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Boomer Women and the Changing Face of Retirement

As a Baby Boomer, are you in agreement with the results of an American Association of Retired Persons\’ position paper – that the definition of work in retirement will be uniquely yours? Fully 80% of those who responded to the survey expect to continue some type of work after they reach retirement age.

Many women don\’t have control over the decision regarding changes in their work situation. They may be faced, unexpectedly, with the loss of a job or a business. Or, out of financial necessity, they have no choice but to continue supporting themselves and their families. In addition, the aftermath of 9/11 and the economic downturn drove women into the workforce who otherwise would have reduced their workload or retired completely.

The recent New Face of Work Survey, conducted by the Princeton Survey Research Associates International, found that the majority of their interviewees had an interest in post retirement careers that help others. Over 70% of the women in their 50\’s agreed that “It is very important that a job in retirement gives a sense of purpose,” and allows them to stay involved with other people. The shift to a “working retirement” is definitely a baby boomer phenomenon.

Maxine, a school social worker, gradually realized that she had many options and the luxury of deciding how she wanted to spend the rest of her life. Two of her daughters were having babies at opposite ends of the continent. She wanted to be able to spend time with them after the births and to be with the grandchildren as they grew. Her third daughter also lived away and was embarking on a new career. All in all she intended to be more mobile and accessible to her family.

“After quitting my job of 30 years, I was often asked how I was enjoying my retirement. My reply was always: Are they talking to me, what\’s retirement?

Here\’s the reality. I spend a lot of time in airports. I stay in my pajamas until after 10:00 a.m. on many weekday mornings. I\’ve become more actively involved in both urban renewal and heritage aspects of my city. I sit on a hospital board and am learning more about the healthcare system. I have become involved again in local politics and helped an old friend get elected. I\’ve been to lunch with friends four times and knitted 1 1/2 baby sweaters.

I still have not met my husband for lunch in the middle of the week, cleaned out my drawers, put photos in albums, exercised regularly, mastered the computer or the game of bridge, read enough books, or browsed the many corners of the city that I promised myself I would.

So, where am I now? I\’m still very much in the process of learning what retirement means to me.”

Whether you\’re beginning to play with the idea of retirement or the gold watch presentation is just around the corner, here are some tips for you:

1. Approach this stage of life with humor. Maxine\’s rhetorical questions are examples of how not to take yourself too seriously. This is a major life change and yet a positive attitude will enhance your transition and the experiences that follow.

2. Be aware of your motivation. Being able to reflect and evaluate are valuable skills. Hone them, and discover what is driving you and what you want at this point in your life. Do you want to focus on volunteering, working in a different way, taking better care of your body, or spending more time with family and friends? Make choices for reasons that are right for you.

3. Much ado about all or nothing. Perhaps leaving your job, at this time, is not feasible for emotional or financial reasons. Look for ways to satisfy some of your unmet needs while still working. This is also good preparation for when that change does occur.

4. Go with the flow. Recognize and accept that any transition involves a process of change. Follow your dream yet don\’t automatically say no to anything. Be willing to open your heart and explore all possibilities.

5. Make a list but don\’t check it twice. We all have a myriad of wishes that have not come true because life sometimes has a way of intervening. Be patient with yourself and the situation if you have to change course. At this stage of life, anything can happen.

Now is a chance like never before. And balance can be the key to unlocking the “good life.” How would you create your own sense of equilibrium? Think about being involved in community service and pleasuring yourself. Plan to have a purpose and to have fun. Find ways to be productive and playful. Enjoy the magic of the seesaw.

© 2007, Her Mentor Center

Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. & Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are co-founders of http://www.hermentorcenter.com/, a website dedicated to the issues of mid-life women and http://www.nourishingrelationships.blogspot.com/, a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomer women and their family relationships and publish a free Newsletter, Stepping Stones, through the website. As psychotherapists, they have a combined 40 years of private practice experience.

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