Change is inevitable, though most of us do everything in our power to avoid it. We prefer to seek a path of least possible resistance and establish a comfortable, if not predictable flow to our daily lives. Retirement is the one mighty course change many of us anticipate with great joy and trepidation. Thankfully, Continuing Education instructor Mariko Navin has made a career of leading students through those inevitable changes and more in her course, Midlife through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change.
Little intrigues Navin more than helping folks net all the ingredients they need to formulate a successful “Second Half” of life. “I wanted to offer an interactive workshop-style course that could provide structure, resources, and support to help individuals identify for themselves what mattered most at this point in their lives and to start taking action to bring these things to the fore,” says Navin. “Small incremental changes can lead to bigger changes over time, and I wanted to provide an opportunity for people seeking to reexamine their lives and to intentionally create change a place to do so within a community of others.”
Navin has always found inspiration in helping others find the path to their True North. “For myself, working with the older adult population is an extension of my professional and personal interests that I've had for over thirty years,” says Navin. “I've worked with college age students and adults in transition as an academic and career counselor for nearly 30 years, in addition to previous work in private industry. My Master’s in Education focused on Adult Learning and Development, and my curiosity for this hasn't abated at all.”
Navin says as she’s aged, her curiosity for navigating life’s challenges and opportunities has only grown. Offering a class for the seniors of the community seemed a natural extension of that curiosity and on target to her life's work. “I've long worked with younger adults, and now work with adults on the other end of the spectrum. What I didn't expect was how much I would learn and grow through my encounters with those who enrolled in my classes.”
According to Navin, the time is ideal for a course like Midlife through Retirement. “Demographically, it's said that over 6,000 Boomers are reaching age 60 every day (over the next 10-15 years),” Navin points out. “This generation is like no previous generation in their overall good health and extended life expectancy, and it's predicted that they will reshape the concept of ‘retirement’ for future generations—people are talking about ‘unretirement’, never retiring, re-careering, ‘encore careers’, the gig society, and ways to find meaning, personal fulfillment, and work towards a greater good or purpose.”
In fact, Navin sees this class as part of her own path to that greater career calling. “I've long thought that everything I've done and experienced in life has been one long ‘career’ intertwined with my internal values, interests, hopes, and goals. So when I bring to an end one type of work activity, I'll hope to have other forms of activity which calls for my doing.” As a matter of fact, this course and her company New Encores are all part of that vision. “Also staying active and doing things is just good in itself and underlies aging healthfully. I do look forward to having more time to do what I want and to have greater control over that time in 'retirement" when that happens.”
Navin says she’s had the pleasure of working with retirees negotiating a wide array of transitional challenges. “Some people are recent retirees, but many are in life transition/examination of various kinds—empty nesters, those suffering loss (jobs, spouse, relationships, etc.), there are those with clear goals and others who simply want more out of life. I provide a structure for change by sharing concepts, tools, and resources followed by opportunities for them to try exercises and talk things out. Each person clarifies what important and shapes next steps.”
The class itself can be looked upon as an open-forum or a group coaching environment. “It's hands on, not a lecture,” says Navin. “I want people to be comfortable and learn in a way that works best for them, so I try to accommodate different learning styles and preferences.” Navin says she calculates exploration and discussion for a wide spectrum of personalities. “I share the tools and exercises and they apply it to their own needs and goals.”
Though there’s no actual barometer for success when it comes to her students, Navin points to one student who succeeded in unforeseen ways after taking her class. “(He was) a former high-level IT professional (‘too young to retire, too old to rehire’) who was stymied on his next step, how to find a job, what kind of a job, etc. Through the class, he identified values, strengths, and purpose beyond a job, which led him to connections at 501Commons.org (an organization that aids non-profits) and he was on his way to meeting others who were interested in his skills and what he could offer them, so he was feeling much more optimistic now.”
Another student was a nurse who’d walked a hard path through life as a single parent and whose daughter had recently become independent. “(My student) was lost and tired when she first came to class,” Navin recalls. “She soon identified her needs and values, and started taking small actionable steps (first in the area of relationships, then personal health), and by the end of class she was visibly happier and reported to me herself that she felt better and had her footing now.”
Change is inevitable and change is often scary, but can be overcome. More than anything, Navin says she hopes her students take away from her class, “A rediscovery or appreciation of their best selves, and the ability to put this to use in the next stage of their life.”
Learn more about Midlife through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change.