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Successful Aging: Exploring the possibilities of life after retirement

Dear Readers,

This is the seventh year I have had the pleasure of participating in a special conversation with eight men and eight women to discuss retirement and life transitions relevant to our life stage. Although we had a topic to discuss, no one was sure how the dialogue would evolve. Most attendees were between 65 and 80 years, some retired, others working part-time and other engaged in full-time careers. All are or were highly accomplished in their respective fields, including advertising, business, higher education, engineering, medical professions, insurance, city planning, landscape architecture, elected positions, aging and nonprofit leadership.

Men came from the Life Transition Group; women from Project Renewment. (Renewment is a combination of retirement and renewal.) Both men and women have an overriding common characteristic. Neither group is satisfied with the status quo for themselves or their communities. All embrace learning, growing and giving back with an emphasis on purpose, passion as well as pleasure. And all know that transition is a process.

Here is some background:

Several years ago Ron Dresher and Brian Harris, both long-time successful marketing professionals, went for a bike ride along the beach and began to talk about their next chapter in life – commonly referred to as retirement. Both felt passionate about their work. They questioned what they would do with their energy and commitment when no longer working. They felt motivated to become more knowledgeable and were ready to share experiences with others. Subsequently they formed a group of like-minded men and called themselves the Life Transition Group and have been meeting for 11 years in El Segundo with monthly speakers. The group has grown to over 30 members.

To establish balance in their lives and a new sense of identity, they developed some guiding principles using the acronym CHAIRS. Each letter stands for a value the men want to embrace as they emerge from their full time careers. The letters stand for the following: C=Charity; H=Health; A=Achievement; I=Independence; R=Relationships and S=Spirituality.

These characteristics are shared by women of Project Renewment, a forum and movement started by my co-founder Bernice Bratter and me in 1999. The Renewment women are like-minded with successful careers, wanting to create the next chapter of life to be equal to or even more satisfying than the previous one. We also meet monthly and proceed to discuss subjects relevant to the retirement transition and later stages in life.

It all started when Bernice called me after retiring from her second executive director position and asked if there was any research or programs focusing on career women. I replied, “I don’t think so.” A four-hour lunch followed when we decided to invite several likeminded women for dinner to discuss life post-career. There was much to discuss and Renewment was born.

Despite our lack of intention to grow, Renewment has grown virally to nearly 40 groups most in Los Angeles and some from the New England area down to Florida. Our global reach has begun with groups in Paris and Reykjavik, Iceland.

We meet monthly in small groups in people’s homes. The number of groups have grown using the model described from our book “Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women” (Scribner, 2013). It consists of 38 essays on topics such as “Who am I without my business card?” and “What if he retires first?” as well as a guide to start a group. The groups have been meeting anywhere between one and 20 years.

Our meeting took place in a conference room in El Segundo around a large table with 16 seats – eight for the women; eight for the men. This year our discussion focused on the following questions:

1. When someone is starting their life transition to retirement, what advice would you offer?

2. What experience has led you to give this advice?

3. What are your takeaways from the discussion?

Answers to these questions and more will be addressed next week.

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