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5 Lessons about Work and Retirement I've Learned from Working with Seniors

I will never retire and I never want to.


I used to be just like you, dreaming of the day I could hand in my resignation papers and leave the working world.

But, over my nursing career something changed.

I'm going to share the wisdom from countless conversations and meticulous social histories with seniors.

Starting with this conversation:

A year ago today I received some wisdom from a very wealthy person who retired in their 40s.

After retirement they spent a few years in the way most of us fantasize about living after we won the lottery.

They spent leisurely lunches out and vacationed around the world.

As they shared the juicy details of their lavish meals and exotic travel locales.

I day dreamed through it.

I could smell the sea, feel the sway of the yacht, and taste the Micheline stars.

But, they revealed a secret.

"That was the darkest time of my life. Retirement is a sure way to guarantee you become irrelevant," he said.

Skip forward - they are now well beyond typical retirement age, running their business, more successful than ever and happy as ever.

This patient felt a sense of purpose and social connection through their work that they didn't feel while drinking mimosas at 11am on the coast of some beautiful far away land.

I couldn't help but think of all of the conversations I'd had with my nursing colleagues at 3am on a night shift between code blues and patient call bells.

My nursing counterparts were counting the years before they could take early retirement at 55.

They knew down to the day and had the count down clock - and their lives - ticking merrily down.

They never talked about finding other opportunities in line with their passion or seeking courses and conferences in an area they were passionate about.

They certainly never spoke of taking up nursing again after retirement - only about this vague thing we know called retirement.

Working with the over 65 population has taught me a few things about work and retirement.

Here are my top 5 lessons about work and retirement I've learned from seniors:

1. Retire from your job, don't retire from your brain and body!

The saying if you don't use it, you lose it rings true for brain health, cognitive function and every other human bodily function.

Over and over again I see a link between memory decline and retirement.

The excuse of "because I'm getting older" often doesn't hold up.

The brain has the capacity to build and maintain complex connections that allow us to do anything from remember your own name, to drive a car, to run a multimillion dollar company.

But, like a muscle that isn't used, it will waste away when you are no longer challenging it.

If you retire and wake up leisurely at 11am, watch tv most of the day, take frequent naps, eat cookies and tea 3 meals a day, and never leave the house except to buy a new roll of toilet paper you will suffer a steep decline.

Most jobs or careers involve a daily routine with some level of physical activity, some form of mental challenge and some complex social relationships.

Your retirement should also offer the same complexity and activity for your body and brain!

2. Stay relevant!

You may dream a retirement where you avoid all human contact and spend most of your time reclining leisurely with your pets in a cabin in the woods.

There may be a temptation to go off the grid, stop keeping up with new technology, and quit discussing politics.

You hope to leave behind the societal woes that currently excite you and pass on the responsibility of solution finding to the younger generation.

You may find yourself feel bored and disillusioned with retirement quickly.

Plan to never stop learning.

Furthermore, plan to be more active than ever in your community for the causes you are passionate about.

Are you in a situation today where you can't find the guts to speak up about appalling work conditions because you are mid-career and you can't afford to lose your income?

Do your colleagues and fellow human beings a favour and speak up after retirement!

3. Live with purpose!

Better than waiting for retirement - start addressing the issues you're passionate about now!

If you haven't discovered your purpose yet (you will know this is you if you feel anxious, bored or are continually thinking about retirement) seek it!

How do you find your purpose?

Start by reading the Secret to Getting What You Want after you've finished reading and sharing this blog!

Was that blog too ambitious for you? Then read my blog on Micro Conditioning to start moving your life in the direction you need to go!

4. Master stress management!

When you think of retirement do you envision blue skies, smile, and feel your resting heart rate decrease?

What if you could feel that way right now? And for the rest of your life - without retiring!

Feeling overly stressed is one of the main reasons people want to retire.

It's also responsible for increasing waist lines, inflammation in the body, heart attacks, and chronic disease.

Stress management is a core component for all of my clients whether clinical patients or career advice seekers.

There are many ways to manage stress and a good stress management strategy incorporates several.

Meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy, talk therapy, yoga, mindfulness, exercise, healthy eating, nutraceutical supplementation.

5. Pursue your dreams now!

One of the top regrets of the dying published in a book by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware was:

"I wish I hadn't worked so hard"

What I think this really means is I wish I didn't work so hard on things I didn't care deeply about.

Retirement isn't necessary when what you do day-to-day drives you, multiplies your health and happiness, and adds value for others.

Hard work toward your dreams is fulfilling rather than draining.

As the old saying goes, "The trouble is you think you have time, but you don't."

Pursue your dreams now instead of waiting until retirement.

Dreaming of early retirement? Looking for career advice to change your life?

Reach out on the home page and let's connect for a discovery session.

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