Last week I attended a meeting of former Executive Directors of Ontario child welfare agencies who are now retired. Charmed by the meeting site in beautiful Stratford Ontario — home of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival Theatre and one of the most enchanting small cities in Ontario — as well as knowing that the organizer was someone whose career was widely respected, and knowing that I would see many former colleagues, I attended. The festivities included several lively and noisy meals accompanied by good libations, a topical presentation, a game of golf or a theatre outing, and a short business meeting. Copious amounts of laughter accompanied each activity. The most important aspect of the two-day meeting was the opportunity to catch up with the post retirement life events of many former colleagues. Relationships that began professionally over shared career experiences now continue as friendships.
Many people brought their spouses/partners to the meeting and all participated in the events. Given the nature and intensity of the pre-retirement work as leaders of large child welfare agencies, the spouses and partners had already shared so many of the ups and downs of a career regardless of who went to the office so it seemed natural to include them. Of course, retirement also means that couples can enjoy more time together and it was great to enlarge the circle.
This meeting made me consider the benefits of keeping in touch — after retirement –with people with whom I had worked closely for many years. It reinforced the need to nurture these relationships as part of a purposeful, effective and self-determined retirement.
Benefits of Keeping in Touch
- While professional networks are strong, friendship is stronger. As I looked around the room and participated, I realized that what began as a professional network has evolved into a social network that is bound together in shared experiences. Nobody needed to attend; no travel was supported by an expense account; attendance was completely voluntary — a personal decision to attend a reunion and reinforce friendship.
- The participants had all made personal changes in retirement. People remained engaged with life and used their retirement for writing (books, blogs, memoirs, business and professional articles), for travel to exotic places (Africa, India, Thailand, China), for pursuing new types of employment, and for new hobbies such as learning to make maple syrup. Some had traded Canadian winters for retreats in Southern climates. People re-connected with long-forgotten activities, used time to renovate homes, volunteered time in their churches or service clubs. Two were involved as care-givers to spouses with chronic illnesses or with grand children; they did this with a sense of purpose and a joy in the benefits of caring for another. They had transformed knowledge previously used for career-related goals to reach personal goals.
- Attending this annual meeting allowed for continuation of shared experiences. Whether it was the competitiveness of another golf game, or attending a theatre performance with friends, or simply sharing meals together, the fun experiences reinforced and strengthened existing bonds and deepened relationships. Impromptu conversations, spontaneous laughter and opportunities to exchange confidences occurred, each serving to support the friendships among members of this group of retirees.