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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Who Am I As I Enter Retirement: Additional Thoughts

         Some time ago I created a post entitled: “Who am I Now: The Challenge of Retirement”.  At that time I concluded with the words,  “Retirement is a good time to drop labels and be who we really are."  This type of thinking may be connected with the process of elder wisdom, which concentrates on re-evaluating what behavior is really important in the here and now and resolving the conflict between integrity and despair.
     The following ideas are based on an article by Ursina Teuscher, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego.[i]  In Teuscher's research, the question  is asked about the changes people have in self-image after they retire.  Whatever I say to myself, beginning next September it is highly likely that  it will include being a former Psychology Professor.   
      Teuscher used a survey, which she had translated from German into English.  First, I will go through the questions in the survey and answer  some of them from my own perspective. 1. How satisfied am I with my body fitness? Well I feel pretty good about it. I ride my bike in pleasant weather and currently walk back and forth to work, (about 45 minutes) once a week and I accept that I am no longer a university football player.  2. Building on the last question I also go on brief hikes with one of my son’s when he visits.  3. I believe that I have good relationships beginning with the love of my wife and ranging to members of the department where I work and members of the Senior's Centre Board where I am a member.  Severeal days ago, as I left a department meeting early, several professors waved goodbye. They are not my closest friends but they cared enough to wave.  4. My interests, besides teaching include, being on the board of the local Seniors Centre, and designing workshops to take into the community, including retirement, wisdom, and memory workshops  5. My mental capacities are ok but I do experience a growing problem with remembering people’s names. 6. I believe that I am respected by members of the community as well as my family and friends. 7. I don’t think that I am the best looking guy on the block but I look at my self in the mirror and I feel ok.  After all what are you supposed to look like when you’re 71.  8. Financially I could be in better shape.  I’ve been working part-time for the last five years and my pension and workshop fees will be ok but I don’t expect to be able to fly around the world on vaction.  9. Finally, my life in general is ok. My dad died in his mid seventies from cancer. My mother is still alive at 95 and I hope that to some degree longevity has certain genetic factors and that I got those genes from my mom.
         The researcher's  next set of questions have to do with attitudes toward “old age.” I am particularly interested in ageist attitudes, I designed our department's aging course and have taught it for the last 12 years. The only research studies I have ever put my heart into are about ageism. My interest of old age focuses on exploring several things including the rise of Wisdom and the importance of memory and longevity..
     Getting back Tuescher's main interests, the participants in the research  were asked questions about the “different domains” of their identity.  There are fourteen of them listed below.
 “If you had to characterize yourself, which of the following points are important to you?  
1.   My Nationality
2.   My roles within my family (parent-,grandparent etc)
3.   My partnership
4.   My profession or occupation (for retirees: my former profession
5.   Honorary posts or volunteer work
6.   Characteristics of my body/ my appearance
7.   Characteristics of my personality
8.   My age
9.   My life story
10.      The associations and organizations I belong to
11.      My circle of friends
12.      My leisure time activities
13.      My values or my belief
14.      For retirees: the fact that I am retired

       She was surprised to find out that the professional domain was as important for the retired persons as it was for those yet to retire.  In conclusion“The loss of the professional role after retirement apparently did not lead to a loss of professional identity."


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