(These are excerpts of my thoughts about promoting a healthy passage to retirement from previously posted blogs at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/retirement-resources/.)
Retirement is a life-changing event, perhaps the most significant “final transition” in our lives, involving an ongoing process of emotional adjustment.
The research of counseling psychologist Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg is worth reading. She identified the following ways in which people approach retirement, as quoted by the American Psychological Association:
- Continuers who continued using existing skills and interests;
- Adventurers who start entirely new endeavors;
- Searchers who explore new options through trial and error;
- Easy Gliders who enjoy unscheduled time letting each day unfold;
- Involved Spectators who care deeply about the world, but engage in less active ways;
- Retreaters who take time out or disengage from life.
Suggestions on coping with this transition from successfully retired members were shared in segments of my article in PMEA News (Summer 2015), the State Journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association:
- To prepare yourself for retirement, have something in place to do – private teaching, performing, traveling, and/or volunteering.
- Have a plan! Figure out some idea of what you want to do with the rest of your life after teaching.
- Build your social network of friends, colleagues, and people with which you want to continue spending time. Relationships are important in retirement.
- Stay involved in music – somehow. Once retired, you can revisit your roots in creative self-expression (the things that inspired you to become a music teacher in the first place), while avoiding the day-to-day stress and routine of your former job assignments.
- Do not micromanage or “try to help” the new guy appointed to your position. If (and only if) your replacement asks, perhaps you can meet for breakfast or lunch to “pass on the baton,” offering to share with him/her where are the closets (if not the skeletons), and information for smooth transition such as the location of the music library database, curriculum guide, classroom instruments, etc. However, keep in mind it is not your responsibility nor is it appropriate to give the newcomer philosophy, methodology, or minute details on how or what to do in your former job. The new professional is not you (and probably will make many mistakes), and will have to find his/her own way to realize success in the position.
- Travel to those places that you always wanted to see but never had the time. Try a warm sunny place in the winter and see what your students always enjoyed while you were stuck in the classroom during January and February.
- Get involved in advocacy, either for music education or something else that is important to you.
Seize the day (as they say) and embrace opportunities for volunteering, possibly going back to the school and offering your professional services on a part-time basis. Perhaps a local music program could use your expertise in setting up new technology, playing the piano, helping conduct large ensembles or coaching sectionals or chamber groups, organizing or chaperoning music trips, repairing instruments, composing or arranging music for the ensembles, or assisting on the rehearsals or designing the field show for the marching band, dance team, or drum line.
In addition, the passage to retirement allows a re-examination of ourselves and discovery of new interests, conceivably some non-music volunteer activities. Select a project or two that will help satisfy your need to help others and nurture your soul. My personal favorite (besides retaining my “conductor chops” by directing a youth orchestra on Saturdays) is to serve as a volunteer escort at our local hospital. In addition to walking dogs several times a day, pushing wheelchairs several days a week is good physical exercise, but more importantly, it is a big help to the efficient and economical operation of any mid- to large-sized medical facility.
Other volunteer activities? Lists of needy programs are numerous (here are a few examples):
- Walk dogs or care for pets at the local animal shelter
- Serve in charitable fund-raising projects (answer phones, etc.)
- Offer to translate/interpret foreign languages
- Assist food banks and meals-on-wheels agencies
- Enlist as a court-appointed special advocate for abused or neglected children
- Work as a hospice volunteer
- Join Elder Helpers or other organizations to help needy seniors
- Run a school club or activity (share your unique hobby)
- Help maintain parks, trails, nature habitats, or recreation centers
- Collate/file/sort/catalog libraries of sheet music or books
- Host an international student
- Become a youth director, mentor, or scout leader
- Register new citizens to vote at citizenship ceremonies
- Clean-up vacant lots, cemeteries, playgrounds, etc.
- Apply office management and clerical skills to benefit nonprofit associations
- Teach summer school or Fine/Performing Arts classes
- Give guided tours or lectures as a “docent” at a local museum
For assistance in making the smooth transition to retirement, read the Fall 2013 PMEA News article “Retirement – Now What?” archived on the Retired Member section of the State PMEA website (http://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Retirement-Now-What-in-PM...). Also review the other links posted on the same site.
Finally, peruse the following links and books which analyze the psychology and stages of retirement, and provide thoughtful recommendations for happiness and fulfillment after a career of full-time employment. Happy trails, retirees!
Sample of Online Links
3 Ways to Successfully Transition into Retirement – U.S. News and World Report Money (by Dave Bernard): http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2012/12/07/3-ways-to-s...
Journey Through the Six Stages of Retirement – Investopedia (by Mark P. Cussen): http://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/07/sixstages.asp
Transition into a Healthy Retirement – SPARKPEOPLE (by Rebecca Pratt): http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=396
25 Things to Do When You Retire – U.S. News and World Report Money (by Phil Taylor): http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2011/02/11/25-things-t...
Emotional Stages of Retirement – Ameriprise Financial: https://www.ameriprise.com/retire/planning-for-retirement/retirement-ide...
Life After Retirement – What Do I Do Now? – Forbes (by Mike Lewis): http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikelewis/2013/10/22/life-after-retirement/
Thinking About Retirement? Time to Think About Your Psychological Portfolio – American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/research/action/retire.aspx
Behavioral and Psychological Aspects of the Retirement Decision – U.S. Social Security Administration: http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v71n4/v71n4p15.html
Psychological Effects of the Transition to Retirement – University of Alberta (by John W. Osborne): http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ969555.pdf
Recommended Books to Read
How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free by Ernie Zelinski
How to Love Your Retirement: The Guide to the Best of Your Life by Barbara Waxman
The Joy of Retirement: Finding Happiness, Freedom, and the Life You’ve Always Wanted by David Borchard
The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked by Ernie Zelinski
65 Things to Do When You Retire by Mark Evan Chimsk
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