Now that my retirement is officially on the horizon …

After nearly 40 years of providing services for older adults, including the past 20 years at Clermont Senior Services, I’ll be retiring at the end of 2011. Let’s get one thing out of the way – I will continue to write a column for the Clermont Sun.

You can still expect to read about the good things happening at Clermont Senior Services, but don’t be surprised if there are more stories about frightening encounters with fearsome critters, from which (I hope) I will always be able to save myself with a trusty backpack. And, you can expect more stories on my other favorite topic – the interesting, often funny, sometimes odd, and remarkably unexpected adventures that happen from day-to-day in sharing life with my wonderful wife, Yvonne.

Although I’ll be stepping down as executive director at the end of December, I’ll be working with Clermont Senior Services on a contract basis through 2012 to see the Dimmitt Woods senior housing facility through to completion. The architect has completed the design plan, and we are preparing for construction to begin this spring. Dimmitt Woods will be our seventh senior housing facility and may turnout to be the most beautiful. This facility will have 43 apartments and will be located on College Drive near the Batavia post office. We selected the name Dimmitt Woods because the site is part of the original homestead of Ezekiel Dimmitt, the first settler to arrive in this part of Clermont County back in 1798.

My long-term plans are pretty simple but exciting. Like Ezekiel Dimmitt, I’m an adventurer. I’ll be strapping on my hiking boots and hooking up our little Scotty trailer for my “travel trailer sweetheart” and I to hit the road in search of adventure in the National Parks of America. We’ve visited many of the National Parks in the past, but now we will have more time to hike and explore the beauty of the mountain and valley trails at each park.

As for stay-at-home activities, there will be plenty to do. There are many parks nearby with great trails (you may be noticing a pattern here) to enjoy with our grandchildren, and I’ll have more time for gardening, reading, and writing. As many of you have encouraged me to do, I may even assemble my Clermont Sun columns into a book. I’m thinking of a title like, “Reflections of a Meandering Mind.” Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it was good enough to make the Clermont Sun’s best seller list?

A few good friends have expressed concern about whether I’m ready to retire, and I do appreciate their concern. As for financial planning, my thought is that I can’t afford not to retire. I know that’s a double negative, but it succinctly makes my point – Life is short, and time is more precious than money. And besides, how many of us will ever feel we are adequately prepared financially to retire, unless we hit the lottery?

But it is not my finances that my friends are worried about. They’re worried about whether I’m emotionally prepared to retire. I suppose their concern is not unfounded. They know how invested I have been in my career, typically working 50-60 hours per week. How do you disengage from this to take on an entirely new and different life role? Those friends are concerned that I’ll soon get the wanderlust out of my system and become devastatingly bored. I have to admit, I’ve watched a few friends do exactly this. But, I’m hoping my philosophy of retirement will see me through.

I think of retirement as somewhat like a 6-year-old boy going off to school for the first time. The little guy (that would be me) may be nervous, but he is immensely excited about all of the life experiences and adventures that lie ahead. At the same time, somewhere in a far corner of his mind, there is a spot where he is a little fearful of leaving the safety and security of his family, and the familiar surroundings of home. But retiring, just like taking that first step to get on the school bus, requires courage – courage to let go of that which is comfortable and familiar in order to seek new experiences and adventures. It is about looking forward rather than back.

Being emotionally prepared for retirement includes recognizing, and understanding, that things will not always turn out according to plan. But being emotionally prepared for retirement also includes having courage to believe that this phase of life called retirement, like the phases of life that have already passed by, will be okay if we stay focused on the road ahead, instead of spending our time gazing in the rear-view mirror. Retirement – we all do it differently, and we must each have our own plan, a plan that fits us as individuals. But most importantly, once we have created that plan we must have courage to embrace it and move forward with confidence, prepared to make adjustments along the way as circumstances may require, but always moving forward.

Enough philosophizing. When I retire at the end of 2011, I will miss being a part of the Service with Heart team at Clermont Senior Services. Mostly, I will miss the friendship shared with fellow employees, and with friends and colleagues in the community. But I’ll be okay, and Clermont Senior Services will be okay as well. I’ll be leaving the agency in good hands. Cindy Gramke has nearly 18 years of experience with the agency. She will have a great team of employees working with her, and an exceptional board of trustees to support her leadership.

In the meantime I’ll be here, leading the team to complete some important projects during 2011, including seeking the community’s support for the Senior Services Levy, which will be on the ballot in November.