In the Vedic period of civilization, the average human lifespan was divided into four distinct stages or ‘ashramas’- Brahmacharya (the age of learning), Grihastha (the age of maintaining a family), Vanaprastha (the age of retiring to the woods) and Sanyas (the age of renouncing all material comforts to become an ascetic). Today, retirement does not imply moving into the woods, but nonetheless leaves behind a feeling of exclusion with the person who had been working nearly all his life.
Imagine this. For nearly four decades of your life, you have been waking up at a fixed time, having breakfast and reporting to your workplace. Your life has been characterized by office gossip, bonding with colleagues, meetings and the satisfaction of completed projects. You have climbed up the corporate ladder, earned the respect of the people around you and provided for your family. You have never thought of slowing down. And then, one day, you retire. You suddenly feel old; the streaks of gray in your hair weigh you down. A void is left in your life. Your work had defined you all these years, and now suddenly you are not sure of what to do with your life anymore.
People around us retire all the time. They are entering a phase of life they had not probably planned about. My father is about to retire in a couple of months. It is only now that I have started realizing the complete implication of a retirement. Though gifts are but little drops in the ocean, a thoughtful retirement gift can bring a smile on his face.
It is important to bear in mind the fact that gifting trinkets without personal touches is nearly equivalent to an empty gesture. He has worked all his life, gifting him a mug with his face on it will just not cut it. Here I have compiled a list of the more personalized gifts that you can opt for, and not just on the retirement day.
1. The Gift of Time
Nothing you can gift will be more appreciated than the gift of time. Spend time with him
(Especially required if we are talking about a family member). He might be feeling excluded or under-appreciated. Show him that you appreciate all that he has done over the years and that now is your time to take care of him (especially true if we are talking about a Dad or a fatherly figure).
Retirement is an extremely difficult period in life to come to terms with. The onus is on the people surrounding the retiree to make the transition period as smooth as possible.
2. A Vacation
What with the responsibilities and workload over the years, maybe he has missed on a trip to a place he has always wanted to visit. Maybe he has always proclaimed to anybody who would listen that he intends to take a trip somewhere the first chance he gets. Surprise him with tickets for a vacation for two to that dream destination on his retirement day, and watch his face light up. Though it is a tad taxing on the pocket, if you can afford it, go for it.
3. A Pet
This will be a great gift for an animal lover. Gift him a breed of dog that suits his personality. Chances are you will see that tough exterior of his break down and expose him for the softie that he really is as he plays with his Labrador.
A person who suddenly finds nothing to occupy his time with might slip into a major phase of depression. I have a Professor who became majorly agitated because his workload was decreased citing his age. If you can find him a small job around the house to keep his feeling of relevance alive, that will be a major boost to his mental health. You can also find him some small job- like taking care of a grandchild or a tuition class for a few neighborhood kids. The pay (or lack of it) is not the key factor here, the little bits of satisfaction is.
5. A Song
Write him a song. Sing it (even if out of tune). Shoot a music video (even if it is shoddy). Star colleagues (if a coworker is the retiree) or relatives (if it is for a family member). Write lyrics that are funny and personal. Have fun. The spirit you imbibe in the song will be felt by the person it is meant for.
6. A Gym Membership
Gift him something that will keep him healthy and fit for the upcoming years. Though unconventional, the long term implications make this gift worth a try.
7. A Hobby
Rekindle a hobby the retiree has been fond of over the years. If he has dabbled in music in his youth, gift him a guitar. If he has displayed a flair for cooking or baking, gift him some relevant contraption. Chances are you will end up being invited to one of his home cooked meals frequently. If he has green fingers you can gift him some rare saplings that he can plant in his garden.
8. Make Him Feel Young Again
In order to smooth out the transition for a retiree it is important to make him feel young again. Gift him a latest gizmo loaded with the latest game. Gift him a collection of music from the band that he loved in his youth. You can even arrange for a screening of a famous movie from his youth that he has memories attached with. Planning such a gift will however need a little amount of research.
9. A Blog
The previous idea can be stretched into a blog if your colleague is one of the net savvy people around. Free blogs can be set up very easily with Blogger and WordPress. A large number of customized templates are available. Launch the blog about a month before the big day. Put up a daily post with different stories about how he affects the daily life in the office. A different author can write each day.
Continue the blog for a couple of months after the retirement day. Put up a weekly post about how you missed him in the office. This idea will need some time, effort, creativity and cooperation among your coworkers. But the joy that your colleague feels will make the effort worth it.
10. A Scrapbook
If your Boss or a colleague is retiring, you can enlist help from a few coworkers to put together a scrapbook that celebrates his time in the office. You know, how there are stories about old timers doing the rounds in the air? Talk to a few old hands and put together a few anecdotes about him in the scrapbook. Browse through a few old office magazines and see if you can dig up a few photos of him from the era of bellbottoms. Highlight a few achievements from his career. Tell him that you will miss his guidance.
Chances are that your Boss will leave at the end of the day, with a smile on his face and fondly reminiscing the past.