Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • February-March 2024 • Circulation 5000

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Reflections on Retirement, From the Beach

I spent the month of November on my favourite beach in Mexico. I have been to Zihuatenjo more than a dozen times and plan to go again as being there is wonderful. It’s warm, sunny, and very relaxed. There are many senior Canadians spending part of the wretched Canadian winter there. When you spend a month on the beach watching the waves there is a lot of time for reflection.

We rented a house right on the beach and a couple of times this Mexican family set up their big shade tent in front of us. The older seniors were escorted down the beach slowly and given one of the comfortable folding chairs. The littlest children played at the edge of the waves. The fathers and teens were buried in the sand. There were teenagers with tattoos and floppy pants. There were young mothers and fathers and grandparents playing with the babies. When they all left, the beach seemed strangely vacant.

As I watched this multigenerational family interact, it occurred to me that we have forgotten how to be with other people. We live in single family homes, often alone. We play computer games by ourselves instead of card games with each other. Generally speaking, as a culture we are more interested in our “toys” than in each other. Our culture focuses on buying and we are bombarded with messages to get more stuff.

Most of us, except in cases of poor health, can choose when we retire. And generally, if we have had an opportunity to think about retirement, we will make plans about future activities such as spending winters on the beach.

As we age our relationships change. This happens for many reasons. Retirement means new activities and a change in the daily rhythm of living. Priorities and interests change as we move out of our careers and jobs. This may mean loss of status or spheres of influence. Attitudes about age, both our own and others is also a factor. The reality is that as we age, we potentially at least have less power in the world both perceived and real. And so, how people behave toward seniors and how we behave as seniors changes us. This change is not all bad but like any major change in life, there are gains and losses.

Most of us, except in cases of poor health, can choose when we retire. And generally, if we have had an opportunity to think about retirement, we will make plans about future activities such as spending winters on the beach. For me, retirement has been a gradual process. I left full time employment in 2007 and since have worked only part time, scaling back the amount of time working. Still, even in this gradual process of retirement there are changes. Where previously I was in charge, now I am one of the workers. On the one hand, as I constantly remind my current boss, I am very glad I don’t have to be responsible for workplace issues and solutions but on the other hand, I sometimes grieve over the loss of control and authority. And as I move from the work world to the world of seniors, with less influence, my behaviour has to change to accommodate that new reality. As with all changes, it is a rocky path.

In closing, here are a few messages for 2013. May you have less and share it more. May 2013 be the year we discover the delights of just being together whatever our quirks. And finally, may the Alberta Government agree to increasing Canada Pension Plan rates so that seniors in the future will have greater income protection.

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