On the second Saturday of each month the Men’s Group at my church gather’s and we all cook breakfast and have a spiritual discussion while we eat. We pride ourselves for tons of food, none of it healthy, and providing a place where men can share with each other. The group is quite diverse age wise but tends to the older side. There are two guys under 40 and two guys almost 80 and the rest of us fill up the spread but the average must be about 65 or so.

Each time someone is responsible for tossing out a general topic for discussion. This week it was my turn and I pondered a reasonable topic. A few weeks ago in this column I discussed the persistence of grief, and still ruminating on that area I decided to explore an aspect of grief with the guys in the group.

I ended up choosing an aspect of grief that really seems to touch men more than women, but I may be wrong. The topic was the loss of one’s career or avocation due to illness or infirmity. What one does is both important to putting bread on the table as well as providing a sense of identity. In many ways men are their careers. This may be true for women also but it seems to be more of a male stereotype. Another aspect of this is Rotondi (see References).

To launch the discussion I showed a short film about Miguel Navarro. Miguel develops an illness caused by the environment of his job and is facing the prospect of having to find new work and is devastated by the news. This film is part of a web site I have put together with films licensed from UTMB. You can see Miguel’s story as well as some others at http://smithcreekstudios.com/wider_view

After watching the film I asked the group (about a dozen men) to consider how the film may have related to their lives and perhaps illustrated something for them. It took over an hour for everyone to share their insights and observations. Some discussed how their fathers had similar situations and the difficulty in adjusting post career loss. Others reflected how they had over valued their own careers and had learned to put work/career in a better perspective. A few faced the some problem of almost certain career loss due to illness or infirmity and the scary prospect of finding a new source if income and identity. The film resonated soundly with this group and I hazard to assert it is a common issue of aging and finding meaning in life after retirement.

We read about how the baby boomers are taking retirement by storm  and without a blink of an eye (a bit more on this at O’Brien). A composite quote echoing the sentiments of several would be, “Unpaid, volunteer positions are a dime a dozen, but neither that nor endless golf nor becoming a greeter at Walmart really fills the bill.” The stereotype of the fulfilled retired baby boomer may be replacing the stereotype of the driven career guy, but all stereotypes need to be taken with a grain of salt. Helping boomers to really find meaning after work may be a serious health care dimension.


O’Brien, S. How Baby Boomers Will Change Retirement. About.com – Senior Living, no date. http://seniorliving.about.com/od/retirement/a/newboomerretire.htm

Rotondi, JP. Women And Work: What Gives Your Job Meaning? Huffington Post, 02/17/2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/women-and-work-what-gives_n_1285466.html