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Retired journalist Don Butler around his neighbourhood in Ottawa on Aug. 12.Kamara Morozuk/The Globe and Mail

In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.

Don Butler, 72, Ottawa

I worked as a journalist at the Ottawa Citizen for more than 40 years before retiring at the end of 2016 at age 66. I retired for a few reasons: One was that the paper was offering an attractive buyout package, which came at a good time for me. The job wasn’t as rewarding as it used to be, given the ongoing cutbacks in the newsroom, which was common across the industry.

Also, my mother moved to Ottawa from Waterloo, Ont. in her 80s and needed more help. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s shortly after moving here in 2011 and passed away in January 2021. I treasure the time we spent together in her final years, even though she wasn’t in the best condition near the end of her life.

When I retired, there was no sense of loss that some people feel when they leave a job, especially one they’ve been in for a long time. Instead, for me, there was a sense of freedom. I recall a moment in the early spring of 2017, a few months after I retired, sitting outside at a coffee shop in my neighbourhood at 10 a.m. on a Monday when I would usually be working and thinking, ‘this is pretty sweet.’

I have also kept very busy and active in retirement. I finished a humorous novel called, A Life of Bliss, published last year and am working on the sequel. I have also taken about 15 different lifelong learning courses at Carleton University on various topics such as popular music, art, astronomy and cardiology, just to keep the brain stimulated. I joined a breakfast group of retirees from my old job as a way to stay socially connected. We’ve kept it up over Zoom during the pandemic but we’re meeting in person again on a patio.

I have also tried to stay physically active since retiring: I walk a lot, swim at a local pool and in the Ottawa River (weather permitting), ride my bicycle and play pickleball. This winter, for the first time in about two decades, I began to cross-country ski on trails along the Ottawa River. I’m still shaky at it and fell down a few times, but I got to the stage where I can stay on my feet, and it’s fun.

My wife, who is 64, is still working. She’s career-oriented and isn’t eager to retire just yet – and I’m not putting any pressure on her to do so. Even if we were both retired, I don’t think it’s healthy for couples to spend all their time together. It’s important to have your own hobbies and interests.

My advice for people in retirement, or thinking about it, is to find something you love to do – and do it. Also, stay physically active as long as you can and learn new things. There’s a risk you can get bored or go downhill mentally, so you need to find ways to prevent that. And you’re never too old to try new things or pick them up again – like cross country skiing in your 70s!

As told to Brenda Bouw. This interview has been edited and condensed.


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