Not My Parents’ Retirement by
(149 Stories)

Prompted By Retirement

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My parents’ retirement took place at what now seems a unique time, unlike that of my grandparents, unlike mine. My grandparents worked hard and had retirements that were short because they lived just a few years beyond their official retirement dates. My grandmother Rose even worked part time taking care of elderly people in a nursing home until a year before she died.

I had optimistic hopes about what retirement would be like, tempered with realism.

My parents married early–my dad was 22, my mom 20, and so by the time they were in their 50s, their parents had died and my brother and I were independent young adults. Thus, even before my dad retired, they had relative freedom, and once in their 60s, had a decade of travel and fun. We were worried about my dad when he retired a few years early due to a company buy-out, because he had few hobbies. However, he worked several hours a week consulting for his old company, and then volunteered for the Oakland library, where he turned its ailing bookstore into a profit-making engine. When he passed away at 75, a lot of the library volunteers and staff came to the memorial service.

When I retired 2-1/2 years ago, I had optimistic hopes about what it would be like, tempered with realism. I was ready to leave my full-time corporate job after 11 years and return to my long-time career in freelancing, although this time on a part-time basis. This has happened to a degree, although I don’t have as much paid work as anticipated. I’d hoped to get the amount of sleep I really need and exercise more. Mostly true. I could write more (hooray Retrospect, and I am in a poetry group). And, I could expand my cooking skills (ha, I guess I’ll never be domestically focused). There are piles of family photos to sort through, and more genealogy research to do, and I haven’t even started those activities.

The realism comes in with growing responsibilities for my partner, who is more than 20 years older than I, and my mother. During the last couple of years of my full-time work Dick already had health problems. I spent almost the entire first year of my retirement helping my mom through a hip replacement, and then selling her condo and moving her to a senior residence, so it feels as if I’ve been retired a much shorter time. Every couple of months, I take on a bit more to help Dick and my mom out. But that’s a story for another prompt.

Like many others I know, realism dictates that I will work a little and help others in my life well into my 70s. Optimism lends hope that we (or I) will be healthy enough to do enjoyable things for some of that time and beyond. I feel lucky that I have a bunch of women friends, and we try to support each other. Many of us don’t have spouses or children, so we have talked (somewhat seriously) of eventually pooling our resources so that we can live in community and hire the help we need. We have the baby boomer worry–outliving our money.

Bottom line? Retirement, which can mean a lot of different things to different people, is a big adjustment. It’s a messy mix of joys and disappointments, and it’s constantly changing. Who knows how I will feel about it five years from now?

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: been there, moving, well written


  1. Thanks Marian, I find intriguing your idea of possibly pooling resources and living in community.

    Indeed retirement is a mixed blessing, the trick obviously is too stay healthy to enjoy it. Wishing that for us all!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I understand your concern about care-taking, Marian. It sounds like you still have a lot of responsibilities besides being carefree and doing whatever you please. As you point out, retirement does not always mean ticking off all those projects you’ve hoped you’d get through. We are the sandwich generation, with aging parents, and children who may or may not be entirely launched and independent. Good luck with the balance.

  3. Suzy says:

    Very thoughtful story, Marian. Are you saying your parents’ retirement was at a “unique time” because they didn’t have anyone but themselves to worry about? While you now have both your mother and your sweetheart to take care of. Hope you are getting at least some time for yourself. I like your idea of a community of women pooling their resources. Sounds like a great way to spend one’s golden years.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Marian, you really expressed what I feel about the contrast between my parents’ retirement and my husband’s and mine. Like yours, my parents retired in their 60s and had many years of travel and relaxation, their so-called Golden Years. I can’t figure out why that didn’t happen for us. In our 60s, we were both hard at work. I had a full time job and was also helping to care for my grandkids. Oh well, that ship has sailed. But in retrospect, my parents’ generation had the right idea. They enjoyed many years in which they were young and healthy enough to have a great time, and they felt no guilt about that.

    • Marian says:

      Right you are, Laurie. Part of our parents’ experience came down to demographics because our grandparents didn’t live as long. Thinking about this, I am glad my niece still has a living grandmother who can be at her upcoming wedding. That’s a blessing, but our systems of care certainly haven’t adjusted.j

  5. Ah, Marian…although I’m now married, I used to fantasize about pooling resources and living in community with my friends. I’d love to read about other women having done that successfully, because now it seems like more of an idealistic fantasy due to diverse family, financial, and privacy considerations. But I do watch Grace & Frankie and think how much fun THAT would be!

    I think some of the difference in retirement modes between generations also has to do with the times more than the individuals. Just as so many women of our generation have worked outside the home for both financial reasons and just because we want to, men and women also work longer for those same reasons. Add to that the fact that younger generations marry later and put off having children longer and our being quick and eager to help care for their kids, and it’s easy to visualize our retirement options narrowing.

    • Marian says:

      I think you are right on, Barbara, about our generation working and our kids marrying late. My niece just got engaged, it’s likely I will be 70 before becoming a great aunt. I want to keep the community living option on the table although I don’t know how realistic it is, but it would be great fun in the ideal world.

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