Retiring with imagination

It’s mid-winter in southern Australia. The weather is variable, with a comfortable 23 degree day ahead of us today in Sydney. Crops are failing in rural areas due to unusually dry conditions, even though Sydney had its rainiest June in decades.

Usually the weather affects just my spirits and how much walking I can do around the city. But on Sydney’s wildest and wettest day – Tuesday 19 June – I had three appointments that prevented me from sheltering in the comfort of my home.

At one moment I got caught in a freak horizontal rain storm. I think that was responsible for contaminated rainwater leaking into the space between my left eye and its contact lens. 

The result was a serious eye infection that had me feeling very sick one night and turning up to Emergency at the Sydney Eye Hospital in the hours before dawn. For nearly three weeks now, I’ve had the best of care and expect my health to be back normal shortly, though I won’t be wearing my contact lenses until at least the end of the month.

Until the past few days, I’ve been unable to look at screens or read printed matter. But I’ve enjoyed listening to all the podcasts of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, which took place in May. It’s as if I attended the event in person, as I did the Sydney Film Festival a few weeks later.

Lying in my warm bed listening to the various conversations without the distraction of screens turned out to be an unusually pleasant and stimulating experience. But I wouldn’t say the same about trying to navigate the aisles of the supermarket not being able to read the labels on the different products. That has given me a genuine insight into how people feel marginalised by their disabilities and health conditions.

It has me thinking about a talk I’ve been invited to give to fellow retirees at the beginning of next month at the local University of the Third Age (U3A) in Cootamundra in south-west NSW. 

With the anxieties of youth and middle age behind them, so-called retirees can focus on looking after and fine-tuning the various dimensions of their lives, and possibly enjoying a more fulfilled life in their later years than earlier. I'm referring to health, finances and imagination.

It is imagination which tends to get less airplay when we decide on how to configure and manage our post-work lives. Yet it is every bit as important as our health and our finances. Without it we might stay working even though we no longer really enjoy it. Or just retire and allow boredom to set in.

The ‘grey nomads’ who tour Australia with their motor homes tend to be making the most of their imagination. For me, imagination led to my purchase of a room in Paris to use as a base for four months of the year. Which is what prompted the invitation from my Cootamundra friend to address her U3A chapter on the topic of ‘Living a Double Life’.

2 responses
Thanks Michael. I too have joined this growing community of those who no longer work full time as we have reached what is traditionally called retirement. Mine was a forced change due to Government funding and I became '"redundant", a status that resembles the now defunct Limbo. However I have a card from the Queensland Government which says I am now a Senior citizen entitled to a discounted lifestyle to match my diminished income. When I began to reflect on this change in my life I chose to describe it in a blog, "Careering Into The Future". Boredom would be as far from my choices as it has ever been. My health is playing havoc with my body but has not diminished my mobility. My finances wouldn't buy me a shed in the Mallee. However my imagination is being nurtured, inspired and driven by a lifetime of choices to live in the public realm of politics, community religion and photography. Each of these commitments continues to stir me to new and engaging relationships as my circle of connection widens with social media, travel and and insatiable appetite for talking to strangers on public transport. One of the more creative activities of this stage of my life is :finding "new homes for old treasures". I am letting go of a lifetime of accumulating and attempting to live with less stuff. It is both practical and imaginative. As well as regular trips to Vinnies I have had giveaway parties where friends have been invited to visit and take away books from my collection. Mind you I still have several shelves of "to be read" to feed the imagination on a cold winter night or a balmy Brisbane arvo. Photography is the art of looking at the familiar with another lens. It is seeing colour, depth,light and life with imagination that opens our eyes. Careering into my future means I continue my career as an active contributing member of my local and global community .
Hello Tony. Redundancy is a blessing for workers with an imagination such as yours. Michael