Out and About (Sort of): Retirement—Too Soon? By Howard Freedlander

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I read with interest recently The Star Democrat article about Judge William Hugh Adkins III’s retirement, particularly his thoughts about having to retire as a Talbot County District Court judge at age 70. I would opine that, if possible, he would have ruled against the state-mandated decision.

He also said he would miss the clerk’s staff. He said in the interview that ‘that (working with his staff) is probably the one thing I miss the most.’ He retired on Nov. 9, 2017. His 70th birthday was the next day.

Two weeks ago, a county friend asked me about my nearly seven-year retirement, prompting my normal response that I am engrossed by my non-profit board participation and university alumni activities. That’s my hobby, along with writing this earthshaking column. I told him I do not fish or hunt or garden or boat or play golf or paint landscapes or cook or build furniture or do crossword puzzles.

This friend said he had read that there is a direct nexus between longevity and social connectivity: you live longer if you have constant human contact. Human relations provide lifeblood; without constant contact, you can die too early.

Depression brought on by loneliness is a killer. Studies have confirmed this assertion.

Familiar with studies about living longer through multiple human relationships, I suggested to my friend that being alone gardening, for example, might provide life-extending happiness to an introvert. He seemed surprised since he and others know that I am a card-carrying extrovert.

Introverts have a crying need to be alone while understanding that some human contact is nourishing and necessary. It would seem logical to me that solitary activities offer life-giving sustenance to people with hobbies that involve no more than one person.

Now, I realize that all of us are amalgams of outgoing and introverted personalities. We fill our needs differently and, I hope, happily.

When I retired, I dreaded the idea of being alone for hours on end. Like Judge Adkins, I missed the human interaction implicit in my job. I worried about the onset of depression. I worried about being useful. I worried about being a burden to my working wife, daughters and former associates. Though I love to read, I can’t do it for hours on end. Some people can.

Now, my days are filled with activity and conversation, sometimes too much so. Depression is a distant concern.

Back to Judge Hugh Adkins. The judicial age limit of 70 is arbitrary, based on a different theory before modern medicine and sensible life choices changed the once debilitating aging process. I recall some years ago speaking with a just-retired airline pilot for a major airline, who complained bitterly about having to stop doing what he loved doing and presumably did well. At the time, the retirement age for commercial pilots was 60; it now is 65.

Adkins’ argument, as stated in the newspaper article, is even stronger and more logical when you realize that retired district and circuit court judges continue to have busy schedules; if they wish; they serve in other county courts experiencing case overloads. They are not comparable to substitute teachers (no offense intended); they are still expected to render justice in a competent and unimpeachable manner—while 70 and older.

And they are entirely capable of doing so.

An age limit of 70 for Maryland’s judges seems foolhardy to me. It ignores the mental acuity and deep experience of our judges. It should be raised.

A good friend serves on the federal District Court. He is 70, with no compulsion to retire.

When I worked especially hard (though it was mostly fun) in 2016-2017 as class president and reunion co-chair of my 50th college reunion, I was surprised by how many fundraising calls I made to classmates at their offices. They seemed only remotely interested in my life as a retiree. They were fully engaged in their legal, corporate and real estate development careers. Our conversations were short and sweet They were busy earing a paycheck.

So, what have I learned since I retired nearly seven years ago?

Your skills and brain are still sharp at 65 or 70 or 65. Names may be harder to remember. At times, thoughts may be more challenging to complete. Thanks to modern medicine and healthy lifestyle, one’s numerical age matters less than it did in days of yore.

Your need, however, for human contact has no age limit, maybe less so for introverts. Loneliness can lead to depression, as often stated by experts.

I love retirement. I love my non-profit and university alumni engagement. I love glorifying my age, not bemoaning it.

And it’s fun to travel outside the constraints of a prescribed vacation—and also spend time with grandchildren who like designated babysitters and constant encouragers.

As for human contact, I’ve got plenty. I even enjoy some quiet time. But not too much.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

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