Conversations about Retirement

by Emily Akin

Our Seniors Today section is for and about retired seniors in the Ken-Tenn area. We do one interview of a local senior per issue. Since we only publish six times a year, we can’t cover all area seniors in an individual interview. Recently, we published Karleen Sternisha’s article about all she plans to do now that she’s retired. I thought it would be fun to ask others their thoughts about retirement—the when, where, why. The seniors in this article were asked to give their opinions, and here’s what they said.

Mary Carpenter, Union City, on knowing when to retire: My first criterion is whether I am currently useful. Our mission at the Tennessee State Library and Archives is to make our public libraries better. The day that I am unable to help in that regard is the time to go home. My second criterion is to work as long as our twins, Libby and Molly, are engaged in pursuing higher education. My parents, Jenny and Wilbur Vaughan of Martin, always supported my educational goals as long as necessary. I believe that having a balanced life-work balance is key to our own personal happiness.

Anna Clark, Martin, on her impending retirement: On May 31, 2017, I will retire from the Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages at the University of Tennessee at Martin. I have been at UTM since Fall Semester of 1981. I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach hundreds upon hundreds of students in my composition and literature classes. I have also taught upper division English classes, including Advanced Grammar, Poetry Workshop, and Women Writers. Since 1986, I have served as co-coordinator of the Hortense Parrish Writing Center. I have chosen to retire now (three years beyond the “official” retirement age). I have been planning my own retirement since my husband retired in 2012. In addition, I talked with my department chair, Dr. David Carithers, in June 2016 to make sure that there would be a smooth transition in administration of the Writing Center.

“Gratitude” and “Joy” are two words that come to mind when I think of my retirement. I am filled with gratitude that I have been a part of this university for so many years and that I have been surrounded by outstanding, hardworking students and colleagues. I am thankful every single day that I come to campus to begin the responsibilities of the new day, to make connections with others, and to learn something new. Every day, I plan new ways to introduce material and help with student learning. Will I miss my classes and all this excitement? Yes, I will. Yes, I will miss it all very much. However, the joy of learning and living that I have felt from students in the classroom and in the Writing Center will sustain me as I enter this new phase of my life. I have plans to write, to travel, and to contribute in new ways to the university and our community.

Carlyne and Baxter Wheatley, retired teacher and school superintendent, Union City: Baxter was told by several people: “I am thinking about retiring.” He would say, “If you are just thinking about it, you are not ready to retire. You will know when you are truly ready.” Carlyne’s plans were to teach until age 65. However cancer changed her plan. She felt she lacked the energy necessary to be an effective teacher, so she retired earlier. “We have enjoyed our 20 years of retirement, traveling, golfing, gardening, and visiting our families,” she said.

Beverly Canale, Union City: There is no magic formula for retirement. Having a variety of interests, perhaps a part-time job (such as mine at the library), good health, a positive attitude, and staying involved with people will help balance free time and demands. Remember, though, a sedentary life can be less than healthy. This is the plan that has given me a satisfying life at age 75.

Jan Rankin, Union City: Having worked for The Doctors’ Clinic for so many years, it was very hard for me to retire. I offered to work as needed for a few months, which turned into a few years! I honestly enjoyed working with a wonderful group of staff and employees. The extra time I worked helped me ease into a different lifestyle. I truly believe that old cliché about working years are some of the happiest. But now I’m sure enjoying a new relaxed phase of life. I feel that public work and then retirement, whenever it is, makes for a balanced, fulfilled, and purposeful life.

No easy answers. Deciding when or if to retire is very personal. Here is the advice I’ve gleaned from what our neighbors have said:

  1. Retire when your health or other factors prevent you from doing your best.

  2. Retire when you are ready financially.

  3. Retire when you have plans for something to do to occupy your time.

If you are a Ken-Tenn area senior and you have opinions about retirement, contact me via email at Emily Akin, If you don’t have email, you can write me and give me your phone number so that I can call you: Emily Akin, 1753 Pleasant Valley Road, Union City, TN, 38261.