When Ray Wilkerson, a licensed clinical social worker, retired three years ago at age 65, he wasn’t ready to stop working completely.
“When I decided to retire, I wasn’t ready to sit back and not do anything. I wanted something to do. At the time that I retired, they still had a need for me part time.”
For the past 35 years, Ray has worked full-time at a residential treatment center for children ages 6 to 18.
Currently, he works 10–15 hours a week doing individual and family therapy at the center.
“My whole purpose is to help them work through their issues to get back home,” he says.
“My wife is still working, so instead of just sitting around twiddling my thumbs, it keeps me motivated and keeps me active in the area I’ve always worked in.”
The work is challenging. “On any given day, you might get cussed out or spit on,” Ray says. “But the rewards outweigh the difficulty.”
“I think the most fulfilling thing about my work is that you’re able to help the kids make changes that you can see will change their life and help them be a better person,” he says. “You don’t see it immediately, but those of us who have been here a long time see these kids come back years later, and they’re not in trouble. They bring their family and show their family around. Those are probably the most fulfilling things you can have happen in work like this.”
At first, Ray found the adjustment to partial retirement difficult, but now he’s glad to be free of some of the bureaucracy of full-time social work, and he enjoys the free time for his hobbies and family.
“I like my freedom,” he says. “I’m kind of an outdoors person. We live on an acre and a half of land, and I garden. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of camping. I go elk hunting with a bunch of guys here in the fall. I don’t hunt – I just go along for the hiking and to have a good time out in the woods. We have some kids who live up in Kansas City, and we go to see them often. I like to be on the go.”
Ray also volunteers with the local Kiwanis club. “We do fundraisers throughout the year,” he says. “We lost a daughter to cancer, and one of the fundraisers is named after her. Once a year we do that fundraiser to raise money and give to families. To me, that’s especially fulfilling to be able to do that.”
Ray’s advice to others considering partial retirement is to find something you really like to do and are passionate about – whether it’s volunteer work or paid. “To me, that’s been a really good thing,” he says.
AARP’s Find a Job page – AARP.org
U.S. Department of State Jobs for “Seniors” page – State.gov