There is no rest for the rest counselor

Out of the Woods

Posted: Sunday, December 09, 2001

Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska.com.

"Welcome to the first day of the last six weeks you will ever work. You will fondly remember this day, someday much later, as the first day of the 'rest' of your life. And that's the point. You will learn to enjoy the rest of your life. And you will thank me. Now, TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES! I SAID NOW! GRAB ONE OF THOSE RAKES! GET YOUR RETIRED BUTTS DOWN TO THE BEACH! RAKE!" I'm exhausted. I think I'll have a limeade and take a nap while the campers are raking. You think I was too rough on them their first day?

The thought of all the Americans formerly known as yuppies reaching retirement age together won't leave me alone. I care about them all and want to help them through what is statistically a rough time in their lives. How many times have you heard that someone who has worked hard for 30 or 40 years retires, hangs around the house a few weeks, then goes back to work? I am appalled every time, too. Government studies say three out of four retirees report anxiety followed by an eagerness to work in fast food in the third or fourth month following retirement. True, some people have economic considerations (the other one of the four), but alarming numbers simply can't hack not having a job anymore. Imagine that problem by the busload with all the anticipated retirees in the next few years. Horrified? I was, too.

I have worked out a plan for recent retirees who need a little help adjusting to not going to work. I have created a multi-level retiree clinic system that I call ... (Give me a minute on the cutting edge here, I'll think of something.) Mild cases are simply assigned a buddy, just a cell phone call away, to help them through rough days or moments and remind them of all the things they always wished they had time to do. The buddy is probably someone who went through the very same thing and has a lot of empathy. A little stronger support comes with a retirement coach. This person can move in with the customer and give them the encouragement and help they need around the clock. The personal retirement trainer is a little higher end version of the coach and can include towel service.

There will be those clients who are beyond coaching and need the intensity of a camp environment. These would be the people who are found wandering in the mall trying to get jobs. After six weeks at my total immersion camp they will be reality aligned and supportive of their retired selves. The first challenge at the camp is to convince clients that they still have a job; they are simply self-employed now. Next step is to appeal to them as the employer and get them to write themselves a new job description. We write it together, actually, and it's a lot of fun. I have to do a lot of modeling, but it's the best way to show what I'm talking about. What do we mean by an afternoon nap? Let me show you. Fritter away an entire morning? With practice, anyone can, we'll do it together. I take the work seriously and take immense pride in good results.

I realize this is a temporary social need and as soon as all the baby boomers are settled into blissful and self-sustaining retirement, I can retire, too. But now, no rest for the rest counselor! Clinics are opening all over the world to handle the demand. (Sorry I still don't have a name for the business, I'm just too busy to think of one.) One cool thing I found is that the more exotic the location, the more attractive it is to retirees who are trying to disguise their treatment as a vacation. (Ooh, denial!) So the new job descriptions we write include fun things like raking the beach and squeezing limes. I can't do all this myself, so I've had to hire a lot of temps to help at the camps and work as coaches. Lucky for me, there are more and more people each day begging for work, not needing benefits and willing to do just about anything. And they have an uncanny rapport with the clientele.

Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska.com.



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