We all look forward to retirement, right? Not necessarily sailing on a private yacht or going on exotic safaris – but at least getting away from the daily commute and back-to-back business meetings.

Well, apparently, retirement isn’t for everyone. Take 71-year-old Bill VanGorder of Halifax, for example: His goal is to keep himself happily busy and still working.

“I tried to retire; it lasted three months,” says VanGorder, who “officially” retired nine years ago after heading up the Lung Association of Nova Scotia.

He had always intended to do some consulting work, mostly in the not-for-profit sector – somewhere like the Lung Association or the YMCA, where he had worked previously for 28 years. But a friend, the founder of a human resources company called HiringSmart, contacted him. The friend wanted VanGorder to become the firm’s director of business development. And before he knew it, he was back working full-time, learning new skills – and loving it.

Then he and his wife, Esther, became involved in Nordic pole walking, a training program developed by the Finnish national cross-country ski team as a way to keep fit during the summer. The organization they were working with told them it needed a distributor in Atlantic Canada and soon the couple morphed into the Atlantic distributors and instructor-trainers for Nordic walking poles. “I just love it,” says VanGorder. “I’m learning more about sales and marketing and running my own business.”

VanGorder is not alone. A recent report from LIMRA, an organization that does research and consulting for the insurance and financial services industries, states that many Canadians don’t know when they will retire. Those aged 65 to 70 are the most undecided, with about one in 10 having no intention of ever leaving the workforce.

VanGorder’s decision to keep working was partly due to the 2008 economic downturn. The VanGorders are among the 70% of Nova Scotians who don’t have company pension plans; they rely instead on the RRSPs they built up over the years. But their savings took a bit hit in the downturn.

“Few people in my situation can afford to retire fully. But I was very fortunate in that I wanted to work and the need to work was there, too. Otherwise I was looking at drastically reducing my income,” says VanGorder. “The investments have come back a little but nowhere where we were in 2008.”

Many pre-retirement courses deal mainly with financial matters, but VanGorder says they don’t help people understand what is going to happen to them in the future, psychologically. “What we used to call the retirement age is now the age of deciding what to do next. It’s not an age where you do nothing,” he says.

If you are a senior looking for work or thinking about looking for work, here are a few of the information resources available:

Thinking about working past 65? Here's some food for thought:

  • Take time to reflect. Don’t try to make permanent plans or huge decisions before leaving your job.
  • Plan for the long term. In general, we are living healthier and longer, so you may be able to work for many years past retirement.
  • Research your options. You may be more employable than you think. Many companies value seniors’ skills and flexibility.