Regina’s Jack Upshall: Baby Boomer Retirement

From the latest Winter edition of Saskatchewan’s Fine Lifestyles:

Despite odds that have been stacked against him over and over again, Regina resident Jack Upshall is ready to start living a long and fulfilling life – as soon as he retires.

The 58-year old has stared down death’s door on more than one occasion in the past few years. “Imagine falling asleep and your final thought is, “Will I wake up?” That’s what happens when you undergo seven and a half hours of heart bypass surgery,” he says. In late 2006 Jack spent three months rebuilding heart muscle that had atrophied thanks to the intense healing of eighteen precise incisions for nine bypasses. This just one year after he had been told that he was cured of potentially deadly prostate cancer.

A member of the massive Baby Boomer generation, those experiences grounded Jack in the here and now. “Medical technology moved me to action,” he recalls. “It wasn’t that long ago that a person my age likely wouldn’t have lived through one of those life-threatening experiences, never mind two. Yet here I was having survived, and still destined to live a long life after all – yet I hadn’t even reached retirement. The prospect of all those years ahead of me was both exciting and daunting, and I realized that it was time to get prepared to enjoy them, not just financially, but mentally and emotionally. It was time to get my head into the game.”

A former weekly Saskatchewan newspaper and corporate magazine editor who went on to spend 27 years in marketing communications with both the Saskatchewan government and the private sector, today Jack embraces a fresh perspective on retirement and the Baby Boomer lifestyle – and encourages his audience to start now, not on their last day of work. He predicts a bold and invigorating retirement is available to anyone who wants it, and if there is a crisis out there facing soon-to-be retirees it is one of ‘retirement imagination’.

“What are you going to do with your retirement?” questions Jack. “Are you going to travel, find adventure and fulfillment abroad? Or perhaps you’re ready to find it in your own backyard. Either way, with the massive number of Baby Boomers all heading for retirement simultaneously, it’s time to start making plans and communicating them. If not, the global infrastructure of legal, pharmaceutical, educational, health, government, and travel industries won’t have the systems in place to support your needs.” Upshall maintains that what’s necessary to bring these future needs to reality is advanced planning – or ‘imagination’ – but no one can do this but Boomers themselves. So far nobody has stepped up to the plate to get things rolling – until now.

Compelled to share his experience and philosophy with others, Jack began researching where and how he could motivate Baby Boomers to be inspired about their own looming  retirement period, instead of taking it for granted. “I looked at my own life,” explains Jack. “I examined my interests, passions, success and failures, visions, dreams, weaknesses and strengths. None of these were cancerous nor heart debilitating, so there was no reason to shy away. There rested my new found perspective on this journey of mine – I had worried about all the wrong things, ignored my health and damn near paid the price. If this was to be the Boomer retirement experience, then what was ahead needed to be a whole lot better than that – it was time I started thinking about it, and so should everyone else.”

That research and soul-searching paid off, and today Jack thrives on sharing his message with others, whether through one of his popular speaking events or as he continues to put the final touches on his long-awaited book on Baby Boomer Retirement, slated for release in late 2012. The book urges the reader to examine their circumstances and ultimately redefine both the meaning and purpose of their life after work. “I realized my generation, the ‘Boomers’, are pioneers, about to break new ground – in short, a much longer, healthier and productive retirement than our parents or grandparents could have dreamt of,” says Jack. “However we have the ability to plan ahead, to prepare ourselves to ensure this period of time late-in-life is as fulfilling as possible. That’s the basis for my book – planning ahead and being ready for that new retirement lifestyle.”

According to Upshall, Baby Boomers have got to where they are today thanks to resources like public education and public health. He says those are gifts from a previous generation who endured things like an economic depression and a once-rudimentary healthcare system. Thanks to their parent’s sacrifice, today’s Boomers can and should embrace retirement freedom on a unprecedented level.

“Saskatchewan’s Baby Boomers are getting older,” Jack told the crowd during one of his recent speaking engagement on the issue. “It’s never an easy process, but it will be harder unless we turn our attention to the undeniable fact that there’s still a long life to live after work.”

In doing his research, Jack read all the books he could find on retirement, but found nothing that spoke to him on Boomer retirement – specifically the new mindset that needed to be embraced. He felt there was nothing that looked at Boomer retirement as a pioneering effort, that asked new questions and broke new ground. “Technically, I should be dead,” says Jack. “If I am just a sample of the consequences of advanced medical treatment, then what is going to happen if there are masses of us hanging around longer than expected? Will we be like the summer visitors who have overstayed their welcome?”

Right now, long retirements are the exception – soon they will be the norm. If successful, that new norm will reshape the purpose of work, institutions, and conventional wisdom. In the meantime, Saskatchewan’s own Jack Upshall continues to forge his own path, bringing a form of relevance to it all so that we can transition into late life together with style, grace and a sense of purpose.