When my dad got into his sixties, I remember feeling slightly anxious about what would happen to him if he lost his job at that stage of his life. The manufacturing sector had diminished, technology advanced at a rapid rate, and issues around ageism in the workplace were well-known. At that stage I was also immersing myself with literature and articles about the future of work, Lynda Gratton’s book “The 100-Year Life” quickly sprang to mind.
Dad is old school. He worked in the same manufacturing company for over 30 years, he talked about ‘smoko’ breaks, and he was curious but very hesitant to use his smart phone.
Dad was such a loyal and dedicated worker and very rarely took a sick day. He was so used to his habits, routinely getting up at 5.30am and returning home at 4.30pm after dropping off co-workers in the work van. When i used to live at with my parents, I remember the tap on the door in the morning with dad gently telling me to get up for school / uni / work.
Being a very practical guy, dad decided to retire at the age of 66. He decided to work a year longer than the official retirement age as he wanted to save extra money to buy a motorbike (yup, he’s a biker from way back!). Due to the sacrifices and careful financial planning made by my parents, dad was able to finish when he did. You won’t believe how relieved and grateful I was when he finished full-time work, especially as his body was slowing down (knee and hip replacements, and arthritis).
Over the first year of dad’s retirement, he seemed to be more energised and happier; no longer did he have to worry about the daily grind and dealing with work politics. He was able to pot around at home, watch Netflix, visit his mum at the rest home, spend time to fix things around the house, as well as cleaning and polishing his car and bike. When it comes to vehicle cleanliness, dad is so meticulous that his vehicles sparkle and gleam like diamonds! At that time I remember dad mentioning that he would consider volunteering as a van driver for a rest home if he had time.
Dad also spent a significant amount of time looking after mum after she had an accidental fall and hit her head. This was truly unexpected and we underestimated how unwell mum was, especially with the impact of her experiencing brain bleeds and vertigo. He ended up taking on the role of full-time caregiver, and he pretty much had to do everything that mum typically did – cooking, cleaning, looking after the bills and finances, gardening etc. Dad is usually a steak and potatoes kind of guy, so I was amazed when he I learned he was making stews, curries and other dishes.
Flash forward to 2019 and mum gradually gets better and her rehab is going well, so much so, that she encourages dad to start doing things that he wants to do. Mum is very independent, so I’m not surprised she wanted to be able to catch-up with her friends, play golf and cook on her own accord! My sisters and I often think that it was ‘meant to be’ when he ended up having to look after mum full time – this probably wouldn’t have happened if he was still working.
Dad is the type of person who can’t keep still (I can see where I get it from) so he decided to directly approach Vehicle Rental Companies at the airport to see if they needed workers to help transport and move vehicles. Almost immediately, he was offered a casual job to help move cars and camper vans to different locations across Auckland and New Zealand. Dad mentioned there is a ‘dad army’, essentially a group of reliable retirees who are able to work at short notice.
He tells me he loves this job because he simply LOVES driving. He always has. He loves the feel of the vehicle on the road and gains satisfaction from getting it from A to B. He also likes being able to go to new places across New Zealand – he talks about his ‘adventures’ going to Gisborne, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton. He also likes the flexibility of accepting or declining work assignments whenever he wants and this suits his lifestyle.
So in hindsight, I needn’t have worried so much about my dad upon retiring. This new chapter of his life is allowing him to embrace new things and to gain new knowledge and learning, even through some challenging circumstances. He recognised the importance of redefining his time, commitments, routines and interests, deciding that boredom and feeling stagnant wasn’t an option for him. Okay, he still asks lots of questions on how to use GoogleMaps and Waze, but I can definitely hear the sense of excitement in his voice! I can’t wait to see what adventures, jobs and hobbies my dad takes on in the future.
International Day of Older Persons was held on 1 October and it is an opportunity to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society and raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges of ageing in today’s world.
It also coincides with the launch of Volunteering Auckland’s new Ambassador’s Programme, which allows those considering moving out of the workplace a chance to imagine volunteering as the next step in their careers.