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Shaping A Life Of Significance For Retirement Perfect Paperback – January 1, 2010
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About the Author
Jack Hansen is mostly retired from a career in research and research leadership. He still works part-time for the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Congnition and consults fir tge NASA Ames Research Center. He became particularly interested in the personal dimensiond of transition from full-time work as he was making his own tranisistion. He and his wife, Pat, reside in Greenville, South Carolina.
Jerry P. Haas pastored churches in California and Arizona fro twenty-five years before moving to Nashville, Tennessee, to work in retreat and spiritual formation ministries with The Upper Room. His wife, Donna, is a psychotherapist in private practice.
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One key differentiating factor between this and other books in the genre is that much of the content of Shaping a Life derives from original research conducted by the authors. Hansen and Haas personally interviewed 45 individuals who were either in their early or middle retirement years and the book is replete with stories, examples, and insights derived from these interviews. The interview questionnaire the authors used is generously shared in its entirety at the end of the book and the reader can see the straightforward yet provocative questions that were asked in four categories: personal information (for example questions about the timing of retirement, whether or not it was accompanied by other major life transitions, etc.), relationships, meaning, and spirituality.
Explorations into and discourse about spirituality persist throughout the book and are handled with subtlety and sensitivity. While one comes to expect material about finances (there is almost nothing about that topic here), relationships, volunteer activities, and other aspects of later life in books about retirement, it is rare for such a book to focus so much of its attention on matters of the spirit. Hansen and Haas explore numerous dimensions of spirituality including what it means to people, what spiritual and emotional challenges are encountered in retirement, and what are some of the personal qualities people want to develop during this stage in their life. As its title denotes this is a book about "significance" and the authors correctly assert that it is difficult to craft a life of meaning - in later age or at any other time - without paying attention to the interior life.
One chapter I found especially interesting is entitled "Who Am I Now That I'm Retired?" Several important issues are raised in this chapter including whether personal identity substantially changes when people have left full-time employment and, if it does, will this discontinuity lead to a crisis? Hansen and Haas conclude that "crisis" is too strong a word to describe the experiences they encountered among the vast majority of their 45 research subjects although "transition" and "challenge" are certainly apt descriptors. An important aspect of transition and challenge involves what work has meant to the retiree and, now that they are no longer working full-time, what has disengagement from work meant? In one paragraph the authors ask what I consider to be three compelling questions related to aging and retirement (italics are in the original): (1) Am I a human being or a human doing? (2) Do I define myself primarily but what I do or by who I am? (3) Who tells me who I am? It's hard to imagine shaping a life of significance in retirement without a serious encounter with these questions related to personal identity.
Not only does this book present itself as a thoughtful guide to individual readers who wish to explore some of the deeper and more personal aspects of retirement, but I also see it being a useful textbook for a workshop or seminar sponsored by lifelong learning institutes or other educational providers. After each chapter Hansen and Haas present a set of what they call "Questions for Reflection" that in many cases would offer substantial grist for group discussion. For example, in the chapter about identity mentioned above several of the reflection questions offered for consideration include "How do you usually introduce yourself to others?," "What memories energize you for the present and for the future?," and "What growth have your past choices fostered?" Imagine the energy in the room if a group of lifelong learning institute members were dialoguing about such questions!
Shaping a Life of Significance in Retirement is not just another retirement planning book or treatise about life in later age. It is unique because it is significantly different than most of the books I have read on these important topics. I strongly recommend it to members of lifelong learning institutes and others who are interested in aging and retirement.
E. Michael Brady teaches adult and higher education at the University of Southern Maine and is editor of The LLI Review.
But what I did not expect, when I ordered this book, was the emotional impact it would have on me personally as I approach the last decade to decade-and-a-half of my career. It taps into one's hopes and dreams, while shining a light on one's deepest fears about retirement.
I highly recommend this book to those who work with retirees, to those who are caregivers, and to any person who sees retirement on the horizon (whether ahead or behind).
If you feel you are in a rut in your retirement, or in a fog facing retirement, this book is for you. It is all about exercising balance in retirement, which means having fun in leisure and travel, continuing your learning in challenging and enjoyable pursuits, and giving back (or paying it forward) to society through your gifts and talents.
Shaping a Life of Significance For Retirement will help you more fully experience the retirement years you have worked nearly a lifetime to enjoy.