Written by Chris Frey, LCSW, Your Next Move course instructor
As an educator and counselor, my interest in how we navigate transitions of all shapes and sizes has grown significantly through the years. As I have aged, my journey to understand both the familiar and unique aspects of life changes that call on us to make both personal and professional adjustments has gained momentum. And so, several years ago, when I was invited by Dr. Nancy Morrow-Howell to participate in the Washington University Center for Aging project, Your Next Move: Transitioning to the New Retirement, I said yes without hesitation.
The very definition of “Retirement” is, itself, in transition. Long viewed as the move from full-time work to full-time leisure and aging, retirement has taken on a much broader range of meaning in today’s world, amplified by the structural changes brought on by the pandemic. Many of us are seeking, and needing, a more flexible progression from our primary careers into alternative work that will provide additional income stability. Outdated attitudes on aging can limit options, requiring us to adopt creative strategies for our work and personal futures. Longer life spans also bring forth the need for purposeful engagement, daily structure, and social connections that might include a broad range of activities from volunteerism to more unstructured time, civic leadership, continuing education, and the essential role of family caregiving.
This year, when the opportunity to work with Dr. Morrow-Howell and Natalie Galucia, MSW, to expand our introductory, hands-on workshops on preparation for retirement life into an interactive, state-of-the-art class in the University College presented itself, I said yes. Again.
With one significant change.
These days, I am actively engaged with Next Move on another level. Moving from decades of direct practice as a social worker and psychotherapist, my shift toward teaching and writing has included utilizing the information, worksheets, discussion tools, readings, and other human resources of Next Move in my own transition. Over time I have road tested Next Move in our seminars, on-line workshops, and counseling sessions with my clients. I’ve even been invited by friends and family members in this stage of life to discuss our work. Now, I’m practicing what we teach.
I am perhaps most excited that, as a believer in experiential learning, Next Move counts on learners to draw on their own considerable life experience in creating a vibrant, evolving, individualized picture of a new retirement that includes a focus on Meaning and Purpose, Social Connection, Leisure, and Health and Wellness. Any person who has lived enough life to arrive at this stage has moved through numerous times of small, medium, and large change: starting school, beginning work, partnering, becoming a parent, health issues, grief and loss, celebrations as one moves into new opportunities, to name just a few. Next Move provides a framework for each class member to combine this wisdom and knowledge with new information, self-assessment and planning tools, and support resources unique to this particular transition.
It’s what I like to call ‘serious fun.’ Accessing existing strengths. Stepping into creative, new learning. Participating in supportive discussion. Honoring the value of paths already travelled, and gathering ideas and energy for the paths ahead.
I can attest professionally and personally. It’s time well spent.
Your Next Move: Transitioning to the New Retirement will be offered as an eight-week course (U03 GS 126) through UCollege in the spring 2022 Semester. Class begins January 18 and is open to all, whether you’re newly retired, retiring next year or planning for retirement 5+ years from now. Read more about Your Next Move, the course and how to register.