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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Driving Home: A Transition For Older Drivers

       On October 15th of this year, my birthday, I became 71-years-old.   I was notified about two months ago that I would need to come in to get my driver’s license renewed.  I was afraid.  What if “they” were going take my license away? My wife Elizabeth, assured me that it would be a formal procedure, just like past renewals. Why was I afraid, after all five years ago I fought mandatory retirement at the University and was able to stay on?
       Buttoning up my fear, I went in to have my license renewed. It was a straight forward process, just like all the times since I was 16 and proudly earned my first license.  As I left the building, after filling out the paperwork, I gave a deep sigh, got in my car and drove home.

        Research studies of have found that “driving cessation can result in unfavourable outcomes including:
·           Increased depressive symptoms
·           Decreased community engagement
·           Isolation and
·           Safety risks associated with alternative transport use

       Research, conducted in Australia has explored the process and outcomes of driving cessation.  For instance “Driving in the past comprises the early history of driving that shapes the meaning and identity that an individual attaches to driving.”   Loss of driving is not only a life transition it is a practical loss.  For instance the research notes that retired drivers spend less time with their social networks and are more likely to stay home, expressing lower life satisfaction.

       In Australia occupational therapy researchers have developed the UQDRIVE program to help support retiring drivers.  It is based on three principles:
·        Empowerment of older people
·        Phases of Driving cessation and
·        Individuality of experience

        The program includes an “intensive support program developed as a group format delivered to between 8 and 15 retiring or retired drivers for 3 to 4 hrs per week for 6 weeks and includes topics like:

  • Driving in later life
  •  Experiences of retiring from driving and
  • Adjusting to losses and changes
       I hope we have something like that around here.  If we do, I’m sure someone will let us know.

For more info go to:  www.uqdrive@

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Retirement Planning: A Discovery

Something very exciting happened today as I surfed the net at Kwantlen. I came across an article published by researchers in New Zealand this past spring that explores retirement planning. Those attending my Retirement Workshop yesterday at Kwantlen said they want  to share ideas about retirement planning with others.

The researchers, Noone, Stephens, and Alpass constructed a 52-question survey investigating the processes of retirement planning.

The fifty two items were spread through four categories:
  1. Retirement Representations i.e. what people think and understand about retirement
  2. Retirement Goals
  3. The decision to prepare for retirement
  4. Preparing for retirement
For the rest of this Blog entry I intend to present one item from each of the four categories.

Retirement Representation:
  1. I often talk to my family about financial issues for retired people
  2. I often compare my current health with how I would like to be in the future.
  3. I often compare how I spend my time now with how I would like to spend my time in retirement.
  4. I often compare my current roles with the roles I would like to have as a retired person.

Retirement Goals:
  1. I have specific goals about the financial position I want in retirement.
  2. I have specific goals for my long-term health
  3. I have specific goals about regarding how I want to spend my time in retirement
  4. I have specific goals regarding the future roles I would like to hold as a retiree.

The Decision to Prepare for Retirement
  1. I’d rather deal with any financial issues closer to retirement, rather than`making financial provisions now.
  2. It’s too early for me to consider my long-term health.
  3. I know that people in my age group are developing new ways to spend their time.
  4. It is worthwhile to prepare for changes to my roles as a retired person.

Preparing to retire:
  1. By the time I retire, I will have sufficient income to ensure the standard of living I want in retirement,
  2. I only eat foods that will benefit my long-term health
  3. There are many things I could do with my time if I was forced to retire today
  4. I have many things outside of work that I would like to pursue.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Continuing Social Interests into Retirement

Since my days as a graduate student, I have been involved in social activities. After finishing my master’s degree, in order to continue my education I moved to Detroit Michigan where earned a PhD. I also joined the civil rights movement.  Many of my fellow activists were Baby Boomers who are now approaching their retirement years.
An important factor for our satisfactory adjustment is the development of wisdom. According to the Max Plank Institute, unlike relatively simple intelligence, wisdom reflects understanding and making decisions about uncertain matters in life, which frequently involves social relationships. 
In a book entitled Wisdom, Wille Nelson, an American musician and community activist who is now 76-years-old, says to act wisely we must “Be here. Be present. Wherever we are, be there.”  
Now, as the Boomers approach their lives as seniors, the rest of society seems to be frightened by their numbers and the effects of an “Aging Society”. The formal term used is “Apocalyptic Demography”
It is important for us all, and particularly those of us who are senior citizens, to take good look at our lives and community expectations. We can ask ourselves about the social relationships that we continue to experience as seniors and about new ones we can develop.
Aside from having close friends and extended family, many seniors continue to contribute to society through volunteer work, care giving and civic activities.  On a wider scale the World Health Organization refers to our social involvement as “active aging.”
Until recently, British Columbia maintained mandatory retirement, which basically asserted that after 65 employees were less valuable to society. Many of those forced into retirement took the lesson to heart. They began to see themselves less competent, developed lower self-esteem and negative self-stereotypes.  
On the other hand a good example of senior’s social relationships, active aging and social interest is expressed through volunteering.  It has been reported that in recent years three million Canadian retirees spent five billion hours each year on productive activities (paid and volunteer), which represents a contribution to the Canadian economy of about $60 billion dollars. Millions of older people continue the break the stereotype of uselessness and are vital members of their community and society as a whole.
As I approach retirement next year my social interest also continues to grow.  I am on the board of the Langley Seniors Resource Society; the co-founder of ICAL, the Intergenerational Centre for Action Learning, a not for profit, and a co-owner of a private company BC Community Building: Research and Action. If you would like to know more you can check our websites at ICAL.Ca, and

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ageism and Retirement

         Two years ago, I conducted a study exploring ageism in British Columbia.  It examined patterns of employment victimization, and personal rejections based on a person’s age. 
         Ageism is different from the other types of “ism” such as sexism and racism.  Unlike those forms of bias, ageism may affect anyone who lives long enough to become a target of discrimination. While there are both positive and negative aspects of ageism, by far it has negative consequences for seniors.  Because of systemic ageism we may come to incorporate ageist self stereotypes such as “I don’t feel. (your real age} I feel” … (a younger age.)
         Two of the survey questions, to which a person could agree or disagree, were directly related to employment. They were:
Being denied employment because of age. Ten percent of the people said yes and denied promotion because of age (7% replied yes).   Eight hundred and fifteen people responded to the questions.   Because the questions were standardized from another survey, I did not include: I was forced to retire because of my age.  Mandatory Retirement at least for the time being has been eliminated. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t “persuaded” against there gut feeling.
If you have been, or are being pressured or seduced into premature retirement, I’d like to hear your story. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Love and Work

         According to Sigmund Freud love and work are the corner stones of our humanness. In Freud’s time, gender roles were more clearly divided than they are today; the husband went out into the community to work and the wife stayed home and managed the household and children.  These days, the division of labour is not so distinct.  Although many women work full-time, women’s career paths are more likely to include both household management and part-time employment.
       For women, having social networks and being involved in a community are important factors predicting retirement satisfaction and adjustment. This is particularly true for women with higher educational attainment.
       Not surprisingly, professional women are less likely to identify with homemaker roles and are more likely to work part time after retirement. Those who have worked full time are more likely to volunteer after retiring
       However educational experience does not does not predict women’s sharing of leisure activities with friends and family, their interest in volunteering and their religious activities

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Work And The Transition To Retirement

   First of all let’s define work as behaviour that contributes to society for which we get paid. In the case of volunteering, we do it for free.  Getting paid is society’s recognition of our usefulness. Retirement may be seen by others, and us, as a form of laziness.  In extreme cases this, building on ageist stereotypes, envisions a world where seniors, “live off of other people”.
     Being engaged in our work is an important factor in our productivity and job satisfaction.  Engagement is work related and characterized by energy, commitment and absorption. There is a strong correlation between work engagement and work satisfaction. Key aspects of our work besides pay are recognition, organizational support and the work environment.
     What happens when we retire? According to Ernie Zelinski, in his very popular book “How to Retire, Happy, Wild and Free:” What will you do with your time if you have never learned to enjoy your leisure?  He goes on to say, “What may be missing is a sense of purpose and some meaning to your life.”
   Nancy Schlossberg, in her recently published book “Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose.” one of the key aspects of successful work is “mattering”-- being “noticed, appreciated, and depended on.”
In the book Schlossberg, asks us to respond to the following Concerns:
1.    “ Who am I?  I feel that I am no longer off any use.”
2.  “ I have to work on marital relationships because we are now eyeball to eyeball”
3. " I have lost my buddies. I have to adjust to not seeing as many people each day.
4.  I am struggling to regain my sense of purpose.”
       In summary, a large part of our transition to retirement involves preparation and strengthening of our social relationships and developing new ways to contribute to our community.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts About The Retirement Process

For the majority of my adult life, with the exception of five years as an Industrial Psychologist, I have been a Post Secondary Psychology Professor and next August 2011 I intend to retire.  Retirement is the most widely shared transition for older adults and looked at the right way, can be considered as liberation. Looked at the wrong way it is a major step toward decline and death.
I intend to be successful in my retirement and this will require me to be productively engaged in life. Research has confirmed that in order to be successful we have to find or create a new path and realize that we cannot simply land on the beach and face a broad ocean with a storm on the horizon. One of the aspects of the storm is self-stereotyping which  holds that to be “old” is to decline.  And, from a financial standpoint, we must also understand that our self-worth is not measured by our net worth.
Erik Erikson, an esteemed Developmental Psychologist, tells us that those who retire and are closely identified with work face the threat of losing their sense of identity.  He argues that our major task during the retirement process is to seek new sources of identity, replacing those lost in retirement.
Robert Atchley has suggested five typical phases to retirement:
1. honeymoon—freedom of time and space
2. discenchantment—facing the reality of everyday life in retirement
3. reorientation—develop a realistic view of financial and social    opportunities as well as limitations of retirement
4. stability—accommodation to retirement
5. termination—eventual loss of independence
Do any of them ring a bell for you ?
Gene Cohen in his book The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain urges us to reinvent retirement. He suggests that we should not let other people push as around.  Indeed, the differences between work and retirement are becoming less distinct. Cohen conducted some research and  found many people had not done any planning for retirement.  Less than 10% had done anything beyond financial planning.  He also asked “What gives you a sense of meaning or purpose in life.”   Almost everybody said that if was making a contribution and helping others. Sounds like a good clue to me. So, I think I’ll stop now and would appreciate any comments you may  have.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Aging, Stress and Interpersonal Relations

Over the last few days I have experienced more than usual amounts of stress.  First, I am preparing to return to the classroom. As an instructor, my need to have everything prepared increases stress and affects my memory.  For example, yesterday I went to my upstairs office three times to see if I had completed my Introductory Psychology Course Outline.
          The other more extreme experience occurred two days ago when I drove my car over at the Muriel Arnason Library to see the room where I will be presenting my Retirement Workshop next week.  When, came back outside, I put my key in the ignition. It would not start the engine and the gears would not shift.  Needless to say my stress-response system kicked in and the cortisol began pumping. And there was no one to “fight” and nowhere to run away. My wonderful wife and I only live about fifteen minutes, by bicycle, from the Library. I called her and she rode over. I was so stressed that I could not take effective action. She took over and movement began. I waited for an hour till Roadside Help arrived. Ten minutes later we were at the repair shop. The car has now been fixed and my brain has rebalanced.
         It has been found that social support helps buffer us against stress by helping decrease blood pressure and it helps us live longer. On the other hand poor interpersonal relationships increase our wear and tear and shortens our lives.  Obviously our stress responses, in a short-term “fight or flight” situation, might save our lives.
         It has been suggested that stress experience coupled with good social relationships is a factor in helping us learn to recover more quickly from discouragement.  Aging inevitably exposes us to stressful situations. Survival and adaptation may contribute to our wisdom and personal growth.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Early Retirement Factor

Throughout the last part of the 20th Century most people retired between 60 and 64. Now the average retirement age is actually rising. With the growing economic uncertainty, some people may think that early retirement is bad for society; that those who retire, especially those who decide to retire early, will not be pulling their own weight.  These attitudes reflect as growing attitude of ageism.
Let’s take a closer look at early retirement motivation.  Generally, early retirement is taken by workers with health problems or those who have accomplished good incomes in anticipation of early retirement. Some companies providing private pension plans actually encourage early retirement so they can ether pay a lower salary to new employees or keep the job vacant.
People with low incomes and no pension plan report that they will never retire. One study in 1998 found that just less than half of all people reported that they expected to work after retirement and a large number of those who retired at 65 continued some kind of part-time work.  
In British Columbia the Provincial Government has recently dramatically cut spending and retirement itself is viewed creation of new dependency even though most retirees, early or not, continue to engage in socially useful activities including volunteering and part-time work.
Sometimes, older people looking for work after early retirement find re-entry into the workforce difficult.  For example, Ted, a former CEO, now in his seventies, retired at 58, thinking that is what he should do. But after a couple of years he discovered the whole syndrome of being “young-old”. He reports that, “You have all your juices, all your ability but no obligations to go work just for money.” Ted believes that: “When you’ve had power for a number of years, your value is your power not your abilities.” He further explains, “When you are out of the ‘power loop’ your abilities are no longer valued.”  He reports: “I’ve started looking for another job, but being in my 70’s, I get a very cold reception. They seem to listen to you but they don’t see you. You’re a non-person.”  This suggests that, with early retirement, he has ignored his attachment identity to work.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Essential Retirement: Psychological Concerns

Everyone is searching for successful retirement.  Pardon me for being such an academic but I  am half way through "Essential Retirement: Psychological Concerns" and I can't put it down.  Dr. John Osborne has written a book that we all should read.  Think of any problem you may have with anticipating or engaging in Retirement--He Has Suggestions That Are Useful.  His book is published by Possum Press and is published in Canada.