Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Conspicuous Retirement

This past summer I golfed a few times with a retired professor friend in his seventies who is a great model for the new retirement.

He mixes freedom and leisure (which predominate in his life these days) with modest bouts of writing and teaching. He’s done that for 14 years since leaving full-time teaching. And now he’s reducing the work part of the mix even further to devote more time to leisure. He’s fine-tuning the mix.

On a hot day in August, as both our golf games slid miserably into the mediocre, we were talking about my favorite subject — retirement. My friend said, “I refuse to be conspicuously retired.”

What a great term. Conspicuously retired.

For him, that means that he has no interest in joining the local club of retired men that meets every week to sit in a hall around tables drinking coffee and listening to a guest speaker.

“It feels bad just thinking about it,” said my friend. (I agree, although if that’s where you find your retirement joy, all power to you.)

Conspicuous retirement might also include wearing an AARP baseball cap, a t-shirt that says, “The Legend has Retired,” or — and I know this one is contentious — living in a retirement community.

Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with retirement communities. Some look like a hoot to me. Those huge ones in Florida called “The Villages” appear to be populated by fun-seekers rolling around in golf carts happily attending clubs and groups of all sorts.

That isn’t for my friend or me, perhaps because of the conspicuousness.

There is no doubt that in a retirement community you are a retiree. You are exclusively surrounded by fellow retirees. You are certainly not working. You are advanced in years and signaling it.

We are creatures easily persuaded by a good story. In the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment half the students were told they were guards, the other half prisoners. Surprisingly fast, the guard-assigned students became aggressive, even abusive, and a number of the prisoner-assigned students grew submissive.

So if you think of yourself as retired in the traditional sense, how is that likely to affect your behavior?

And by avoiding conspicuousness?


Exposure Therapy