your spouse, friends, and colleagues about retirement plans.  Maybe the folks at the Bed and Breakfast may have some good ideas.  You may sprout those wings before you jump off the cliff!

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Set Aside the Doom and Gloom for some FUN!

I have one friend who just walked the French section of the Camino, spent some time in Paris and England visiting friends.  Another just came back from hiking in Patagonia and exploring the Galapagos Islands.  One is down in Florida for two months and is now entertaining grandchildren.  One friend has renewed her relationship with music and taken up the clarinet and another the banjo.  They meet with fellow musicians every week to make music.  One took a few years to complete hiking the Bruce Trail while another has started a business making canoes and paddles.  Art classes at the local Art Centre are full of newly retired folks using their creativity and reawakening that side of their personalities.  Many new business start-ups are from this active bunch as well.

They are not all really rich either.  They have found ways to have fun, stay healthy, meet new people, make stronger ties with family, and bring some past dreams to life.  Leonard Cohen has a new CD out and then there is Betty White of course.  She always seems to be having fun!  Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim and Picasso was still creating both at age 90.  So what do you like to do for fun?

Retirement is certainly not just about the money to sustain yourself but what do you want to do and fun is allowed and encouraged.  If not now, when?  What do you mean when you say, "I'm living the dream"?  Think about how to up the fun ante for you, your family, your friends, and live the life you want to have.  Lots of role models are out there from Mickey Rooney to Alice Munro to Leonard Cohen to my active and engaged friends.  Allow yourself to play is one of those pieces of advice from retirees along with create new social networks, explore your creativity, and continue to learn.  What a great invitation.  Have some fun!  

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Having Fun!

"I had no idea so much mental space and actual time would open like a curtain when I retired.  I have ever had so much fun!  I play my guitar and tell stories all over now."

" I know that I am heading for a trip to Europe, wine, homemade pasta, finding family history and the places my Dad talked about, and looking up old friends there."

"I already have a list of books and movies I want to catch up on and I was thinking of starting a film club rather than a book club."

I have been having fun too doing presentations to small groups about retirement readiness and watching the lights go on as people get their imaginations engaged about their futures.  I often sign my book with, "Have a wonder-filled future!" and I hope they do just that.  One couple i know just got back from a 4 month camping trip to Western Canada and the Southwestern USA.  He's a photographer.  Great pictures! Can't wait to hear the stories too.

I suggest that each person decide how to celebrate at the time of the retirement and then figure out how to spend their retirement honeymoon.  I made mine last about 2 years with a build in Nicaragua, a 4 month trip to California, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Bali, Indonesia, and then a move to Victoria BC when I helped my sister move from Santa Barbara, California to Canada's West Coast.

Follow your bliss as Joseph Campbell said and find the fun while you can!

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What does retirement look like to you?

Movie: REDHave you seen the movie, RED, with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and many more veteran actors?  RED stands for Retired:Extremely Dangerous as each was an operative for secret agencies, and they are highly skilled and lethal.  Helen Mirren, who was an assassin, has retired to a country estate where she bakes, arranges flowers, and takes the occasional contract to keep from being completely bored.  Bruce is keeping a low profile in a suburban home tearing up his pension cheques so that he can talk to the lady in customer service.  Morgan is watching TV and the attractive nurses in a seniors' home while another lives in an underground bunker in a swamp.

Each is dealing with being out of the action in his or her own way but it is not an exciting picture.  A friend of mine entering retirement says his experience thus far is also RED,  that is Retirement: Extremely Dull.  That is what we want to avoid.

How are you connected to your community away from work?

What are your hobbies and interests?

How are you keeping active and physically fit?

What have you always wanted to try, experience, or take a chance on?

This may be the time to get started on dreams abandoned, interests revisited, new activities initiated, new friends made, other mountains climbed, new projects and causes undertaken, and new territories explored.

 Look out world!  Here we come! 

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Squeeze Play

You want what? By when?

So many of us are in the sandwich generation pulled by the needs of our elderly relatives as well as our children, at home still, late to launch or boomerang back home adult children.

About 1 in 8 Canadians are providing care to their elderly family members! Children are leaving the nest later or are back to the nesters. This squeeze play can leave little time for anything else especially if a job is part of that picture.
About 75% of 2 parent families have both partners working which means that evenings and weekends are busy with the running of households and helping of family members. However, caretaking is unpredictable in terms of timing and this can result in feelings of frustration and guilt.

When attending a conference on retirement, I found women particularly stressed out and exhausted meeting the demands of home and job, nuclear and extended family. Many were leery of retirement as they were afraid they would be expected to become full time caretakers.

In those 55-64, 52% of women and 42% of men report helping their adult children. Some of this is in the form of money, shelter, babysitting, or some combination.

Cuts to transfer payments, social programs, and health care have put more pressure on families.

Some workplaces are flexible while many are not. Some allow work-at-home options, job sharing, flextime, intergenerational day-care centres or respite programs but these are not the norm.

Often family members do not live close by requiring management and support by telephoning and commuting. Elderly parents often move to be closer to family or the family finds a retirement or nursing home close by. Downsizing then becomes a shared task. Wait times complicate matters more sometimes leaving the elderly languishing in hospital until more appropriate facilities become available.

Many of us are part of this pulled in many directions by many demands squeeze play.

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What Do I Do Now?

Lots of preretirees are concerned about what they will do with all that extra time…a 40 hour work week means 2000 extra hours of time in a year. Work fills many hours of the day as well as mental space with planning, preparing, and doing work.

Some call former colleagues who have recently retired to ask them how and what they are doing. Some of the responses could be:
“What are you retiring to rather than from?”
“What are you looking forward to?”
“What have you always wanted to try?”
“What are you doing for your retirement honeymoon?”
Telling them what you are doing may not be helpful to them. Telling them your positive and negative experiences may be reassuring and informative.

Some common responses may be:
“I’ve never been so busy!”
“I feel so free to try whatever I want.”
“I feel a bit lost and confused.”
“I don’t know where to start.”
Some cross the marathon of work exhausted and need time to repair and relax; some have set up their transition well ahead of time and simply walk into their new lives.
Others experiment with volunteering, travelling, sports, hobbies, part time employment, or a new business.
However, a number of retirees find this transition very challenging and difficult. They are now stripped of their work identities, routines and habits. Identity issues take new retirees to counsellors the most followed by relationship stress and strains.

Preparation, experimentation, and planning before retirement make the transition smoother and more comfortable for all involved.
The most popular month to retire in Canada is June. Summer holidays make a great start to retirement.

Just remember that fall and winter do follow. What do you do then?
Think about it.

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Lots of folks volunteer their time and efforts and continue to do so when they retire. In 2000, 67 per cent of volunteers were employed. Some start to volunteer when they retire. They look around for a fit with their talents and interests or take the first offer or ask.

You have lots of choice and need in communities for volunteers. Arts, culture, and recreation organizations have the most volunteers followed by social services, religious groups, education and research groups, and then health organizations.

In my community, I see people in and out of the Art Centre, bustling around at the various festivals, helping at the hospital, the Food Bank, the nursing home, the schools and churches. I see lots of effort on behalf of the Cancer Society, the Kidney Foundation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the boards of various organizations and at fund raisers for many causes and groups.

Some drive patients for treatment, some collect donations, some are reading buddies or coaches, some plant and care for trees, create and maintain public gardens, support the abused or the aged, go on mission trips, build homes with Habitat for Humanity, organize or enter chili cook offs, or supervise at children’s art or singing camps. Opportunities exist for any skill or interest level.

Volunteerism brings its own rewards whether it be contributing to your community, gaining a sense of personal satisfaction, making new friends, getting out of the house, or using your resources in a positive way.

Think about what you would like to do and how you would like to contribute. Think about who you would like to work with and for how long. You can stuff envelops or design and run a fund raising campaign, help build a school in another country or make sandwiches for the church, contribute a few hours at the local museum or art gallery, or serve on the United Way board. You can work alone or in a team. You can help out once a week or once a year. You decide what works best for you.

After all…what are they going to do? Fire you?

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Work: Take it or Leave it ... or both

Only about 6% of people continue full time work after the age of 65. That is likely to change to a degree as people are able and willing to work longer, formal education is taking longer to complete, children are born to older parents, and financial pictures change. Some companies are looking at phased retirement plans, on-call programs, or contract work for older workers to keep them on board. Skilled labour shortages mean keeping employees engaged at work.

Many boomers are opting for part-time work in their field or in a fun or flexible job. Some start their own businesses in retirement. Some stay on as is or on a reduced time basis. The higher the education of the person, the more likely they are to continue in their career. A recent projection stated that 1 in 5 workers will be between the ages of 55 and 64 in the next 10 years. It will be interesting to see what changes in policy and practice that will bring.

The recent case of the two Air Canada pilots who were terminated from employment at age 60 as per their collective agreement has been challenged successfully. It was seen to be age discrimination. They have been reinstated. It may yet be appealed but for now they are back on the job.

More and more, the choice to retire and how to retire is yours. You can continue to work as long as there is work to go to or you can retire with part time involvement in the work force or stop altogether. Look before you leap no matter what your choice.

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