Reflections on the Changing Face of Retirement


The educators who attended the first ever Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course workshop did not realize just how significant their role was to be in our now retirement focused world. It was a Pro-D day some ten years ago when we walked into a packed secondary school classroom to deliver our much researched and newly minted workshop. The room was very quiet, yet it was also charged with a current of trepidation, and the expressions on the faces of the attendees were decidedly bleak. These participants were the leading edge of the boomer generation about to step forth into the world of retirement, and that world didn’t look particularly appealing.

Apart from the extensive information they’d received about the financial aspect of retirement, the only other preparation most had had was watching their parents or older friends and relatives. Somehow what they saw didn’t quite seem to fit this generational group’s goals and expectations. Simply by being at the workshop they had already sent out the first salvo from the retiring boomer expeditionary force which was to dramatically change yet another of our life stages.

To consider how things may have changed or stayed the same in the last ten years, we have taken a reflective look at some aspects of retirement that we want to share with you.

What is the biggest difference in the retirement world?

One of the major differences we’ve noticed over the last decade is that people approaching retirement seem to be doing so with more enthusiasm. Prospective retirees are pro-actively seeking out answers and they expect to get all the information available, whether it is about their pension, lifestyle or the myriad opportunities that may exist for them. Also, they are actively looking to engage in the challenges that may appear in later life, rather than being cautious and accepting of what might have been considered an appropriate life in retirement in the mid to late twentieth century. Today’s prospective retirees are decidedly more confident and forward-looking than their counterparts a decade or more ago.

How have resources for people approaching retirement changed?

In the latter half of the last century and the early years of this one, major financial institutions—banks, financial investors, insurance companies—were proficient at providing a variety of financial information to clients as they approached retirement. Then a few years ago this focus began to change and it was considered innovative when the major banks started to recognize that retirees wanted more than financial information. Their response was to take a more holistic approach to the information they provided to their clients. Now it is expected that these institutions will routinely provide tools about lifestyle options to help retirees decide what kind of financial support they need for whatever they choose to do in later years. While there is a plethora of information about the financial aspects of retirement available on bookstore shelves, little is available about other aspects of the retirement puzzle. Our book, Transition to Retirement: the Uncharted Course continues to be unique in exploring what and how to deal with the often emotional and confusing initial years of retirement. As well, there are books about retirees setting up successful businesses and going on incredible adventures. Finally, we have seen an increase in life coaches dealing with non-financial aspects of retirement.

How have perceptions about retirement changed?

One major change is that it is no longer pushing the envelope for a retiree to consider a new career, business or qualification after leaving a primary career. Being older even seems to be coming in vogue with examples of the Oscar-winning 83-year-old Christopher Plummer and the 91-year-old mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion, being given as fascinating examples of capable older people who continue to live life to the fullest, pursuing new careers or continuing with their old ones. At one time, retirees often had to justify their decision to embark on a new career, project or job after retirement, but now people are embracing this option with enthusiasm, creativity and success. Retirees do not tend to be hampered by the previously negative connotations of words such as “senior” and “retired” because life after retirement is now seen as being enriched and full of endless possibilities.

Has the transition from work to retirement changed?

Most definitely not, as evidenced by ongoing requests for information from people who have retired. Interestingly, a short while ago we became engaged in an unexpected conversation with a couple at a restaurant. They, along with some listeners to a national CBC interview we recently did, re-affirmed that as people pass through the transition from being fully engaged in a career to being retired, they are fraught with an unexpected mixture of emotion ranging from euphoria to angst. Because it is a major change, people who make the decision to retire from their primary careers still have an adjustment to make regardless of how motivated they are by the idea of retirement or how much planning they have done.

What should today’s retirees be aware of, and prepare for?

Obviously, preparation for retirement varies from person to person, but once you’ve made the decision to retire, probably the best way to prepare is to research the subject by reading whatever your financial advisor or institution has on the topic of retirement and by talking to others who have already retired. The single most important thing to remember is that you must give yourself time to go through the transition, however long it might take. Our book defines and explains the mixture of emotions you may encounter during this time and will give you a heads-up. It is also extremely important to be aware that you, as a retired educator, have an incredibly varied skill set and that age is no longer a barrier to pursuing some long treasured goal. Opportunities abound for former teachers and administrators. Volunteer organizations welcome people who are able to organize and think on their feet; so do groups that use docents, but equally, your skills can help you bring to fruition a long held desire to set up a business or establish a service.

Final Word

Retirement is the topic of conversation which spontaneously ignites when people of a certain age get together. The drive and determination of the leading edge boomers has helped carve a way through the old thinking, lackluster services, the need to prove credibility and ability of older, energetic, striving people, so that you, as a new retiree, will have an easier go of it. So, embrace your retirement and be open to any intriguing opportunities that might come your way, because you have a lot to offer and, equally, to enjoy.

It’s not all smooth sailing because you’ve got years of productive and challenging life ahead of you and sometimes not knowing what to do with it is the hardest thing of all, and that hasn’t changed. Planning is the key, and you are fortunate to have an incredible and immense variety of tools to draw upon.


Carol Baird-Krul and Enise Olding
Carol and Enise are the creators of a series of pre-retirement and post-retirement planning workshops: Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course©, Recently Retired: Charting a New Course© and Ideas… Enhanced and Advanced©, and authors of Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course. Previous articles on retirement may be viewed in back issues at

This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s May/June 2012 issue.

You may also like