Snapshots of retirement | April 2, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- April 2, 2021

Snapshots of retirement

New book looks at how baby boomers are changing the formula

by Chris Kenrick

Members of the baby boom generation — now in their late 60s and early 70s — are upending the traditional concepts of retirement, says Woodside resident Richard Haiduck, who spent months prior to the pandemic interviewing dozens of retired people for his new self-published book, "Shifting Gears: 50 Baby Boomers Share Their Meaningful Journeys in Retirement."

With longer lives and greater affluence than their parents' generation — plus a history of political activism — boomers are reinventing this stage of life with more activity, more passion and more experimentation, Haiduck said.

In his book, which was released in November, Haiduck offers 50 brief retirement stories from those whom he interviewed.

"Over time, I recognized a generational trend that couldn't be ignored," he wrote in the prologue to the book, "Active, engaged retirement is a driving force for this generation."

A boomer himself, Haiduck was easing into retirement from a business career when he decided to dig more deeply into the subject.

"I stumbled into several people telling me retirement stories that I just thought were amazing," he said in a recent interview. "I thought of seeking out more stories, and all of a sudden, I had a project."

The retirement choices of Haiduck's subjects range from the traditional — RV life, gardening, leisure, travel and tennis — to the less expected: A retired U.S. diplomat becomes a cowboy conservationist; a couple retires from medicine and teaching to offer weekly Buddhist mindfulness classes in a maximum-security prison.

One retiree described a passion for daily fly-fishing, another for surfing.

While some of the stories are mundane recitations of daily activities, others offer degrees of thoughtfulness and introspections on how the retiree arrived at his or her choices and what creates meaning at this stage of life.

A common theme is the struggle to balance serious commitments with flexibility and free time.

Dan, a retired fire chief still under 60 who continues to teach EMT classes at the College of San Mateo, said he doesn't want to "overcommit." At the same time, he doesn't want to become "the guy sitting on the recliner watching TV."

Marla, 78, said she struggles with "wanting to be involved in things but not wanting to be fully committed to a time schedule."

Other retirees mention the challenge of reinventing themselves after losing the identities they'd gained through long and fulfilling careers.

The 24/7 job of representing the U.S. overseas "was my whole persona," said Chuck, the retired diplomat. "When I retired, that whole persona flew away."

After running a South Africa-based birdwatching tour company for four years, Chuck became a volunteer backcountry ranger in Colorado for the U.S. Forest Service.

Once, while blocking traffic to help a rancher move his cattle, Chuck overheard some parents pointing him out to their child and saying, "Look, there's a real cowboy."

"My thought was, 'You should have seen me four or five years ago when I was riding in a black limousine with the American flag on the fender,'" Chuck said.

Some of Haiduck's subjects said they'd been surprised to find retirement life so enjoyable.

"I never thought life in one's 60s could be so much fun," said Dave, a retired CEO who has repurposed his business skills to contribute on several nonprofit boards. "I would say this is probably the happiest stage of my life,"

Noting he has fewer deadlines as well as the time and money to travel, a retiree named Ken said. "I am enjoying myself about as much as when I was in college," he said.

At the same time, many mentioned a heightened awareness of the ticking clock.

"We all think we're going to live forever in our 20s," said Dan, the retired CEO. "Somewhere along the line, you realize that's probably not going to happen, but it's hard to internalize that."

After seeing his father and grandfather die at 63 and 60 — before they'd had a chance to retire — Dan determined at 51 that he would retire early, which he did, at 61. "I wanted to make sure I was around to have some fun," he said. "You never know, so enjoy it while you can."

Nancy, who travels the world with her husband and also volunteers as a tutor and on the board of her homeowners association, said they travel because "We want to do it while we can."

After a heart attack, James, a multi-sport competitor in the Senior Olympics and the Chinese Olympics, said, "I realize we're all living on borrowed time. I've got to make a point of spending more quality time with my wife and friends."

Though several retirees felt they'd gained wisdom and perspective as they aged, Don, a 76-year-old marathon runner who retired from the insurance business, stressed he's still got plenty to learn.

"I don't have the answers, especially the older I get," Don said. "I thought I'd have it figured out a little bit better by now."

For more information about "Shifting Gears: 50 Baby Boomers Share Their Meaningful Journeys in Retirement," go to richardhaiduck.com.

Email Contributing Writer Chris Kenrick at [email protected]

Comments

Posted by Dakota
a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2021 at 8:27 am

Dakota is a registered user.

Another touching account of how aging babyboomers are STILL trying to find some meaning in their lives.

From Woodstock to BMWs to advancing old age with touching tales of further self-emersion and organic herb gardens.

"It's alright Ma, I'm only dying."
Remember the author?


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2021 at 8:53 am

Bystander is a registered user.

My parents lived through WW2 and in many ways that experience affected their lives right through to old age and retirement.

As they aged their wartime experiences stayed with them. Growing their own vegetables seemed to become more important rather than less. They had more time to enjoy life than their parents and they had more years of retirement than their parents. They saw more of the world with travel being relatively quick, easy and cheaper than before. They had better health than their parents which meant they lived longer after their retirement in their own home.

When talking about the boomer generation, I think it is worth stating that this age of seniors in retirement started with the generation before the boomers, those who grew up long before the boomers were born.


Posted by Not Good Enough
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2021 at 9:55 am

Not Good Enough is a registered user.

Many white boomers had the security of their parents post-WW2 financial security, and then their own. But everyone saw their wages degrade in the 1970's, unless they were in a union, then the US economy began to change for the worse. Now many boomers struggle financially.

I noted the above clause describing boomers, "...a history of political activism...". No kidding. The tsunami of Vietnam tested boomers and they organized by the millions, giving it their all to stop the War, women and men, many putting themselves in real jeopardy given the illegal repression by the FBI (COINTELPRO - google it).

Many draftees non-violently and openly resisted going into the army. They risked or went to prison, others organized against the illegal war (as is now recognized) in the military. Finally only 1 in 3 draftees even showed up at Oakland Army induction center. It was the biggest war time draft resistance since the Civil War.

Boomers started 2nd Wave feminism, disabled rights, environmental movement, gay rights, and a cultural revolution in music, pictorial arts, literature, journalism, and more. No one retires from that.


Posted by Squidsie
a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2021 at 10:38 am

Squidsie is a registered user.

We Boomers had a much easier time than our parents, who endured the Depression and WWII. Unlike WWII, participation in Viet Nam was effectively optional,and you could stay home getting high and going to concerts, instead of getting killed or maimed, and proclaim your morality and "consciousness" , instead of being shunned as a draft dodger. Our economic struggles were trivial compared to the Depression. Instead of being forced to take any work available, we insisted on taking only work which fulfilled us.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2021 at 12:04 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

As a boomer, I hope our generation will use the potentially productive, healthy years of our retirement to make the world a better place for the people who will come after us. Travel generates a LOT of greenhouse gas emissions. It's good to see some of the world, but let's make thoughtful travel choices and not selfishly overindulge. Do something that will make the world safer, more stable and environmentally sustainable for our children and grandchildren. If you want to travel, consider eco-tourism. A great way to understand a culture is to work side by side with people to solve shred problems. European cities have turned into a sterile, Disney-esque tourist trap versions of the Europe I experienced as a young adult, bicycling around Europe. Consider traveling by e-cars, transit, and smaller e-vehicles like e-bikes. (Please do not repeat the old trope that seniors cannot ride bikes. Seniors have been doing it in Europe for years. If you want to meet the people of a place, do what they do. In the view of Europeans, Americans have gotten very lazy--an understandable perspective, given the lazy ways we behave while traveling. Our collective behavior abroad reflects on our nation.) I recently met an 83-year old man who had just returned from a bike tour of Belgium and the Netherlands. He was energizing. Let's live a little smaller (gardening can be a great green way to produce food and make your home environment more beautiful) and leave a little more for our kids and grandkids who are heavily burdened with debt. Use your energy for community service.

Oh, yeah. Turn your back on AARP. They were important when seniors were the poorest generation. Today, it is KIDS who are most impacted by poverty. Shame on us. AARP has become a massive lobbying business that does disservice to our nation.

Let's use our retirement to make the world better. There is lots to do. Climate change is an urgent problem. "What can we do for our country and our children's future?"


Posted by Pam T
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 5, 2021 at 2:46 pm

Pam T is a registered user.

Another wonderful article by Chris Kenrick.

Meaningful and thought-provoking.


Posted by Generationally challenged
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 5, 2021 at 3:00 pm

Generationally challenged is a registered user.

Problem #1: technically, the boomer generation continued through 1964; the youngest members are in their mid-50s. All the boomers I know are still in the work force; many with children at home. The people profiled include a few that are in the prior generation.

Seems like "boomer" has become a synonym for "old person" -- except it's ok to deride boomers, and ageist to mock people simply for being old.


Posted by Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2021 at 11:06 am

Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman is a registered user.

Boomer generational tropes apply to first decade boomers, not those of us in the second decade. They always have, and they always will. Our late-Boomer life experience is completely different and I expect our retirement experiences will be quite different as well. Most of us have many years of work life ahead of us.


Posted by dena
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2021 at 2:08 pm

dena is a registered user.

probably my favorite WHO lyric: "I hope I die before I get old!"


Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2021 at 2:43 pm

Longtime Resident is a registered user.

Both of my parents chose to work until their mid 80's. They loved their work, and being around young graduate students and colleagues kept both of them young and sharp, and "in the loop". They both had their own hobbies, and would often join their friends and picket against nuclear weapons, food additives, and chemicals in industrial farming. They were both active in our church as well. I felt that this kept both of them young and cognitively sharp until they passed away.

I know other peoples parents who retired early, and no longer felt needed. They withdrew from longtime friends and family, traveled and gambled away their savings, and sank into alcohol, drugs, depression, and became obsessed with their age related aches and pains.

My recommendation is to work as long as you can - if you are able, and love your work.


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