Boomers must set example | Rich Elfers

Many of you who are reading this article are Baby Boomers. Others are the generations that will follow in the wake of the Boomers. Like it or not, you’ll have to live with our decisions about retirement because our great numbers will suck much of the Social Security fund up before you get a chance to use it for yourselves. We Boomers can set a good example for the younger generations that follow us or we can set a bad example. We will definitely set an example no matter what we do.

I retired from teaching high school social studies six years ago. A year or two before that time I thought about what that retirement might look like. I knew there was going to be no sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun for me. I wanted to challenge myself, and I wanted to do what I really like to do.

I love teaching, so the summer before I retired I took some methods courses in teaching English as a Second Language. I also volunteered to teach ESL at the library for a year to see if I liked it. I did. I took a risk, but it paid off because I got hired part time at Pierce College six months after I retired, teaching ESL to immigrants.

Eventually I was offered a job teaching high school history at Green River Community College to international students. I am able to use my history background and my ESL experience at the same time. The job has not only given me extra money, but also medical benefits – one very important issue I had not considered before retirement.

I proposed a credit course in Modern Middle Eastern History to the social science division at GRCC, but was rebuffed. They did suggest that I might teach continuing education to adults. While I don’t get paid much for these Prime Time courses it has forced me to keep studying to learn what’s going on in the world right now. You have read some of the fruits of that effort in this column. I have learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss. That’s why I share what I have learned.

I also wanted to experience government firsthand and to use my history and political science study in a practical rather than just theoretical way. I attended City Council meetings and went to committee sessions for more than a year before I ran for office. I did this to see if I could put up with what elected officials have to do. I spent four exciting and challenging years learning the ropes of being a public figure.

I ran for re-election but unfortunately lost to a well-known local businessman. But, because of my letters to the editor in the news media, coming out in favor or against different issues before the city, I was asked to write this column. In doing so, I’ve discovered that in many ways writing a column has more influence than being one of seven council members.

This is my story. Your story might be completely different. The point is that we need to continue to challenge ourselves in order to stay sharp and grow. Retirement can be filled with twists and turns, detours and roadblocks, surprises and disappointments. It certainly should not and need not be boring.

Would you like to join me in my adventure? I’ll be teaching a course on a purpose-driven retirement for GRCC’s continuing education program on Oct. 20 in the evening. Come and see what the road might be like for you.

We Boomers are going to set an example to the generations after us. Let’s make it a positive one.

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