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Academic for life

Staying in touch after retirement

Academic retirees should find the “optimal leisure lifestyle” that works for them.

BY ROBERT STEBBINS | NOV 24 2022

Not all professors who retire from their employment are eager to retain contact with it. Some of them may find full- or part-time work more or less unrelated to their earlier remunerated career. Others may establish a leisure lifestyle, possibly revolving around family and grandchildren or consisting of miscellaneous casual activities (e.g., coffee-shop conversations, light entertainment offerings, sports matches, casual volunteering). More rarely, these retirees devote themselves primarily to skilled or knowledge-based leisure like art, music, certain kinds of fishing and hunting, hobbies (e.g., crafts, collecting, fulfilling reading, skiing, gardening), and experience-based volunteering (e.g., serving on a board of directors, coaching children’s sports, maintaining hiking trails, preparing meals for Meals on Wheels).

However, some retirees want to embellish their free time with university or college involvements that continue to be attractive to them. The question is: how to learn about them. Assuming you are interested, you can sign up to departmental and faculty mailing lists announcing relevant events, which can include special lectures, arts and sports events, social gatherings, as well as conferences and workshops. In large cities there are often other institutions of higher education with identical or similar departments and faculties maintaining their own lists. It may be worthwhile joining some of these as well.

If you miss teaching, one way to generate some limited opportunities is to develop a short CV centered on your areas of expertise. Send this document to the colleges and universities reasonably accessible from your home that offer related courses. Indicate in the cover letter that you have a passion for teaching and be sure to include your teaching record.

More informally, create your own list of colleagues with whom you want to maintain contact over the coming years. Full-time work for faculty in higher education is hectic enough to hinder interesting social relations with most colleagues. Class preparation, lecture and examination schedules, committee work, student advising, and more combine to reduce those relations to superficial fleeting exchanges in campus hallways, elevators and walkways. But, with retirement, opportunities for deeper involvements emerge. Gatherings at bars, coffee shops, and restaurants appear to be the most common of these.

In short, search for an “optimal leisure lifestyle” (OLL), wherein people strive to get the best return possible from the use of their free time. What is “best” is, of course, a personal definition, and quality of OLL turns, in part, on a person’s awareness of at least some of the great range of potentially available leisure possibilities. Thus, people know they have an OLL when, from their own reasonably wide knowledge of feasible serious, casual, and project-based leisure activities and associated costs and rewards, they believe they have enhanced their well-being by finding their best combination in two or all of these three forms.

Robert A. Stebbins is a professor emeritus in the department of sociology and serious leisure specialist at the University of Calgary. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

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