Redefining Retirement project pilot: changing the rules of older adulthood

chris pelham_redefining.jpg

Ask someone what they think of when they hear the word “retirement” and more often than not, the usual clichés abound. Golf, travel, sleep, grandkids, hobbies, relaxation, recreation — the list goes on.

To be sure, these are all desirable activities to engage in at almost any stage of life. They bring satisfaction, health benefits and are generally known to improve quality of life. They’ve become the well-known pillars of retirement for a reason.

Over the past decade, however, a growing number of retirees and older adults have begun asking: is there something more I could be doing?

The answer, according to a group behind an innovative new project is: yes.

The project is a pilot called Redefining Retirement, currently in the beginning stages in Yarmouth County, Windsor/West Hants and St. Margaret’s Bay. According to 71-year-old Chris Pelham, one of the project’s leaders, it’s long overdue.

“This is not just a project, but a movement,” he says. “We’ve known for many years that the conventional definition of retirement is incomplete, at best. We’re seeing so many people in their 70s and 80s who want to roll up their sleeves, connect with their communities and have a meaningful impact.”

Pelham explains that the pursuit of this impact is the driving force for the project and could take shape in many ways.

“Through this project, we are going to help older adults start businesses, form task forces, create social enterprises, connect with volunteer activities and make financial investments in their communities. They’ll get to do it in alignment with their schedule, their personal goals, their skills and their resources.”

In other words, he says, they’ll get to pursue meaningful work and activities on their own terms.

One impetus for the project was the 2017 SHIFT Report: Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for an Aging Population. This report highlighted the need to change the way Nova Scotians value, promote and support older adults and their contributions to the province.

When Pelham and his partners read the report, they approached the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors with the idea, which they’d been working on for some time.

“The stars aligned perfectly,” he says. “They were asking for Nova Scotians to act on these recommendations and we were ready to answer the call.”

The pilot project will feature several workshops and initiatives in each region, aimed specifically at those aged 60 and up. It is scheduled to last until March 2020 and is set to ultimately become a blueprint for how rural communities engage their older adult populations.

“If we do our job properly,” says Pelham, “we will make it easier for older adults in these communities to mobilize themselves toward common social goals and economically beneficial pursuits. When that happens, rural communities become stronger and more prosperous.”