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Retirement? No, thanks, I'd rather
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placeholder  January 5, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Senior Living & Resources

Retirement? No, thanks, I'd rather be working

Lin Weeks Wilder

Is retirement the American Dream? Or the promise that those now under 40 will never see fulfilled? Or is the problem definitional in that the word itself may mean one thing to you and something entirely different to your neighbor?

Although there are some baby boomers who would be content with a life of leisure, most of us are happiest when we are working, studying, learning, risking, making a difference and using our gifts, regardless of our age.

Four, or maybe five, careers ago, during the early '90s, I was teaching a management course at the University of Texas School of Nursing along with my full-time administrative job at the Texas Medical Center. Constantly on the lookout for relevant, practical and inspiring content, I came across a book by British organizational theorist Charles Handy, and was fascinated by some predictions he made about the 21st-century workforce.

Among his many prescient forecasts were that much of the work would change place: from office to home and that many of the new careers would be entrepreneurial. Moreover, the concept of retirement would change: The average Westerner would change careers an average of three or four times during his or her working life; for many, the concept of retirement would be obsolete due to the choice to work far past the average age of retirement at 65.

I recall many laughter-filled conversations with my 30- or 40-something-year-old colleagues as I attempted to explain that I believed retirement to be dangerous; the consequential boredom, the reality of having too much time on one's hands can result, I opined, that boredom was a cancer of the soul and that retirement as my colleagues defined it sounded ghastly.

Thirty years later, my predictions of the consequences of boredom are reflected back to me from too many friends and neighbors whose interests seem bounded by their dwindling investment portfolios and the increasing number of maladies that are applied with each visit to their doctor. They are consumed by what they watch each evening on the nightly news and feel depressed, anxious and sad about the country, the government, the economy and their lives: tragic, unnecessary and such a waste of skills and gifts.

In the 21st century, the potential for multiple careers seems unparalled. Cyberspace has leveled the playing fields for the young, the old, the educated and the not-so-educated. Sure, we can argue endlessly about the socially redeeming value of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and hundreds of other businesses, but there are some of us who were able to build a business because we agreed early in our relationship that work was essential for our happiness.

Here are the 10 elements essential for your new venture or career to have a chance.

1. Love of learning
2. A passion for the work
3. Tolerance of failure
4. Persistence
5. Financially able to lose money in the first few years
6. A deep desire to help others
7. Humility
8. Plenty of sleep
9. A healthy diet
10. A consistent exercise regime.

Author Lin Weeks Wilder more than 30 years administrative experience in academic health centers. Now a full-time writer, she has published articles and books on hospital management, institutional ethics, cardiovascular physiology, nursing practice, management and Catholic Christianity.

 
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