When we walked out of The World's Fastest Indian, George and I were sniffling. The true-life story of a 68-year-old New Zealand man with heart disease who set a world speed record on his souped-up 1920s Indian motorcycle had thrilled and touched us. He died soon afterwards, but he'd lived so fully and fearlessly that even death couldn't diminish his victory.
That was in 2005, and "10 good years!" has been our rallying cry ever since. Fortunately, no matter how much time passes, George, a generous soul, keeps allotting us 10 more good years. In Sarasota, where you see high-energy, high-achieving people in every decade of life, that makes sense. Still, we're keenly aware that our days of operating at top capacity won't last forever. I asked four other locals who are at or near retirement age what they're planning to experience and accomplish in their next 10 years. Their answers run the gamut.
Keeping [Lots of] Options Open
"Since I was 14, I've been making five-year plans," says SNN general manager Linda DesMarais. "Some people want power, some want affiliation—I want to achieve." She's sketched out several next-decade plans, ranging from keeping on working ("if I'm having a good time") to stepping back in five years and tackling new projects. Among them: writing a novel (she's already outlined several); teaching broadcasting ("teaching keeps you young"); and co-producing a national TV show. And after redoing a big house and equipping it for lavish entertaining—which she's always too busy to do—she and her husband have decided to downsize. Possessions, money and "push, push, expand, expand," won't drive her next decade, she says. Instead, it will be about "fun and my creative juices."
[cp_quote style="quote_left_dark"]"We've got 10 good years left!" George suddenly declared. "And we can't let anything or anybody keep us from making the most of them!"[/cp_quote]
A Little Work, A Little Play
For three decades, the Rev. Don Roberts led Goodwill Industries Manasota to national prominence. But though he was totally engaged, Roberts, 70, says he hasn't missed his job since he and his wife, Peggy, retired a few months ago. He's continuing as president of the Florida Goodwill Association and will do some national consulting. He'll also do some preaching, presiding over marriages, baptisms and funerals. "It keeps you part of the fabric of people's lives," he says. And the couple plans a round-the-world cruise in 2014. They've vowed to make the next 10 years their best, he says: "I feel like a kid with summer vacation unfolding with endless possibilities and adventures."
Making the World a Healthier Place
As an obstetrician specializing in high-risk pregnancies, Dr. Washington Hill helped boost maternal and infant health in our region. Now he and his wife, Pauline, a nurse, are continuing that work in Rwanda, educating medical professionals in a program associated with the William J. Clinton Foundation. Why, at 73, would he choose such an arduous undertaking? "If not now, when?" he responds. The two love Africa, and they're enjoying everything from their co-workers to local coffee and scenic waterfalls. Besides, "I would be bored to death [by a conventional retirement]," he asserts. "I want to give back before God calls me home."
Still Figuring it Out
At 69, YMCA Foundation president Karin Gustafson overflows with energy, going from work to events to predawn emails. But when her husband told a phone caller, "Yes, Karin is here, but she's not really at home," she looked up from her computer and decided to make a change. She's leaving the Y this month, and she admits she's not sure what to expect. "One friend told me that the morning after her retirement party, she put her head on the kitchen table and sobbed," she says. "I think it's key to ask yourself, 'What do you love? What makes you get up every day?'" For her, that means family, garage-sale treasure hunting, supporting favorite causes—and writing a book, The Graceful Exit, about how others have handled retirement. "For me, it's going to evolve," she says. "But it's a wonderful luxury to have choices."
Pam Daniel, editorial director