Consider Options Before Retiring

Consider Options Before Retiring

A few years ago, I was running a discussion group on aging at the Mastick Senior Center. One theme that surfaced immediately by the participants was retirement. I learned that many had retired and regretted it. The group was amazed to discover how many shared the thought that they were not happy. Most were pursuing jobs; the idea of becoming a receptionist or secretary was very appealing. They wanted to reenter the work world but did not have a commitment to returning to their careers.

Most had reached 65 years of age and retired because it was assumed they would. Things were arranged financially. They had not considered not retiring.

Once they retired, they discovered they missed the routine that working created. They missed getting up, showering, dressing for work, commuting to work, seeing co-workers, and participating in the act of working. They enjoyed the challenge, the thinking, the creativity. It was meaningful to have somewhere to go, people to see, and work to do.

And so, they tried to get any type of job that would enable them to return to these benefits. Thus far, none of them had found anything, even when they had connections with business owners. They perceived it as age discrimination or the belief that with the level of their former careers, they would not quality to do these positions.

It was eye-opening to discover the emotional pain and dissatisfaction that was shared by this group. There was a strong sense of loss in their lives.

We realized that we are aging differently than our parents, who were the only role models we knew. The current pre-baby boomers and baby boomers had been involved in politics and lifestyle change, civil rights, feminism, Vietnam. More women entered the work world. Family patterns had changed. Children were in preschool, nursery school and after school programs. These changes contributed to more energy and vitality in people’s lives. There was more moving geographically; less people stayed in their hometowns. More traveling occurred for work and vacations. Less time was being spent at home. There was a greater tendency to hire people to do work at home, like painting, gardening, carpet cleaning, window washing.

Thus, the idea of ceasing work left most with no idea of what to do with their time and how to find connections with people. The impetus to be involved and interact was a part of people’s lifestyles. The challenge to fulfill these patterns was great.

I encourage people to consider these thoughts and options before they decide to retire. Often, we are not encouraged to consider the alternative before we make a decision. How about not marrying? How about not having children? How about not retiring?

Think about it.

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to or through her website,