People in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond are often said to be enjoying their “golden years,” a phrase once meant to signal days of leisure and rest. But today, people are redefining the traditional retirement years in myriad ways. We shared some of their stories in the summer 2017 issue of 3rd Act Magazine. Here are more glimpses from the people we profiled (and others) who tell us what they are doing—and why—as they enjoy their moments in the sun.
The first time I heard the phrase “third act” was during a YWCA luncheon speech by Jane Fonda. Having been an actress, activist, businesswoman, wife, and author, she had entered her fourth act. And I, too, am enjoying a fourth or maybe a fifth act.
A quick bio: I started my newspaper career at 19, a college dropout, when I was hired as news editor at the U District Herald, a thriving community weekly paper.
I married and quickly (before I knew what caused them) had two sons, meanwhile serving as my artist-husband’s bookkeeper. (He designed the logo and iconic take-out bag for Dick’s Drive-In). I engaged in heavy civic rabble rousing, working to defeat the R. H. Thomson Expressway through the Arboretum, getting elected to the Lake City Community Council and the League of Women Voters boards, serving as PTA president, etc.
In 1971, I enrolled as a “mature” (old) student at University of Washington and graduated with a communications degree.
I was hired at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1974, first as a temp (letters-to-the-editor editor) on the editorial page, then as acting editorial page editor, business editor, and finally as a four-times-a-week columnist. I left the P-I in 1991 for the Seattle Times, where I wrote a city column for 12 years.
I quit my job in 2003 to run for office and was elected to the Seattle City Council 100 days later. After serving three terms, I lost out on a bid for a fourth term. (Pushing my luck?)
Recently, I went to work as a once-a-week columnist for Westside Seattle, a weekly publication that combines four community papers from Ballard to Burien.
Does that add up to a “third act” story?
I am “rewiring”— not a typo! (And a challenge for autocorrect not to substitute “rewording”!) The choice is deliberate as I continue the transition from the last position I had the good fortune to hold as the chief administrative officer of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I feel grateful to have had experiences crisscrossing the private, public, and nonprofit sectors in positions where I could make a difference improving the lives of others. All the while, community involvement has always been important to me, whether as a volunteer in a campaign, cause, or community group.
I have been deliberate in choosing how I spend my time now—a luxury I’m relishing for the first time! But now I only have myself to blame if my calendar gets too crowded. I’ve started a small consulting biz, which I want to keep small, and I serve on nonprofit boards of organizations doing their part to make the world more equitable, healthy, and just.
A high priority for me is mentoring young people who are looking for advice on how to navigate their next steps, but I have decided to “charge” for my time by requiring that whomever I spend time with gives back in some way to make the community better and pay it forward.
I get to spend more time with friends and books, though the stack on the coffee table keeps getting taller! And I continue to do lots of community “stuff.”
People frequently ask me, “What will you do when you retire?” And I say, “This is it. How does it look?” Retirement isn’t in my vocabulary. I love my work and love my life, and I just keep on doing both.
Of course, I have more blessings than I can count: a wonderful work home, good health, chosen family, a vibrant community to be a part of, and enough resources to continue doing what I’m doing. Which is, in my case, mucking around in museums for 40 years, hopefully helping make them better and stronger by being more relevant and accessible for all. I’ve grown up at the Burke Museum, where I’ve done education, development, community relations, and now co-chair the campaign for a fabulous New Burke which will open in 2019! It’s fantastic … fun and energizing to be on a team of great folks, friends all, making this 21st century museum happen. Stay tuned! And if you get a chance, cruise up 15th in the U District and check out our progress.
The other anchor in my life that keeps me energized, engaged, and in touch with issues of immigration, inclusion, and equity is the Wing Luke Asian Museum, where I’ve served on the board for 20 years, the last 10 as board co-chair. Since the 2016 election, the Wing—which tells the Asian American immigrant story—has been at ground zero for some of the heinous anti-immigrant policies of the current administration. It’s an honor to serve with admired friends and colleagues from the Asian Pacific American community supporting the Wing as a safe, educational, inspiring gathering place where all are welcomed.
In between my two museum gigs there are myriad projects, political campaigns, fundraisers to attend and put on, students to mentor, coffees, luncheons, and banquets for good progressive causes all! Today, not one but two political fundraisers were on my calendar, for Rep. Adam Smith and County Executive Dow Constantine, both smart, compassionate public servants of the highest caliber. I’m inspired by the progressive values and strong conviction of these leaders and others in our state who fill me with confidence during these uncertain times. As an old, late 1960s poli sci major and political junkie, I’m always energized by working on a good campaign and there are plenty of those in our bright, blue state!
Since the elections, after the initial shock and awe subsided and people got their footing, I’ve been struck on a daily basis how many silver linings there are that spur me on. Good caring people digging in and doing great work with grace, good humor, and creativity to make our community a better, stronger, healthier place for all. There are so many places to plug in, it’s just a matter of choosing the right fit. Worst of times, best of times. A new generation of activists are emerging, the first since my own, who will carry us into the future. And even the Mariners are winning!
Since retiring as senior vice president of Weyerhaeuser at the end of 2004, I have continued some outside activities, added new ones, and dropped a few.
I continue to serve on the boards of Cambia Health Solutions, Regence Blue Shield, US Bank Washington, and Smilow Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club
Since retirement from Weyerhaeuser, I have added these activities: CEO and President, Mack L. Hogans LLC, Consulting Services; affiliate professor, School of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, University of Washington; Board of Regents, Pacific Lutheran University; board member, Washington State Opportunity Scholarship; board member and independent lead director, Boise Cascade Company; and occasional guest lecturer at the UW Foster School of Business.
Today I am involved in activities that keep my brain and mind active, sharp, and challenged; activities that utilize my professional experiences to benefit others; and ones that appeal to my heart.
I am involved in health care and I am committed to the “cause” of Cambia (and its companies, like Regence Blue Shield) to transform health care, creating a person-focused and economically sustainable system.
My love of education and my commitment to helping young people from economically difficult situations find themselves and meaningful careers are evident by my engagement with WSOS, PLU, UW, and the Boys and Girls Club.
My love and appreciation of forest products is more than satisfied by my board role with the successful Boise Cascade Company
I offer my consulting services to companies, organizations, and individuals because I have “been there, done that” and I want others to benefit and be successful from my experiences, coaching, and advice.
We all have encounters or experiences that profoundly impact our lives, if we are paying attention. A transforming experience for me included the words “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!” Those were the final words of my friend David Johnston, who was blasted from his observation post by the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980.
The process of taking the pulse of the volcano’s activity and explaining and documenting it to KING 5 viewers was extremely fulfilling, as was simply surviving the eruption (and post-eruption activity). But it was the visit with David’s father in a Chicago suburb two months after the eruption that was transformative. He told me, “Part of me wishes I’d never encouraged David’s interest in volcanoes, but he loved it. I remember him telling me, ‘Each day is a new adventure—an opportunity to learn something new, an opportunity to use that knowledge to get better at what I do, and to use that knowledge and skill to help others.’” Those have become words for me to live by.
I think I suffer from a common retirement challenge: overcommitment. But I’m looking to use the experiences and knowledge (and mellowing, somewhat) to make this planet a better place, with an emphasis on the future. A key focus for me is the health of our environment, conservation issues, and, in particular, climate change. I’ve found myself being drawn to do presentations on climate change to a variety of groups: colleges, general interest, and faith based. It seems the bumper sticker slogan “I’m spending my children’s inheritance” has become a slogan to live by for too many of our fellow citizens. That’s why I put time in my schedule for these talks and for activism, such as flying to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Climate March. And it’s why I continue my volunteer work supporting the Seattle Aquarium, including work as “Scuba Santa,” hosting the Sound Conversation series, and writing about the outdoors and environment, including for Mountaineers Books.
I’ve been blessed by so many amazing experiences and encounters that have enabled me to deal constructively and creatively (most of the time) with stress and challenges as a meteorologist, broadcaster, science journalist, pilot, diver, etc., so I also do public speaking to a variety of groups with the goal of offering perspectives and strategies that will help others do the same—to come out “at the other end” still smiling and still looking for ways to contribute. Plus, I enjoy talking. It’s a carryover from my work as a broadcaster.
My faith is a foundation, and both my wife and I seek to broaden and deepen our faith and to serve others. While faith has too often been a means of creating or hardening boundaries, for us it’s a powerful means of connecting. Decades ago, Father William Treacy and Rabbi Raphael Levine offered a program called Challenge, illustrating how very different people with diverse backgrounds and beliefs can communicate peacefully and constructively and work together toward positive change. I serve on the board of the Treacy-Levine Center, and I am working with fellow board members toward that goal. A current project is developing a new version of Challenge as a podcast; hopefully that will launch later this year. I like the words often attributed to Saint Francis: “Preach the good news always. Use words when necessary.”
Family is also a key. I’m blessed with a wonderful family. My wife, Sue, has put up with me for 40 years. We have a great son Eric, who recently returned to the Seattle area from Colorado, as a practicing equine veterinarian. And there’s my mom, who is now 90 and does her best to make certain I behave. (She’s successful part of the time.) Moving into retirement (is that what this is really called?) gives me much more flexibility to spend time with them, and with friends who have been kind enough to let us into their lives and make us part of their extended families.
Fun is essential. None of the other good goals are possible if you can’t smile and have a good time. Our family and friends help me do that. And it comes with reading (my wife says I have far too many books … that’s not possible!), cooking, and travel. Sue and I continue to search out fascinating places to travel. If I can include scuba diving, cycling, or hiking, all the better. Last year we visited the French and Swiss Alps. The hiking was incredible, so was the food, and the people teach you that however good our perspective and way of life might be, there are other, equally valid approaches to life.
Perhaps my fondness for cooking and good food is why fitness is my final “f.” It makes everything else possible and better. I love cycling, hiking (with my husky, Roger, my number one exercise partner), skiing, sailing, swimming, diving, wake boarding, and fly fishing. I truly believe if you don’t use it, you lose it—fast.
I am editing my friends’ books, caring for an elderly woman as a hospice volunteer, and supporting sick friends and Book-It Repertory Theatre while pretending to be the grandmother of my niece’s children, ages 4 and 2. I am engaged at age 74 because I need to be of use.
Theresa Morrow and Bill Ristow
When we retired, we decided we needed a goal as a couple. So we wrote a mission statement for our retirement. It was very simple. We wanted to give back in recognition of the good fortune we had enjoyed in our careers. And we wanted to indulge our love for our family and friends, for the outdoors, and travel.
The statement led us to a second career building on our experience in journalism, writing, and management. Over almost 10 years, we created curricula and trained more than 1,000 people in journalism and creative writing in six emerging democracies: Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ukraine, and Bosnia. Our trainees ranged in age from 10 to over 50, in experience from children who had never written anything before to seasoned professionals. None of them spoke English as their first language. We quickly learned that our job was to help people think independently in an often corrupt and threatening environment where that kind of thought was rare. We believe that most of those we worked with emerged from our time together as stronger, better, and more confident and creative writers—and we know that we emerged immeasurably richer for learning, firsthand, the complexities and the joys of life in the so-called developing world.
In 2013, we were honored by being named Purpose Prize Fellows, among the top 5 percent of nominees doing so-called “encore” careers, work that is both personally meaningful and serves the greater good.
We are continuing our work both internationally and increasingly in our own country. We’ve come to realize that the U.S. needs the same qualities of independent thinking that we have seen the need for elsewhere. We are developing a curriculum to train in libraries and schools in areas of poverty here at home, and plan a sort of “writing-mobile” to take us into those communities.
We are doing these things because we believe we still have skills to offer, we like the adventure of traveling and meeting new people, and we know that we will continue to learn with every project we take on.
At almost 65, I’m busier and happier than ever. I grew up in a family of seven kids, with my parents engaged and busy in the Catholic school and church community. Given that role modeling, I’ve always believed the adage “service is the rent we pay for our place on Earth.” I’m now on the following boards: AAA of Washington, Anthony’s Restaurants, YMCA of Greater Seattle, Independent Colleges of Washington, and Seattle University Albers Business School. Each very different in its mission, but each intellectually stimulating, engaging, and making a difference. I’m constantly learning new things and involved with very smart, good people in making our community healthier and stronger.
My life is fuller than anyone can imagine. I still work full time for Providence Health and Services with Mission Integration with our teams. What fills my soul is the work our caregivers are providing for the homeless in Seattle. We provide lunch and food for several services. Our teams go the Union Gospel Mission downtown and Hope Place in the Rainier Valley. We tend to the Mother Joseph farm here on campus that supplies fresh produce for the meals. We also do food backpacks for kids with who go hungry and we have a team going to the local school to mentor the homeless there. My life is blessed. Age: Ageless.
Kathleen Triesch Saul
My accidental life as a journalist began in the early 1970s when, hunting for a job in Kansas City, I decided it might be cool to work in the newspaper where Ernest Hemingway once did. (I had been an English major, and always thought I’d teach. Through my 40-plus years in newspaper editing, it turned out I found many opportunities to, ahem, teach.)
Most of my career was spent at The Seattle Times. What I loved best was helping good people do good work, and trying to make the world a better place along the way. In retirement, I find those are still my goals. That, and finally having time to pursue the other things I love to do:
Read books; see plays; take classes (Osher Institute); dine out; sweat with gym buddies; travel with my husband and/or pals in Europe, Mexico, California, Louisiana, around the country; be a better friend; see family more. I’d planned to take one retiree’s advice and spend the first year “off” thinking about how best to “give back.” As it happens, the volunteer opportunity came to me almost immediately in the form of my now-97-year-old mother.
These past couple years have been devoted to her, first sharing care duties with my siblings in her home, now managing her life at an adult family home. The challenges involve everything from emergency hospital runs to making sure she really did get a shower on Thursday. Doing this, I’ve found something of a mini-calling: Many of these old people are rarely visited and get little personal attention. But they are funny, full of stories, and grateful for some company. They need me. And, at age nearly 70, I think, “there but for the grace . . .”
My other great volunteer gift has been to mentor a talented young woman I met after hearing her read a powerful essay that won her a scholarship. Orphaned at age 15, hers had been a hard life. I asked to be her mentor. Now busy in college, she and I meet every six weeks to talk about anything she wants. And feast. We love sharing good food. She has family who support her well, but I am just an interested old writer who encourages her talent and relishes seeing the world through her fresh, intelligent eyes. I know there are so many more young people who could use an ear, but being there for just one is enough for now.
John B. Saul
When I was 16, my byline appeared on the front page of the weekly newspaper in my small town in Northwest Ohio. After that article about our high-school basketball team, all I wanted to be was a journalist.
I’m now 69 years old and I still want to be a journalist–when it fits with those things I put off during a 50-year career with radio, a wire service, several newspapers, and then several classrooms where I tried to pass on some of what I had learned.
My promise to myself when I took an early buyout at The Seattle Times (after 28 years there) was to only do and write about things that interested me. That meant thoroughbred horse racing, rugby, books, and outdoor activities.
The doing part also included driving for Ride the Ducks of Seattle (as Capt. Barney Kohl), working for the Census bureau during the 2010 head count, and a bit of construction work for a friend.
My writing “work” included covering Emerald Downs and doing book reviews for the Times, with a couple of return engagements as an assignment editor and editorial writer. To make it pay, my freelancing had to expand to articles about personal finance, gardening, and education. I never turned down an assignment. Is it work when you do what you love?
Thank you pension plan and Social Security for the freedom now to do mostly non-paying activities that I never got enough of while working full time. Plans for this year include three 200-mile-plus bike rides, two 50-mile-plus canoe trips, a trip to Italy, and at least a couple of Cascade hikes.
What’s missing is volunteer work. I’m looking for a group that does trail work. Suggestions?
Some responses have been edited for clarity and length.