My father recently MC'ed his best friend's funeral. There were several speakers and my dad did an excellent job of weaving his own memories into funny and interesting stories as well as letting everyone know a little bit about the people he was introducing. He held it together right until the end. And then he wavered, which is to be expected when saying good-bye to a 40 year friendship. Afterwards we talked about the experience. My dad is in his late 70s now and has said good-bye to a few of close friends over the years. Some have gone suddenly, some after a protracted illness, but most of his friends, living or dead, have, at least, reached retirement age. How they fare, in those retirement years, is mixed.
My dad, who remains in good health (knock on wood), has done the opposite of slow down. In his mid-50s he retired from a prominent consulting and accounting firm and transitioned into a career as a university lecturer at the Rotman School of Management. He then pitched, fundraised, and created the business history program there and is now working on his second textbook. I wonder sometimes why he doesn’t just read some fiction and enjoy the view. I know my mom wonders the same thing. But then it occurred to me that besides being a busy person, by nature, my dad fears irrelevance. Everyone knows that you don't have to do much to stay relevant in the eyes of your family, and those who love you. But to be relevant to society, writ large, you need to participate. Some people volunteer, some go from full-time work in one profession to part-time work in a more regular job, others feel lost. One friend of mine's father has fallen into a post-retirement depression and the family is struggling to find the right treatment. I wonder if this happens more to men than it does to women. My mom had a good line the other day: she said "women don't retire; they just die." And by that she meant that even if a woman had a career, which wasn't quite the norm for my parents' generation (women had jobs, often part-time, not careers) they were still the primary caregivers and often largely responsible for the running of the household. That job never ends. You'll always need to get groceries, to do laundry, pay bills, make food, buy birthday gifts, the list goes on. This means, for many women there isn't very much time to think about how you're going to fill your post retirement days, you just do it.
On Wednesday, September 17, I'm producing a discussion about this transition. I want to know how you've fared post-retirement. Do you keep busy or are you happy to slow down? Have you, or anyone you love, fallen into a depression, and how are you dealing with it? Email me at email@example.com (500 words or less please) or leave a comment below.
May we have a moment of your time?
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