INFocus: Redefining Retirement

Date: September, 2015 two retired boomers on a dock enjoying retirement

Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of inFocus.

In generations past, retirement was a definable event in someone’s life – a milestone, fixed in time. There would be a presentation at the office, a family celebration and some joyfully-arranged tee times for the following week. “Work” was a thing of the past.

While this scenario may still play out in some households, for many baby boomers approaching the traditional “retirement age” of 65, the idea of such a drastic cessation of such a major part of their lives can be disconcerting, frightening, or simply unimaginable.

Fixing the age of 65 as the optimal age at which one should retire happened a few generations ago. Life expectancy, and the youthfulness with which people approach life, has changed materially over the years. While those of us in our 50s reluctantly admit to a few more aches and twinges after activity, many of us are as fit and healthy as we were in our 30s. Mentally and cognitively, we feel at the peak of our games. The experience we have built over the three decades we have been working enables us to contribute at a high level. For those of us who raised families, the kids have become increasingly independent, which frees us up to pursue professional and personal pursuits that we have not had the time for previously. And in many cases, the financial foundations that would allow a complete end to income-earning might not be solid enough yet – that is, we may not be ready to retire financially.

Despite all these factors, there are many reasons for transition and change in one’s 50s and 60s. Many boomers spend the majority of their careers in one profession and begin to wonder what other interesting things there are to do. While Ontario does not have a mandatory retirement age, employees might begin to feel out of place in an organization made up of people who are the same age as their children, and even grandchildren. Businesses can also benefit from natural turnover, since it allows younger people to develop and for new ideas and approaches to be applied to the business.

How should baby boomers approach this transitional period in their lives in a way that makes this stage feel like a new challenge filled with opportunity and stimulation?

Here are a few thoughts…

Remain current, especially as it relates to technology. The pace of change in this area is astounding, and it is easy to get left behind. My 82-year-old mother frequently communicates with her children and grandchildren by text message. She has a Facebook page and regularly uses search engines for gathering information. Paying attention to this area will assist you in most of the other areas suggested below.

Look for opportunities to apply your knowledge in new ways. If you have been a corporate executive, consider whether you could apply your technical expertise by teaching at a college or in a continuing education program. If you have managed people successfully over your career and found it satisfying, consider becoming certified as a Coach. If you have built and managed a business, become a mentor to younger entrepreneurs through organizations such as Futurpreneur, which is a national, non-profit organization that provides financing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39. Seek out board positions. Learn about what it takes to be a good board member, and actively seek out organizations that are interesting to you.

Develop, or further develop, a hobby. Consider ways this hobby could be integrated with your professional expertise, or whether the activity could become a business in its own right.

Try new things. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in one area often results in more confidence doing so in other activities.

Stay healthy. Do all the things you know you should do. Eat properly, exercise, and get enough sleep. Inattention to these items in your 50s and 60s is problematic. In other words, you don’t bounce back like you used to.

Considering all of these items will make your next chapter as full of promise and excitement as previous new beginnings. The future is bright.

Connect with the Author
Susan Hodkinson, Chief Operating Officer

Susan Hodkinson is the Chief Operating Officer at Crowe Soberman, where she has management responsibility for the operations of the firm, including finance, information technology, human resources, facilities and marketing. She also leads the firm’s HR Consulting group.

Connect with Susan at 416-963-7172 or

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