I have been thinking about baby boomers who, for one reason or another, have left the daily grind. No more snooze button to hit, no more gridlock. Gone is the relentless psycho babble cascading from the next cubicle and (a boost in morale, so they say) Casual Fridays.
More and more, it seems, guys in their early to middle 60s have chosen to call it a career. Of course, there are those indefatigable ones who are textbook examples of kinetic energy. In Ontario, Canada, the mayor of one town is 92. Here at home, my friends Massimo Mazziotti, co-owner of Pasta Plus restaurant, and Shirley Redd, a pillar of vitality at the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber, are members in good standing of the Perfectly Fulfilled Club, letting their unique lights shine as they clock an untold number of hours.
Of course, this is ennobling. But when reality hits and you discover you no longer have a "filling station" from which to derive financial, emotional and social sustenance, what then?
"Walk everyday!" rhapsodized a spirited 70ish gal who, long ago retired from her data processing job, continues to work part time at the Laurel Wal-Mart, a job she's held since the store opened 20 years ago. "I take yoga and I meditate. I go to the senior center. I try to spread my joy."
Feeling defeated by her enthusiasm, I took my matching titanium hips — and my wounded pride — and channeled my personal Fountain of Youth: Don Worsham. He turned 68 recently, less than a year after retiring from the Army. And although many of us who know Don are sick with envy over the resemblance he has with Orioles slugger Cal Ripken Jr., Don looks in much better shape than the 54-year-old Hall of Famer.
"When you retire," the dynamo next door began, "stay away from watching TV all day. Don't be a couch potato. Make more friends, volunteer for different things. Get involved with your friends whenever possible." (As one of the go-to people at the Laurel American Legion, Don does all of the above —and so much more. Like helping me pretend I know how to install a toilet seat, railing, leaf bag, turn signal bulb, etc.)
Then there is another good friend, Tom Dwyre, who, by coincidence, turned 63 on the same date Don turned 68.
One thing I always admired about Tom is how early he stepped away from his job at the Social Security Administration. At 55, he was a mere pup. Linda, Tom's wife of 33 years, is the same age. They worked together at the same agency and called it quits at the same time. Now the couple spend most of their time at their cozy and quaint (nearly) seaside retreat in Rehoboth Beach.
I asked Tom about the place structure plays during retirement. Structure, he replied, "is a rather harsh word. Routine might be a better word, especially your sleep and wake cycles. My typical day? I'm usually up at 8, and I drink coffee and check e-mails. Having two houses keeps me busy. Relationships are important. It's very easy to become isolated. Get out of your house and do something — anything." One more sterling morsel of advice: "For those about to retire, expect the unexpected health issues. Issues with kids. Issues with money — or the lack of it. Go easy on the money during the first year or two."
The last person I chatted with, Jim, preferred I didn't use his last name. Jim's been off leash as a government contractor since April. At 63, he likes to tackle projects around the house. He also likes to hang with his adult sons and always has a hot meal on the table whenhis wife rolls in from the office. But, he warned, there are still holes that need caulking in the daily schedule. "Make sure you have a circle of friends you can stay in touch with. If you don't have that, it can really affect you. There's only so much you can do around the house. Bowl, volunteer, join a club."
Our gal at Wal Mart says, "Focus and smile," her spirited voice filling the health and beauty aisle. "Be happy! Pray pray pray! Then get in your car and go. Zoom!"