Is "Aging Boomers” an Oxymoron?

You might have noticed that more and more these days the topic of retirement crops up almost everywhere; not surprising, since those in the vanguard of the Baby Boom generation [1946 – 1964] have either already embarked on retirement or are seriously testing the waters. It’s the next big experience in life for this demographic, and as they did with each previous life-stage, this cohort will be changing the concept of retirement. Not willing to be confined to stereotypical notions of fuzzy slippers, rocking chairs, babysitting and tottering around a golf course, the Boomers will be embracing retirement with gusto, renewed vigor, energy and ideas. The word "options” will ever be their mantra.

In the midst of the overwhelming onslaught of all important financial information it is easy to overlook how you might deal with the emotional and psychological aspect of retirement. After all, one day you are at work, and the next day you are not! Will it feel like a holiday, or unemployment? Freedom or boredom? A big opportunity, or the end of the road? Who are you now that you do not have a title, a clearly defined role outside of your personal life or a pre-arranged daily schedule? Heady questions indeed and ones that will creep up on you when you least expect it.

At this point you may well be wondering "how do you know?” The short answer is that we experienced the emotional and psychological transition from work to retirement, and now we want to share with you what we discovered.

Carol carefully and meticulously planned early retirement from her life-long career as a teacher-librarian while Enise had retirement thrust upon her when her long-time administrative position in post-secondary education was eliminated due to budget cuts. We came to retirement by quite different means but our experiences during the transitional phase were parallel. We’d meet every so often to discuss where we were in our lives and what we were thinking and feeling. After a while it became clear that we were both progressing through some fairly specific phases and we decided to check it out with others who were also retired by way of a survey. The results came back fast, furious and thick from all corners of the world and from every manner of person. Along with our own research we found that indeed, there was a clearly defined transitional period that covers that space of time from when a person leaves their job to when they feel comfortable in their new role as a retired person.

In discussing the research, as well as, our own journeys, we found that we constantly used nautical terms as descriptors because they lent themselves so well to the topic, and perhaps in part because we are both keen sailors and live on islands. We are now helping others to be aware that it isn’t just the finances that they need to consider when contemplating retirement. It is also how they will cope emotionally and psychologically, and how they can prepare for that.

Clearly there is an emotional and psychological period of transition after leaving your primary job. And while you might have previously dealt with several transitions throughout your life this one comes with an added zinger that sets it apart. Aging. It’s probably safe to say that most Boomers can hardly contemplate themselves as being old enough to be retired let alone be slotted overnight into the ‘senior’ category simply because they left their primary jobs!

Amongst other things be prepared for a few mixed messages once you no longer have a business card and job title. In some places you are a senior at 55 in others 65, while some publications lump everyone over 50 into the same group. You’ll also wonder why, when the largest growing percentage of entrepreneurs in Canada is made up of those 55 and up, you are being targeted by advertisers selling a variety of aids for just about every conceivable failing body part. There’s a predicted shortage in just about every segment of the workforce, yet some are still facing mandatory retirement at the age of 65.

As a boomer you are systems savvy and will likely demand information to learn more about the transitional phase from work to a well-adjusted retirement. You will want to know yourself better, re-assess your values and goals from this place in time on your life’s journey. To do this you will need to look at the coming avalanche of retirement information very carefully, and decide what needs to be changed so you have a full range of options open to you – just as you have always done.

Enise Olding and Carol Baird-Krul offer workshops: Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course for those contemplating retirement, and Recently Retired Roundtable: Charting a New Course for those who are already retired. For information please contact: or 250-748-1139 or 250-247-0077.