This is a true story. Only the personal details have been redacted for privacy reasons.
Jack and Diane have been married for forty-three years. Jack is seventy-one and Diane sixty-eight. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
Diane works four days a week in a local business – just because she enjoys the patter. Her wage is a bit of pocket money. Her three days off are filled with grandchildren, lunches, pilates, plus the usual home maintenance.
Diane is the sort of lady who is either doing something or thinking of what she’ll be doing next.
Jack retired about six years ago to get a hip replacement and according to Diane, it was the biggest mistake of his life.
Before he retired, Jack was the manager of a hardware store for thirty-six years. He was a ‘chippy’ by trade, which made him a hand-in-glove-fit for the job.
But more importantly, the shop was his ‘network’. He knew exactly what the older builders wanted and what the younger builders needed, and they loved him for it.
However, Jack severely underestimated one thing; his job fed his soul. It gave him meaning and purpose.
I’ve Done My Bit After he got fitted out with a new hip, Jack took six months off to get back on his feet again. Sadly, to help justify doing nothing, he joined the most dangerous club of all for retired men. The, ‘I’ve done my bit’ club.
This club is nasty, it ruins lives as well as marriages. It’s like an invisible wrecking ball.
Let’s look at what happened to Jack.
Jack did nothing for the first six months of retirement because he had a ‘good excuse’. Very soon, that six-month ‘holiday’ became a new home, a habit, and Jack stayed there, eventually doing less and less every week.
He then started getting up late, spending more time in his PJ’s, and not having anything planned for the day. He moved about less, and slowly filled his time with more eating, TV and meaningless conversation. His soul was a shadow of its former self.
Slowly, his mental state declined and his desire to do anything began to fall away as well. As did the intimacy between he and Diane. The only thing he wanted to do was hang around the house and give Diane a chronic case of the ‘you-know-whats’. Her space was being invaded and not surprisingly, she couldn’t wait to get to work each day.
So, what happened to Jack?
Put simply, within the space of two years…
Jack went from being a steering wheel to a spare tyre.
He now has diabetes, depression, and a marriage that is growing further and further apart. She has an aching heart.
She has her week planned with work, pilates, friends, etc. and he has nothing.
I often wonder how many of those builders would love to hear his voice again or get an opinion, even for just one day a week. Or what if he rocked up to a building site one lunch to say ‘hi’?
And then there are the knock-on effects. His situation has also created tremendous concern for their children. The kids are worried about Diane and angry with Jack.
“I’ve done my bit” becomes a very selfish way of being. It starts as a holiday and slowly becomes a new home, a habit.
The Retirement Test Some blokes are not going to like this test, but right now I’m thinking of the “Diane’s” of this world.
There are two things I think ALL blokes should do before they retire:
1. Old blokes lunch – they should do at least three different lunches with blokes who have already retired just to get an idea of how boring some of their lives are. (I warned you!)
2. One-year break – I think all blokes should have a year off (funded out of super) before they decide to retire permanently or completely. I’m not convinced that going from one extreme to the other is the right approach, and I’m not sure it’s healthy either.
When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.
So, what’s the solution?
Kick Back, But Kick On. The reason Jack fell into a hole, which he could easily get out of, is because he didn’t define a new role for himself in retirement. (BTW…hobbies and holidays are not it. Sorry).
At Suncow, we’ve been working on an idea which I think is a must for Baby Boomers as they transition into retirement. The aim is to redefine the role of retirement for blokes and put some genuine purpose back into their lives.
The idea is called, ‘Kick Back, But Kick On.
It’s simple enough to do but just enough for most men to scoff at. It goes like this…
Work 1 day/wk – I think every retired bloke should give his back to something at least one day a week. It’s not about the money, it’s about reconnecting with the world in a purposeful way. It also makes you appreciate your days off as well.
Not only that, EVERY bloke I know has a great knowledge base they can offer others in some small (or large) way. It’s much more valuable than they think and lots of us are willing to pay for it.
Hobby 2 days/wk– every man needs a hobby. I think a good hobby should separate him from the usual grind but connect him with something that really invigorates his soul. And if that means he disappears into his cave for a few hours, two days/wk, he’ll be a better man for it. But hobbies must be consistent. Therefore, what’s fun gets done.
Walk a country mile 3 days/wk – a good walk with at least one hill in it, three times a week is a must… and every day is even better. I also think a bit of resistance work (e.g. weights) to maintain bone density is equally important. Don’t make it fancy, just get going.
Mind matters – some sort of mental gymnastics each day such as reading, crosswords or sudoku is vital. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Make it a habit and keep your marbles active.
The Difference So, what was the ultimate difference between Jack and Diane? In a sentence, Jack just wanted to kick back, Diane wanted kick on. She filled her days with purpose. He thought he’d already done his bit.
Special thanks to Dr Taylor for being such a good bloke and a great sounding board for this Moowsletter.