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.
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,
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