Articles

How to Retire and Like It

Do you hate the idea of retiring? This famous U. S. specialist on ageing problems tells you how to start living when you stop working

GEORGE LAWTON November 15 1949
Articles

How to Retire and Like It

Do you hate the idea of retiring? This famous U. S. specialist on ageing problems tells you how to start living when you stop working

GEORGE LAWTON November 15 1949

How to Retire and Like It

Do you hate the idea of retiring? This famous U. S. specialist on ageing problems tells you how to start living when you stop working

GEORGE LAWTON

RETIREMENT is a funny thing. We all say, “Everyone should plan for his retirement,” then we add, “Of course, I’ve never really given it a thought. Too busy, you know, and retirement is so far away.”

It’s not sO far away.

Retirement at 60 or so has become a general practice, with more people living to older ages than ever before. Today (he average man of 60 lives to be 75.

Every day this year 230 Canadians will come to the 65th milestone the generally accepted retiring age in this country. The proportion of these older people to the rest, of the population has leaped in half a century from 4.8'? to almost 7r/. A man of 65 today often has four times the life expectancy of a man the same age 50 years ago. He can look forward to an average 13'4 years of continued good life. That’s a big chunk out of any man’s life.

A good question to ask yourself is this: How

does one spend 15 years? What to do with almost half a working life is not quite the same as filling a free Tuesday afternoon.

The young man of 30-35 who ordinarily does not think of retirement should realize this: With

over-increasing life expectancy, his “of! the job” life might be at least half as long as his “on the job” life. He should set up a rough plan for retirement at the beginning of his working career rather than at the end.

For the mistake younger men make is to think that it is as easy to launch new activities at 60 as it is at 30. At 60 there is less energy, more inertia, more responsibilities, more physical limitations. When we retire we should merely increase the time devoted to interests we had launched previously.

Retirement should be optional rather than arbitrary because of age. It should depend on the individual’s wishes and his capacity for continuing to do his job. We hire people selectively; we should retire people selectively. It is not surprising that many people don’t want to retire. They want to work at the same job for the rest of their lives because their job is their life. Forced retirement often leads to bitterness and even personal tragedy.

As Henry H. Curran, recently retired as a Justice of the Court of Special Sessions in New York City, has remarked, “Under the law you may no longer he a judge if you have become 70 years old—out. you go. That is my condition at the moment happy, healthy, sound in wind and limb, and mind, too, but suddenly 70 and out.”

We have in public life many examples of two contrasting attitudes toward retirement. One person regards it as simply a change in activity, not a retreat to the sidelines. We see this attitude in Herbert Hoover, Bernard Baruch, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt; they are people who will he active and vital all of their days, if not at one kind of useful activity then at another. Such people are ageless.

Connie Mack at 86 is still an active manager

of the Philadelphia Athletics. But his son Earl, 56, formerly coach of the same baseball team, is another story. Earl belongs to the race of human beings who grow old. About a year ago Dad had to officially relieve his son of coaching duties “because he is getting too old for that job.”

But please remember that you have a right to set up your own pattern of living. This may mean fullor part-time jobs for money all your life, whether after retirement or not. Or it may mean retirement plus a daily routine which is entirely reflective (reading, walking, fishing, playing cards).

Have a Goal and Live

THERE isn’t only one way you can be happy.

But I do insist for your own sake that you decide far ahead of time whether you will retire or not, whether your retirement life will consist of activity, for pay or not, or whether your retirement will be inactive.

There is little left in life for a man without a goal. One big Canadian company recently found that its men were dying off at an average of 18 months after retirement. A Gallup survey of the problems of old age claims that one of the surest ways to die before your time is to retire without having an active interest in any other pursuit. The evidence seemed so overwhelming to Dr. Gallup that he decided then and there to die with his boots on, at his desk.

Here, in general, are the things everyone needs after retirement: 1. An activity to replace your job. It may be part time, may or may not bring in money, but it must bring in self-respect.

2. A modest income.

3. Fairly good health.

4. A sense of still belonging to the community and of being important to it.

5. Friends.

6. A half-dozen arts and crafts and hobbies.

These are in general order of importance. What each would mean for you, especially when you retire, is something that you will have to decide. The sooner you settle on the relative importance to you of each of these needs the more you increase your chances of a successful retirement some day.

Í propose to consider these requirements one by one.

An Activity to Replace Your Job— No job should ever be allowed to take all of a man, possess him and make him its creature. He must find other interests besides his job. To make sure you do the things after retirement that you have often dreamed of doing, make a start five years before your retirement. Work out the main details of your retirement life, actually start on certain phases of it.

This ad which appeared in a New York newspaper a few years ago illustrates a common retirement dilemma of executives: “I retired at 46, five

years ago, after 25 years of public relations work, with an assured life income of $35,000 per year. I regret this retirement. I am in perfect, vigorous health, and I am tired of golf and play, and north and south resorts, and I find that my efforts at ‘do-gooding’ do not keep me keen and interested. I wish again to work, and work hard, at business. I do not, however, again wish to have my own firm.” Some men have solved this problem by extending their own line of work into their private life. Ex-Inspector E. C. Hammond, who worked with the criminal investigation department of the Ontario Provincial Police for 25 years, is a good example. After he retired a few years ago he got himself a private investigator’s license and is now a successful private detective.

Money Isn’t Everything

B. T. Chappell, the retired general superintendent of CNR’s Manitoba district, also licked the retirement problem in the same way. His favorite hobby today is securing traffic leads for the CN; he is now considered the No. 1 business getter for the CNR among those who are retired.

Prof. H. E. 1’. Haultain, retired head of the University of Toronto’s mining depart ment, now does research work into mining machinery on his own.

Many men make the big mistake of thinking that retirement means abandoning all the activities and interests, all the clubs and organizations that they knew before. But growing older is not a question of withdrawals and abandonments. It means transferring from one activity to another, from one interest to another.

A Modest Income—-Men have told me, “Just let me have enough money and retirement will lx* no problem at all." As a psychologist who has specialized in adjustment problems of men and women in the second 40 years I have found that when a man has given little thought to his future money alone will not lead to a good retirement. Yet we must prepare for the economic side of retirement.

There are no Canadian figures but in the U. S. 39% of people over 65 are dependent on public or private assistance. In Canada there are 229,158 persons over 70 who need the oldage pension.

Sooner or later we have to sit down and face as realistically as possible what our financial situation will be when we leave our job. Next we must make a major budgetary decision. Either we cheerfully accept a reduction in our spending—this may or may not mean a reduction in our standard of living. Or we maintain our overhead by finding some way to supplement our income from pensions, annuities, and so on.

A friend of mine, Pete Downing, found this solution: By the time he

was 50 Downing’s son and daughter were both married and out of the house. One evening Downing had an idea and presented it to his wife: “How about

pretending I’ve retired now and that we have to live within my new income from now on? We’ll reduce the budget and save the money left over, which can he an extra nest egg later on. That way, when I quit the job, instead of having to go from a higher to a lower standard of living, we’ll be coming out of a lean period into one of plenty.” They tried it and it worked out successfully for them.

From Fiddle to Furniture

A concert violinist, over 50, during a nervous breakdown was urged by his physician to do something with his hands, like making furniture. The fingers that had been so agile on violin strings and bow had never been used for anything as crude as saw and hammer, but the man was willing to try. Soon he acquired such proficiency that he was able to replace in his large house every table, lamp, and wooden chair with modern equivalents of strikingly original design. He went on to make art objects of wood: trays, small cabinets, boxes for cigarettes and jewelry, for which select shops are offering fancy prices.

When Dr. George Meyian, former Columbia University medical director, retired after 26 years of teaching, he settled on his 200-acre farm. At 75, he grows 31 kinds of vegetables, 3,000 strawberry plants and 160 fruit trees, and in addition raises his own beef and pork and has 850 chickens.

I know a woman of 78 who retired 20 years ago. Ever since retirement she has been running her own shirt hospital. Taking in 300 shirts a week she has set up a small shop on one floor of her private house and employs several girls to help her. The business yields her a good living, especially necessary now that her husband is gone.

One grandmother, who had had four children and 12 grandchildren, was hired as a saleslady in the infants’ wear department of a large store. Another, at 68, opened her own retail infants’ wear shop and was so successful, her husband quit his joh and joined her.

There is one important thing to remember: no person who retires

should take his pension money or his savings and invest it in a new business. He might use the income from these funds, or a small portion of the principal under very special circumstances. A man or woman should go into his own business only after a great deal of careful planning, and only if he knows this particular business and has enough money laid aside to tide him over the difficult early periods.

Fairly Good Health—No one can guarantee that you will be in perfect health at retirement time. But is any one, at any age? Statistics show, however, that the 60-year-old man Í today is often far more vigorous than j I his father at the same age.

Of first importance is the regular j physical examination. Recognized in time, handicapping ailments can be dealt with before they do too much damage. The question of proper diet, of exercise and general personal regimen are matters for the physician to regulate for each individual.

There is no escaping the possibility of bifocals, hearing devices, artificial teeth, grey hair or no hair, as we pass into our 50’s and 60’s. Some disabling and incurable illnesses do come with ageing. These cannot be avoided. If they strike us the important thing to say to yourself is: “This particular

illness cannot be cured and so must be accepted. Very well. What is it j preventing me from doing? What can ! I still do despite it?”

That’s the attitude of Elmore PhilI pott, a man in his late 50’s, crippled j by arthritis so that he has to walk I stooped over with two canes, but who j still manages to write a daily newspaper I column, go on speaking tours and run ! for Parliament in New Westminster, B.C.

You’ve Got to Keep Active

With the added leisure that comes with retirement there wJl be more time to notice the minor disabilities that had passed unnoticed when we were busier i people. They made little real difference j then. They will make little difference now if you fill your life with satisfying activities that you have chosen yourself.

Still Belonging to the Community— As long as we live we need to he needed. However, as the years pass, opportunities to be needed lessen in our family circle and in our job. If we are wise we will now turn to the community for that is one place which will need us as long as we live. When you retire all you retire from is your job. You don’t retire from the human race. No matter where you live or what your circumstances, you can make a worth-while contribution to community welfare.

Jackson Dodds, who is the retired general manager of the Bank of Montreal, fills his days as Commissioner of the Boy Scouts for Canada. H. H. Norton, the retired traffic manager of CNR’s Atlantic region, has recently taken over the general managership of Playtime Projects Ltd., a nonprofit voluntary organization formed in Moncton, N.B., for the promotion of recreational facilities for the citizens.

A more dramatic example is the case of Cecil Grosskurth, of Weston, Ont., a greying man with gold-rimmed glasses who ran a dry-goods store before he retired. A volunteer member of Weston’s volunteer fire department (he used to leave customers standing in his store when the alarm sounded) he has now devoted most of his retired days to its welfare. Says Grosskurth: “A

man has to keep active when he’s retired.” He follows this rule himself. He’s president of his church men’s club, ran its auction for a war memorial, ran the Rotary convention for Ontario in Toronto, spent last winter collecting and refurbishing old furniture and has just been appointed liaison man between Rotary and the Rotary-sponsored Maplehurst Maternity Hospital, in Weston. “I’m as happy as ever,” he says.

Here are a number of ways in which you can be useful in your community: You can take part in church activities, teach Sunday school, become a senior adviser in a boys’ or girls’ club, or in I the Boy Scout or Girl Guide movements. There is always a call for women to serve as nurses’ aides, for 1 men to act as orderlies. You can become a member of the board of directors of the “Y,” the library, or other local institutions. You can be helpful in local politics where there is always a call for disinterested and intelligent activity. If you are a retired engineer with most doors closed to you you can now think in terms of larger vistas: public health, city planning,

slum clearance, transportation and communications.

If you love children and your own have gone their way you can get a vast amount of satisfaction in taking everybody’s children under your wing. You can help supervise children’s play in parks, in nursery schools; you can read to them and play games with them if they lack parents or are confined to a hospital bed.

The key to success after retirement is this: how can we maintain or even increase the sense of integrity, belongingness, and usefulness that we had prior to retirement? Any man when he retires can be executive director of Excavation Spectators, Inc. But better than this is doing something for other people. Sleeping and lying in the sun would be fine if we could spend all our time doing this and still keep our basic self-respect.

Don’t Be a Rufus Jones

Friends—As we get older we need to work harder at making new friends, because the longer we live the greater the turnover in friendships. See what happened to Rufus Jones. Nearly everyone in the Excelsior Company where he worked was his friend. Outside of Excelsior personnel Jones had only a few acquaintances. When he retired the first thing he missed was the daily “hello.” He began to visit at the office and at first everyone was glad to see Rufus Jones again. But they were busy and their talk was about the organization and the events of their working day. These interests were slipping farther and farther away from Jones all the time. After a while he felt as if he were no longer part of things at the office. Then he began to feel as if he were no longer part of anything.

Unlike Jones we should not limit our friendships to a single source, especially not our business or profession.

Retired farmers and businessmen in Bowmanville, Ont., have found an answer to this problem. Twenty-seven years ago a number of them found themselves gathering at a local implement agency to talk about everything from politics to raising chickens. This grew into a formal club, called “Wood Senate,” which now has its own headquarters, a library of reference books to settle disputes, and 100 members. Inside the group there exists a core called “The Evergreen Club” made up of men over 80. One member lived to be 100, another passed on at 96.

There is one thing we have a tendency to forget: when a man retires

he rarely retires alone. It is generally a husband and wife who retire. After retirement you and your wife will become more dependent on each other than ever before.

Where you live is important. In a relatively small community you wall have more friendly and easy contacts with your neighbors than you would have in a large city. And it is wise to spend your retirement time where you have the closest social ties.

For city people, friendships after retirement present a different problem. You may know your neighbors (many city people don’t) and you may have relatives with whom you are in contact; you may even retain some friends from your job—but these people are likely

to be scattered and it will become more and more of an effort to keep in touch with them. The most rewarding friendships you wall make in later life will come from your postretirement activities and hobbies.

Arts and Crafts and Hobbies — However much some of our abilities may deteriorate with ageing, the one attribute that remains unchanged throughout the years is the imagination. That’s why it is so important that as we approach retirement we learn an artistic skill. Art is selfexpression. The self that gets expressed is the important thing.

We will also need something else if we are retired: protection against

boredom and loneliness. We need to do something with our own hands, our own minds, our own imagination. Arts and crafts are the best possible medicine.

We don’t have to become an expert in any one of these. An art or craft is an avenue to enjoyment, a form of personality development and enrichment.

When Clifford Elvins, advertising manager of Imperial Life in Toronto, had a heart attack nine years ago, it took him away from work for two years. Actually, it was a blessing for it gave him a hobby which has enlivened his life since his formal retirement in 1945. One winter, on a trip to Florida, he picked up a few sea shells. Thus began an intriguing hobby which has led to a collection of 600 different kinds. It takes all of Elvins’ time—for he must pick and choose his shells carefully, boil them and treat them with acids, answer the letters of fellow collectors who trade shells with him from as far off as Switzerland and Australia, and index his growing collection. At 70 he’s vigorous and healthy and obviously a busy and a happy man.

There is no better insurance for a happy maturity -— early, middle or late—than creating forms of beauty through the use of your hands.

Retirement can be a curse or a blessing. It can make you feel your usefulness in life is over, or it can open up new doors of experience and accomplishment. It’s all a matter of planning; planning now. For if you live long enough the time will surely come when you will be faced with the question: now that my working life is over will the coming years be worst or best? If you’ll take my advice they’ll bring you a real second chance at life. ic