By Eileen Philbin
Retirees are often advised to stay busy. We’re expected to volunteer, take classes or travel. And, for the most part, it is a good idea to stay active.
However, for many Type A personalities, it can be challenging to slow down enough to actually enjoy retirement. If you find yourself getting a little twitchy, I have some helpful tips:
• Stop pressuring yourself. You’ve worked hard and made substantial contributions. Now it’s someone else’s turn to earn money, support their family and save for the future. Think of your retirement as a gift to that person.
• Give yourself adjustment time. After life in the fast lane, it can be a shock to wake up one morning with no demands. Don’t feel obligated to fill your schedule right away. Reflect on how you would really love to spend your time, and plan gradually.
• Meditate. No need to sit in the lotus position. Walking, fishing or gardening can do the trick. Just do something each day to quiet your mind. Eventually, the compulsion to jump from one form of entertainment to another will be replaced by contentment.
• Ignore the Above. If there’s a voice inside you telling you not to slow down, listen to that voice and do what it says. Here’s an example:
Three years ago, Dahti Blanchard retired from teaching at Swan School in Port Townsend, Washington. Today, at 67, she’s the oldest resident emergency medical technician (EMT) with East Jefferson Fire Rescue.
It all started when she saw a sign calling for volunteer EMTs and acted on a dream she’d had for 30 years.
“I was curious as to whether I’d be able to physically do the test, and went for it,” she says. She had to carry a 150-pound dummy out of a fire and two 40-pound buckets into a firetruck as well as accomplish time-constrained tasks such as threading needles.
She started with one 12-hour shift per week. This allowed her to spend time with her husband and two grandchildren, write novels, train for triathlons and marathons, and serve as artistic director with the Ladies’ Chamber Orchestra and Benevolence Society.
Turns out, one shift wasn’t enough. The calls were exciting, but so was the time spent at the station learning about equipment, drills and other aspects.
Blanchard considers herself a life-long student. “It took me almost 20 years to get my degree.” She earned her bachelor’s degree in early music from The College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota and went on to enroll in a year-long course to teach music to middle schoolers.
Now her schedule is typically 24 hours on, off, and on again, followed by a four-day break. She has her own room and looks forward to her turn to cook dinner for her fellow EMTs and firefighters.
No doubt, Blanchard has learned quite a bit, especially about herself.
“I didn’t know how I’d be able to handle the difficulties, and I’ve been happy and excited to find that I can really focus in the moment, handle those things, and be present for what we’re doing.”
Yes, retirement can be an opportunity to slow down.
Eileen Philbin is the executive director of the American Senior Benefits Association (ASBA), a nonprofit organization focused on advocacy and education for men and women aged 50 and above.