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For a lot of people, retirement represents freedom from schedules and the end of those long days spent toiling in jobs that provide income for the necessities of life. It’s a time to slow down, sit back and watch the world go by.
But that’s the worst thing a retiree can do, particularly anyone who is used to being busy and active, mentally and physically, according to Dr. John Lapp, a licensed professional clinical counselor in Taylorsville.
Lapp knows what he’s talking about. He worked full time as a counselor for 40 years, regularly logging 60 to 70 hours a week. Additionally, he’s been a college professor and a homeschool teacher.
When he retired in 2007 from a 26-year practice in Jacksonville, Fla., he took a year off. But, he soon discovered he wasn’t interested in hobbies – especially those he refers to as the “Big Three” for retirees: “I don’t do gardening or yard work, because I don’t like the heat. I don’t fish, because [that involves] a long time sitting and waiting for something to happen,” he said. And he doesn’t golf because he’s not good at it and prefers not to “look foolish” in front of other people.
So, he went back to work. In addition to writing the weekly “Counselor’s Corner” column for The Spencer Magnet, Lapp got back into counseling. He sees patients 10-15 hours a week, giving himself Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays off.
He has spent a lifetime helping others, and that’s what he likes to do best. Being a counselor “is who I am,” he said. “I will be doing this till the day I die.”
The worst thing anyone can do is to retire without a plan, he said. His advice is to find something that you like to do and start doing it at least two or three years before retirement.
“I don’t care if it’s a hobby or getting involved with an organization.”
Volunteering is a wonderful activity, too, he said.
Gordon Deapen found his retirement wasn’t what he thought it would be.
After spending 40 stressful years working for the U.S. Postal Service, he retired at age 59.
“I thought I needed to take time to decompress,” he said. But, after a year had passed, he found he was having trouble remembering appointments.
Worse, “I was getting fat for the first time in my life,” he said, and realized “this ain’t gonna work.”
The forgetfulness is common for people who go from being busy to doing nothing, Lapp said. “If the brain isn’t used regularly, it has a tendency to start dying a little at a time.”
Deapen also returned to work, this time around finding a job that incorporates his love for photography. He works in the photo lab at Sam’s Club in Louisville.
“I love it,” he said.
He is also active in the community, serving as chairman of the Taylorsville-Spencer County Planning and Zoning Commission and is the current manager of the Main Street Program in Taylorsville.
And he bought a motorcycle.
“The lesson I learned is that it’s good to decompress, but I had to get off the couch,” he said. “I’m mentally sharper, and I feel better than I have for years.”
William “Bill” Reeves learned that same lesson when he retired after working as a civil engineer for the U.S. government. His wife, Sharon, said he took his love for computers and has turned it into a new career. He became licensed to refurbish Microsoft computers and now owns and operates WTR Computer Sales and Service, located behind the BP gas station in Elk Creek.
Lapp said it’s never too late to do something new. He said he once met a man who, in his mid-60s, was a retired CEO.
At that time, the man was attending college full time, pursuing a law degree. Lapp said the man didn’t intend to practice, but his goal was to complete his degree and become a lawyer. After that, Lapp said the man planned to study medicine, so he could continue to keep his mind sharp.