See Dad Retire. Retire, Dad, Retire.

When dad won’t hang it up, retire, move along…and make room for the Boomers who are next… Helping parents transition out of the workplace.   — BadWitch

Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…

Dear GWBW — Our dad’s 79 and won’t retire (he’s a big wig in a medium sized store chain). We think his work would love for him to, but he just refuses to go, and has even gone as far as sabotaging training for his replacements (plural!) in the past. How can we get him to move along? Money’s not an issue for our parents.   — Kids of Hanger On


Dear Kids of Hanger On,

First off congrats! Your dad seems sharp as a tack (that he shows his vital signs by being stubborn as a mule is another matter). Realize how lucky that makes him and his family, and your view might shift a degree or two about his lack of pastoral daze. Your dad has clearly found his purpose and loves it. If his employer isn’t more aggressive in replacing/retiring him (this surprise me; most employers do have a policy about retirement and/or transitioning out partners by a stated age), he must not be doing everything “wrong.” I hear that you want your father to “move along” but money (whether limited or a lot) is not the only consideration for people who love what they do — for a lot of people who feel connected to their work, working for a living is far more about “living to work.” Having said that, I’m going to make an assumption here (based on his gender and generation) about dad and say that he likely erroneously mistakes his identity with what he does, and that’s the part you all would like him to slow down and separate from in order to better enjoy his well-earned personal life. Fair enough, all around.

Start the shift from 40 hours a week, to 24, with 20 or less as a written end-of-the-year goal. Better yet, if his employer is on board, a well-defined role of “consultant” can help him transition faster, with dignity. Encourage his transition actively when you notice the benefits from him owning his own time, like when he looks happier, more fit. Encourage him, especially when he’s a real grump/jerk about this transition. Mom might likely have more sway in role of assertive facilitator than you kids do, but ultimately your family unit should productively aim him towards semi-retirement by laying that groundwork with researched (or continued support of) alternative suggested activities for him to do (he’s a Doer; a sudden end to activity will only unproductively make him feel he’s been pushed off a cliff). Encourage him to ask for help which is probably new for him. These alternate hobbies/long-lost interests simply help a focused, and vitally engaged person have somewhere else — another or unexplored aspect of their intellect and soul — somewhere to put all that energy. Kindly remind him you know he’s shifting not dead, and soon he’ll buy that vowel on his own, too.

The bottom line to your parents’ happiness (and associatively, health) is compassion and helping dad give himself permission to relax and refocus his life force.

Rest renews,



Dear Kids of Hanger On,

If your dad isn’t the one who’s spearheading his own retirement, I have to ask, why are you? Is he forgetting things or showing other physical or mental signs that he can no longer handle the work? If yes, well, then there should be some serious, truthful conversations about taking care of his health.

If, however, he is mentally and physically up to the challenge and is unwilling to step down, my suggestion is to let him be. If your dad is happy getting up and going to work everyday, why mess with a good thing? Focused work in an environment in which your dad feels competent and vital is good for his emotional health, mental acuity and longevity.

But I don’t want to under address your concerns. 79 is not a spring chicken, but, you really are only as young as you feel. As conversation over extending the age of retirement around the world, it throws into sharp focus our need to redefine “retirement age.” Everyone is not ready to retire at 65 and, of course, some people can’t wait that long. It is a personal decision that in my mind reflects how much you love your job. Apparently, your dad still loves his.

If you are concerned about him over-taxing himself, maybe compromise. Get him an assistant who will take some things off his plate and allow your dad to focus on specific projects and tasks. Be sure he knows this assistant is not his replacement. You may be able to have him cut back to a part-time schedule. Just remember, he is an adult. Let him make his own decisions.

All I can say is, my dad continued to work well into his 70’s. Now, at 86, he has discovered the joy of the exercise bike in the gym downstairs. He still drives, well. He is vital because he continues to feel independent, inspired and inquisitive. Perhaps your dad is doing the same thing—which is the best way to actually act your age.

Keep an open mind,



Image: USFWS

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3 responses to “See Dad Retire. Retire, Dad, Retire.

  1. witch talk to me

  2. Thanks, Cat. That is all so true. Senior parents tend to be going through several life transitions, oftentimes at once. On the adult kids’ side, it can be a challenge to deal with parents in an effective (helpful to them) yet respectful way. There is often a thin line of helping them maintaining self-authority versus objectively what’s best for them — which is what I was referring to that it’s a good deal for everyone that this dad seems mentally sharp and together. Taking away car keys is tough enough, now this! It’s enough to make any rational person feel their world is flipped upside down. Outside counseling or similar professional assistance is a great idea. Any others…anyone??

  3. You could also mention that the father has likely wrapped up his whole entire identity in being his career. The children could attempt to offer him some ideas as to what else he could become, after he retires from being a CEO, a Manager, or whatever his title is. As an instructor of adults in an educational setting that accommodates adults who were injured at work, I have worked with adults who were steel workers or truck drivers for a such a considerable length of time, sometimes decades, that their identity and personality are still wrapped up in that trade. They have great difficulty accepting the fact that their injuries will not allow them to return to their trade, hence their re-education and re-training at our institution. It is a long emotional process to be able to leave your previous working life behind, and embrace the possibilities of your future. The father’s children have their work cut out for them, but could bring in a professional counsellor to help him emotionally and physically prepare for this inevitable change.

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