A conversation with Lee Fraser on retiring from her job at the Y and being an armchair traveller

Bright Ideas Blog Post

For Lee Fraser, a recent retiree and volunteer at the YMCA of Greater Toronto, “Living your best retirement” means she can keep her simple lifestyle for as long as possible. Lee enjoys spending time with her children and helping them as much as she can — especially looking after her grandson.

Meeting up with friends and travelling, along with volunteering at the Y and in her community, are important activities for Lee. She loves staying up-to-date with politics and news from around the world and enjoys good discussions or the occasional debate with family and friends.

To get a real sense of Lee’s experience with retirement we quizzed her on her impressions, and here are her thoughtful answers.

What does retirement mean to you?

Retirement is what you define it to be. For some people it means not working at all and for others it may mean working part-time. For me, it is more than just the work. It’s spending time doing things I enjoy mixed with some part-time work. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always wanted to work for the Y. I was a part-time Y employee in Kitchener-Waterloo while in high school and university. After three years of volunteering with the Durham Region YMCA Advisory Committee when I was starting my family, I was offered a full-time position with the YMCA of Greater Toronto. I was super happy!

How will you live your best life in your retirement?

I think keeping things simple is a condition for me to live my best life.  During my first six months of retirement, I gave myself permission to do whatever I felt like doing — no high expectations. I recognized that I needed to give myself time to adjust to not working full-time and not having a regular, daily routine. I am now at a point where I look at the upcoming week and set out a goal to accomplish. It may be as simple as decluttering a room, reading a book, or making a plan to visit a family member. The best thing about retirement is I can be more spontaneous, like making a last-minute plan to get together with a friend.

What do you believe is most important to consider as we age?

I have always liked being active so it’s very important to me to be able to continue a variety of physical activities. I work out most days with regular power walks in my community, but I also have exercise equipment in my home that I use during the winter and in bad weather. During spring and summer, I like to be in my yard, keeping the grass mowed and tending to my gardens. I love a wildflower garden so have been trying to plant a small one each spring for the past two years.

Keeping my mind engaged and learning new things or rekindling some old hobbies (like sewing) is also important to me. I don’t want to lose any of my brain power so I make sure to regularly participate in activities that stimulate my brain, like attending information sessions on a variety of topics of interest to me.

What are your thoughts on aging in your own home?

Being able to age in my own home is extremely important to me. I have lived in my current home for 33 years. I have great neighbours and feel connected to my neighbourhood and town. Feeling that connection and being able to call on my neighbours, or for them to call on me, is invaluable.

I have three adult children, one grandson and one granddaughter on the way, so having a place where everyone can gather and they can visit me is so very important for me.

Do you have any advice for older adults thinking about, or planning, their retirement?

Decide what retirement means for you and speak about it with those who are retired to see and hear their highlights and their retirement challenges. Invest time in understanding your financial situation and seek advice from a professional financial planner, if you can, who can help you see all the angles of your finances.

Tell us about your YMCA experience.

I’ve been with the YMCA of Greater Toronto for over 30 years — first as a volunteer and then a full-time employee. I retired last year but am currently working part-time for the Y.

Volunteering with the Y helped me connect with like-minded people living in my community and who had a common vision of how to give back, so others could benefit from the YMCA’s programs. It was an enriching experience because I was able to share my time and talents.

I always wanted to work for the YMCA since I was a teen because the Y’s values aligned with mine. Getting to work with staff who loved their job was a huge benefit. I felt like I was welcomed and belonged on whatever Y team I was working with, and that made it easy to keep working for as long as I have.

What do you think about The Bright Spot?

The Bright Spot has allowed me to be an armchair traveller through one of its activities. I love to travel and, with the pandemic, it has been challenging to make trips outside of Canada. The Bright Spot helped to fill this void for me.

The Bright Spot also offers some conversational language sessions that I plan to participate in. Now that I am six months into retirement, The Bright Spot will be a great opportunity to keep me connected with others, as well as keep my brain active and engaged.

Thanks, Lee. We wish you all the best in your (semi) retirement! It sounds like we will be seeing you as a volunteer and participant of The Bright Spot for some time. J