Don, 70 yrs

Jun 19th 2022

“For me, being old is a state of mind. If I’m not able to do something, then I feel old. When I play pickleball, I’m very active and alert. When I’m sitting and reading something academic, then I’ll feel slower mentally, my mind will wander a bit more. But for the most part, I tend to feel mentally and physically younger than my chronological age.

As a child, I was always interested in fish and water. I got my Bachelors and Masters and worked as a marine biologist for a few years. Unless you had a PhD, all you were was a super technician, so I made the choice to go back to school to study dentistry. I chose dentistry because it was a good mixture of what I enjoy: mental stimulation, colleague and patient interactions, teaching, and continuous learning. After graduating, I had my own dental practice. I enjoyed treating patients, but the business aspect was tedious. I decided to join the military full-time as a dentist when I was 48. The jump from private practice to the military was something I never regretted; I got to do a lot of things I never could have done as a solo private practitioner - lots of travel and interacting with colleagues from different countries. When I got to the age where I had to retire from the military, I still felt like I had more to contribute professionally so I continued to treat patients for another 10 years and only retired last December. When people ask me if I miss work, the answer is no. I did dentistry for 37 years, and I like to think I was good at it, but now I’m in a different phase of my life.

Plan for growing old. The more you plan when you’re younger, the better prepared you'll be when you’re older. No one is going to look after you better than you. If you don't plan financially, you might end up working much longer than you want to. Even if you start in your post-secondary education and realize you want to do something else, see if there's anything else you'll be happy with. More and more people change careers now than they used to, it’s not unusual to have 3-4 different careers in a 40 – 50-year work life. But you must do a little planning; don’t jump into it eyes closed."

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