Go back to work, dad!

A letter writer is worried about his dad — he’s not been the same since he retired.

Do our elders have any tips on how to cope?

Dear EWC

My dad was retired about two months ago after 35 years of working for a big oil company. He’s 60 years old. And I have to say retirement life is soooooooooo not working for him. He sleeps all day. He used to get up at 5 a.m. every morning! He doesn’t feel like doing anything… he lays on the couch and plays with his phone all day or watches TV. He works out a little at home and goes out for a walk but I can see that he’s getting depressed. He doesn’t talk so much any more and he’s often grumpy and lazy. He’s not like the dad I used to know; he’s obviously tired of retirement.

But the funny thing is he denies it. Can you believe that?! Sometimes I tell him that he should get a new job and get out into the society again but you know what he says in return? He says, “I have worked for 35 years! I’m tired of working and I can’t just go work anywhere.”

He’s had like two great job offers but he turned them down for no actual reason. He’s completely healthy but if he keeps living like this I don’t think he will stay like that. He denies the fact that he’s getting depressed and keeps saying that he’s okay but my mom and younger brother have the same opinion. I’m worried for him he’s ruining himself. I really want to help him. I want him to be happy again. I want him to see the truth about his situation but I don’t know how? How can I encourage him to get a new job? Because I believe that it’s the only way for him to cheer up. Once I tried to convince him to visit a psychologist but he said that he’s not crazy and I have to stop. I believe some of you guys are retired… what did you do? How did you cope with this new lifestyle? Thank you for your response!

Dave-Scott replies

I compliment you on you concern and love for your father. As I interpret your letter, I see you are worried that after retirement your father changed and you don’t feel it was for the better. When you suggest to your dad that he try this and that in order to become what your feel will be a happier, more fulfilled person, he resists and you don’t understand why. So what next?

I retired at the age of 55 and have now been retired for nearly 15 years. Here are a few of the things I have observed in myself and others upon retirement:
At first (and I am talking about a year or two after you quit a long-term career) you experience both a feeling of absolute relief of stress and being constantly pressured to perform while also feeling both guilt and a fear at having given up a job and people that have been big part of your life for many years.
Some people do a lot of planning for retirement while others seem to have not even given their new life a thought. They all have to adjust, but those who did no preparation my feel a great deal more anxiety at first (although they may not recognize it) and my take longer to adapt.
Like everything in life, retirement is a process. You try new things and gradually you find what works for you.
Beside retirement, seniors often have to face the fact that they are becoming more physically limited and must be willing to adapt to these changes as well.
Often friends and family becomes the most important thing to the retiree, but often those people have their own life and obligations with which they must give priority.
You need something to fill the new void you have created in your life, but it may take some time to figure out what works best.
These are what I see to be the givens. Everything else depends on the individual.

With the information you provided about your father, I don’t really see that he is that different than a great many other retired people — they all take awhile to adjust and reinvent their lives. Hopefully, your father will eventually become more active and happier, but for the first few months just decompressing is part of the process. Thing is, most retirees the eventually latch onto things that they enjoy — it all comes with time. And if someone finds that sitting on the porch and whittling is their thing, then fine — it is important to support their choices.

Your father doesn’t sound like someone who lets himself be told what to do and maybe that is why he rebels a bit when you tell him he is going about retirement in the wrong way. Not that you shouldn’t be concerned and try to help him adjust, but do it by supporting him in his choices. Include him in your life — tell him about things you think he might enjoy; encourage him to explore new opportunities; help him make a bucket list. But above all else, give him time to develop his own vision.

Since I retired, I have:
Worked several contract jobs that I thoroughly enjoyed (doing the things similar to what I preferred to do when working).
Moved to a completely different town and environment (went from a town with 1,000 people to one with 400,000).
Completely rehabbed a new house.
Given up the fly fishing that I had obsessed over for most of my life (because of physical limitations).
Worked hard to help my two daughters enjoy better lives.
Loved being with my grand-kids.
Had both knees completely replaced.
Went through tons of physical therapy and am now a regular at the gym.
Found that I again love newspapers, cooking, books, and watching movies.
Learned that I really dislike volunteering because of always being treated like an incompetent lout.
Become politically active.
Learned to make bread.
Was able to admit that I hate traveling when so many people were saying that is what I needed to do.
Started writing poetry and a blog.
Started contributing to Elder Wisdom.
Developed a love, and I mean love, of naps.
Come to love having complete control over how to spend my time on earth.
I say all this (I know a bit tongue-in-cheek) just to demonstrate that what a person does in retirement is unpredictable, but in time it usually works out for the best. Just be there for your dad and let him know how much you love and value him — I know that this is what is most important to me.

You might be interested in looking at my blog at This blog focuses on trying to help people look at what it means to be older (and retired) and may give you (or your father) a few insights. I would love to know if you found any of what I said helpful. Wishing you and your father all the best.

Letter #: 412825
Category: Family

One Comment

  1. Great, I really like it! Youre awesome

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