This question is in the anxiety corner of the lives of many who are approaching retirement. Whenever someone announces "I am retiring" he or she is inevitably asked "What will you do?"
Many have experienced this challenge to thinking and planning. What will I do? Where will I live? How will I manage financially? What about my doctor? What about my roots, my family, and my friends? There are no easy answers, and no single answer for everyone.
As nurses in all walks of life and especially nurses working in the field of gerontology nursing, learn how to allay the fears and apprehensions of those who are planning to retire and, in so doing, help to alleviate our own concerns.
It has been said in different ways that there is a continuity throughout our lives, and nearly the identical person exists within us that was there in early years. I find older people do not think of themselves as aged as long as they are vigorous, physically. I think we may identify with persons of similar vigor rather than those of the same chronological age. It is comforting to know we seem to adapt to the many changes that occur in the world around us while we remain basically the same person we have always been.
Retirement is a new lifestyle; it is, in a sense, a shifting of gears as we enter unexplored areas. I have discovered that some of the happiest retired people are those who look forward to retirement as an opportunity to do many pleasant things for which they never had enough time. For many it is a time to enjoy, at little cost, visits to a museum, quiet hours reading or listening to music, taking long walks . . . the list is a long one and includes gardening, crafts, and work with civic, charitable, and religious groups. Also, there are trips postponed during the working years that may be taken now. One can also branch out from Golden Age Centers to working with young people at many activities.
For gerontological nurses facing retirement there are numerous opportunities to continue to function in the field of their expertise. There are clients who need help with rehabilitation, with eating, who need to be read to. or perhaps just need a sympathetic ear.
To those of you who are thinking about retirement, whatever your present age, I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of preparation. How you fare as you approach the older age group and finally become a member of it will depend on your own attitude toward aging . . . whether you are willing to get old, or whether you prefer to enter the process of growing old. Helpful material on retirement can be found in many articles and books. I have just finished reading ? Time to Enjoy the Pleasures of Aging by Lilliam Dangott and Richard Kalish who point out that, whatever your age, "Goals, incentives, life meanings, purposes . . . these are creative quests that never end."
I have been retired from nursing for seven years and these have been happy and rewarding years because I saw the need to spend time preparing for this period of my life and for this new lifestyle. May I urge you to begin preparation early, set your sights high, develop a variety of interests that can be pursued into later years and, above all, maintain a positive mental and emotional attitude. This I believe will serve as an effective recipe for enjoyment of your retirement years when "What Will I Do?" will become less ponderous of a question. Do this for yourself and help others to do the same!