Phased Retirement: Live Younger

My alma mater, Saint John’s University, in Collegeville, MN was home to the winningest coach in college football history, John Gagliardi.  He retired at age 86 with a total of 489 wins over a career that lasted six decades.  The award for the outstanding football player in NCAA Division 3 – the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy – is the Gagliardi Trophy.  John passed away in 2018 but much of his legacy lives on.  Especially about how to live youthfully well into your 80s.

So much about retirement and healthcare is focused on living longer.  I realize that many of us have health issues or physical limitations, but my advice to you is still “live younger.”  This is a mental attitude as well as a physical one.

Gagliardi was famous for his many quotes, and when he turned 80 and was still coaching he was asked about sticking around as the head coach, “When we won the (Division III) national championship in 2003, people were asking me if I thought that would be a good time to retire.  I thought maybe it would be nice to sort of ride off into the sunset. But then I thought ‘What would I do there?’  Was I going to find guys in the park to go play checkers with?  Being around these younger players makes me feel young.  So, I don’t regret staying.”

He was living younger by enjoying what he did and the people around him.  He wasn’t thinking about a retirement date or a number.  He loved the game and he obviously loved winning, but he hated losing more; he said the losses “Stay with you longer.”

The author Mitch Anthony shares a similar story about a gentleman he met who was 80.  He was busy running a nonprofit 6+ hours a day and failed to find retirement attractive.  He told Anthony that he had spent quite a bit of time around retired people who told the same stories about their golf or tennis games over and over.  He said, “It seems that in retirement, first you’re bored – then you’re boring. I never want to be that boring!”

Spend some time thinking about what energizes you and what could keep you youthful and active well past the typical mid-60s retirement number.

One of my favorite memories of John Gagliardi is when he was well into his 80s and was coaching a close game in front of around 12,000 fans.  He was livid on the sidelines, yelling at the referees and throwing his hat down.  I don’t know what he said, but the referee near him threw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty flag.  It energized his team and they came alive to pull ahead and win the game.

I hope that’s me and I have that passion when I’m 80 – that’s living younger!

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