Whistling While You Work

As the grocery cashier slid my order across the scanner, bagging items as she went, she also hummed, whistled and sang a few words here and there. When she guided my wine over the scanner, a “check ID” flashed on the screen in front of me. She looked at me as I said, “Yes, I’m old enough, my kids are old enough and one grandchild is old enough.” She chuckled as she responded, “I’ll bet you’re not as old as I am.” So, we traded ages. I don’t know if she had to work as a cashier at age 74 or she wanted to, but she went on to say how she was retired and working!

Lots of people work in retirement for lots of reasons. I know several who retired, but continue working 2 or 3 days a week just for the work, not the money. By working, they stay engaged in the world, both mentally and physically. They feel challenged, maintaining people and technological skills, learning new techniques, sharing ideas and socializing.

While many corporations are still looking for full-time employees, others are beginning to realize older workers come with a depth of experience and wisdom younger workers have yet to accumulate, making their company culture stronger as well as more diverse. Consequently, those companies are more open to the idea of part-time or contract employees. Older workers are valued as much as younger employees.

With Martin and I taking a pen & ink class from my first art teacher, I’m reminded of the retirees who branch out after retirement to try on a new version of an old career or make a hobby into a career. A lifelong artist, Don, took on teaching and then learned a new art form — carving wood spirits. Artists never retire! Don has been teaching for ten years, passing his knowledge along to recent converts to the artist’s way. And, that’s the way it is for those who retire, deliberately deciding to use retirement as a springboard to enter a line of work they always dreamed of doing.

Then, there are those who need the work for the money or even the health insurance. On my last job prior to retirement, a fellow employee worked for the insurance benefit, not the paycheck. Although he was retired and collecting a pension, he wasn’t yet eligible for Medicare. So, he continued working for the insurance, taking his vacation time for trips and cruises.

And, of course, as someone who espouses the need for a sense of purpose in retirement, going to work at a regular job provides just that for some people. Working also provides structure, routine. There are retirees who need exactly that. Years ago I knew a wealthy executive who retired from a manufacturing company. Oh, he had hobbies and golfing, a nice cushy lifestyle. But, it wasn’t enough. He went back to work as a manager of a factory on the nightshift, which made him a much happier guy. That was the work he knew and the work he loved. It gave his life purpose and meaning again as well as structure.

One of the big perks of working in retirement, whether you need the job or not – the pressure is most likely off. What I mean is you don’t have to angst over the performance reviews or the occasional slip-up. Without the pressure, you’re free to enjoy the job making it more likely you’ll end up doing a great job and all will be well.

As I mentioned, I have no idea why the 74-year-old was working. She was a great cashier, whistling as she scanned and bagged items, smiling as she handed customers their receipts along with a “have a nice day”. While working in retirement is not for everyone, for many it’s a necessity, for others it’s the gateway to a sense of purpose, a chance to fulfill a dream or have a connection to community. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, it comes with a paycheck!

14 comments on “Whistling While You Work

    • Janis, I sometimes think the same thing. I, then, think of a woman I met who worked as a hostess at a restaurant because she and her husband owned restaurants, sold them and retired AND she missed the business so much, she went to work as a hostess. She was a very happy woman! I hope there are many others who embrace their service industry job in the same way she did. K

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  1. I can’t whistle…or carry a tune…but I find humming helps as I try on new tasks that stretch me…I’m humming my way through pen and ink projects…glad you’re back in the blog mode!


  2. I’m currently exploring these options while still working full time. I need something to do for many of the reasons you mentioned.


  3. Good post. It hit home hard. My husband retired 4 years ago and he is delighted. I on the other hand have struggled with it on so many levels. Having someone around 24-7, is a challenge, especially one that doesn’t think he has to do any household chores, pet chores and yard work. He has always been an introvert and not social which is something I need and miss. He has Medicare but I still have to pay a high monthly payment that just increased by 75% with out any notice. I started working part time as a dog walker for some extra cash and more social interaction which helps but now my extra cash goes to my premium. So, I look forward to your posts and feel better knowing I am not alone!


  4. Hi Kathy,
    Today’s article put a smile on my face as I just returned from the grocery store being served by a disgruntled teen cashier. I was the one humming and put a smile on the youngsters face. He said it was nice to see a happy person.
    Happiness affects people.
    Great article.


  5. I loved my job and would like to keep working but my husband’s memory decline has prompted me to retire. My job involved a lot of on-going changes and continuing education so it would be hard to do it part time. I am going to structure my days somewhat so that I fit in exercise and time with friends since as time goes on I won’t be able to get out as much. Being together 24/7 for the past two weeks while on vacation is becoming a little stressful.


    • Karen, Since my husband has Primary Progressive Aphasia, I sympathize and empathize with your situation. It will become harder as time goes on, but be sure to continue to take care of yourself by carving out some time for you. Best to you. K


  6. This post reminds me that whatever one sets out to do, show up, be present & put some heart into it. Every job is important and contributes to something bigger. Paid employment ticks off a lot of boxes; sometimes the pay check is the least of them when considering the need for interaction, personal growth, sense of purpose, etc.


  7. I so enjoy your articles. In fact, one of my friends is retiring soon, and so I hope to pass some of your wisdom to her. I work part time for the structure and purpose, too.


  8. Kathy, this is so true, and it is exactly why we are enjoying the Encore Voyage! We keep ourselves involved in a little bit of “work” (our own business), not because we need to particularly, but because it keeps us engaged. Other friends volunteer for the same reason. Great post! ~ Lynn


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