What’s your retirement look like?

Story by Jody Sanderson

Spring 2023

I’m involved in a project right now that I never dreamed would be a reality. I sit on a committee that is planning our 50th high school reunion for next year. Unbelievable!

Our logistics co-ordinator has been rounding up 1974 grads for a few years now and has tracked down most of us. Several we have lost too soon, yet everyone is pitching in to make this a reality.

We have a Facebook page that has attracted so much traffic, other years are considering a reunion.

We had our first informal gathering of those interested in organizing an event about a year and half ago, meeting in Calgary at the Legion in Kensington, our old stomping grounds.

You can imagine what it would be like to see everyone you went to high school with. It was like that. We shared memories, life experiences and spent most of that first get together just trying to recognize each other.

Some of us hadn’t changed a bit…older, of course…and some we couldn’t figure out at all.

Where we had our own little circles then, (nasty or wonderful as those cliques were) there was none of that as we got to know each other again. Some of us have become friends now, where we barely knew each other in high school.

Since then, we’ve had a half dozen of these casual events, and eventually our conversations centred around that R word. The word we’d been avoiding as we got to know each other. You know, the R word. Retirement.

What struck me most during our conversations was how retirement looks far different than what most of us had envisioned. I learned that people who are in second or third marriages are usually more financially secure than those who are single (widowed or divorced) or with their original spouse.

There are a few battling health issues that have impacted these later years significantly. Covid has played a big part in this. Our current inflation and interest hikes have forced a few others, who thought they were going to be okay, into the kind of budgeting that has meant everything from selling assets to using the food bank. Adult children we thought we launched sufficiently into the world, are back at home or we are living with them.

Overwhelmingly, these regular kids I went to high school with a half-century ago, have a pragmatic, hopeful and often humourous response to their circumstances. We are thrivers and survivors, still full of plans, and adventure, in our own ways. We still hurt, cry, pray and keep on keeping on. We’re all just doing the best we can.

It’s encouraging and freeing to see there is really no one size fits all when it comes to applying the R word. It’s like a collective legacy we can pass down, and I find that inspiring.