And Just Like That

My husband had been planning his retirement for about a year. After thirty-three years of successfully climbing the corporate ladder, he was carefully planning his exit. His last assignment moved us to Cape Girardeau, MO and it nearly killed both of us. Me from the sheer desperation of small-time life and him because the work pressure and corporate dynamics wore him to the ground. We escaped back to Cincinnati last year and I was thrilled when he announced he would retire June 30, 2023. I planned to keep working with the end goal of joining him soon. I fantasized about freedom and the ability to escape virtual meetings, Slack, and constant adaptation to a changing workplace. I was not inspired but I was dedicated and I am wired for work. are built that way. I can’t change that and I don’t want to.

My time there was by far the most incredible opportunity I have ever had. I was challenged, mentored, respected, rewarded, developed, and successful and I was happy.

I thrive on being fuelled by a goal or a path to success and I am grateful for my career, especially my years at Lifeline (We were not responsible for the tacky commercial- Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. That was Life Alert). My time there was by far the most incredible opportunity I have ever had. I was challenged, mentored, respected, rewarded, developed, and successful and I was happy. I had great colleagues and customers to work with and I keep up with many of them today. I was recruited by Lifeline when I was working at Deaconess, a geriatric hospital (my second favorite job). During my five years there I had successfully grown the Lifeline program that I inherited when I began managing the portfolio of senior services offered by Deaconess. They invited me to Boston for recognition and to speak at their annual customer conference. I was wined and dined and before I knew it I was working there.

I started out managing the South West territory of Ohio. My accounts included hospitals, home care agencies, senior organizations, and nonprofits like the American Red Cross. When I got promoted to national account manager Home Instead was one of my accounts and years later they recruited me as well. I helped each of my customers deliver our service in their communities to assist older adults who needed assistance after a fall or a medical emergency. I helped develop business strategies that integrated Lifeline to support each organizational mission. I was making a  difference and I was getting paid well which helped to support my single self as I navigated through my second divorce. When you love what you do it’s not work. I realize how incredibly fortunate I was to have a job that gave me such purpose and also rewarded me with trips to Hungary, Prague, Paris, Vienna and all over the United States. Thank you Lifeline for the greatest years of my career.

As I reflect back I am struck by the fond memories I have for most of my jobs. It’s been a great ride and I can’t wait to see what I do next.

I started working at fifteen before I was legally allowed to work. My mom had a friend who owned a bakery so I spent weekends at the crack of dawn peddling apple fritters and eating my weight in donuts. Next, I went to work at the YWCA where I created and led fitness classes for older adults. I was a baby, barely old enough to drink (although you know that didn’t stop me) and I formed amazing friendships with my students whose average age was seventy-three. I was inspired to enroll in college (I was twenty-three years old and already divorced)  to get a degree in health promotion and gerontology. I waitressed while pursuing my education and also during the beginning of my career because I couldn’t live on my tiny salary as a corporate wellness manager for a local hospital. That was my first “real” job after I graduated and I did everything from certifying fitness instructors how to lead kick-ass aerobic classes to leading back safety presentations for the post office employees. I would have stayed here forever but I wasn’t a fan of being broke. This motivated me and I went back for my master’s in gerontology and eventually was able to quit waitressing after I landed the job at Deaconess as director of senior services. I felt like I had finally made it.

And just like that, my career ended last month when I and many of my colleagues were laid off. Our positions were eliminated and our access to the work we devoted blood, sweat, and tears to was severed. We were cut off, shut out, and the door slammed in our faces. I didn’t expect this although I shouldn’t be shocked. However, it’s like having a limb amputated. You still feel it, even though it’s not there. When you lose something suddenly it is painful, regardless of the circumstances.

Now what? I have spent the last forty-three years hustling and I built a decent career as a passionate aging advocate and gerontologist. I have always been employed, and I thought I was ready to be “free” from employment but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Change is exciting to me but transition is hard. I love the idea of what’s next but there’s a bridge you have to cross to get there and it’s full of questions, uncertainty, doubt, and fear. These swirling dynamics pull me under and there are days I feel like I am drowning and other days I feel like the captain of my own ship. Today however I choose to allow myself to pause and consider all my options for what I do next.

I bought the book What Retirees Want- A Holistic View of LIfe’s Third Age written by Ken Dychtwald and Robert Morrison for my husband Pablo to guide his retirement (he never read it).  I pulled it off the shelf and am taking a deep dive. Pablo and I have talked for years about what we want our retirement years to look like. We felt prepared and confident with our vision which included travel, learning, increased time for yoga, fitness, reading, and writing (I have already started my first short story and have enrolled in a writer’s workshop offered at the University of Cincinnati), and celebrating life. Now that I have the freedom and the ability to create my own schedule and pursue my endless list of interests I am struck by the need to balance leisure with advancing my dreams. I have a fear of slowing down too much and falling into a rhythm of nothing but more of the same, day after day, year after year. I don’t want to wake up twenty years from now and wonder where the time went. This is much harder than I thought.

The new Third Age is about the reinvention of oneself. It’s about continuing to grow, learn, meet new people, try new things, and even discover new purpose.

–Ken Dychtwald, PhD

I am however grateful to be in this third age and to have the opportunity to choose “early retirement”. I realize most people don’t have that choice and I know it sounds fabulous but simply ending your working years is harder than you think. Pablo and I both know people that reached the finish line only to die soon after. It’s possible that I will live 20+ more years and how I fill those hours will definitely impact how well I live. It’s only been two weeks and already I am restless. How do I transition into meaningful routines that lift my spirits, challenge my curiosity and give me the purpose every day to get up and get motivated?

I have no doubt I will find that routine. I need to give myself some grace and space to find my way. I know for sure that I am not done yet and soon I will have my days full of activities and projects that ignite my spirit. That’s when I feel alive. So I’m not retiring, I’m just transitioning to my next career where I am a free agent and the CEO of my life.

As the boss, I promise myself this:

  • I will invest in you
  • I will educate, train and develop you
  • I will support your physical and mental health
  • I will allow you to select the top priorities that inspire you
  • I will give you opportunities to shine and use your unique talents and skills
  • I will reward and recognize you for the great job that you do

Thank you for the pink slip now let’s get to work!


April Ibarra
April Ibarra
I'm April Ibarra. I'm a Gerontologist and writer known for my sassy approach to aging. Now that I'm heading towards sixty I'm even more passionate about inspiring others to make these years the best years. Age along with me, the best is yet to be!

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  1. Great article for the topic April. After I retired from Law Enforcement of 20+ years and my husband of 44 years of Law Enforcement, working different shifts, holidays, we just spoke about how many who do retire find themselves lost in how to handle the down time. In our line of work, we emphasized re-wiring after because many didn’t live long enough to enjoy their retirement. It take time to develop a routine, and I am more busy now with things that I love to do than when I worked my career. It will come eventually the peace. God Bless