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Steve Hansen When you’re retired, no one cares about what you know

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Steve Hansen

Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:30 am, Tue May 8, 2012.

"Why don't you give your blueprints to the phone company?" my 12-year-old enquiring mind asked.

My grandfather replied, "I'm going to retire in a few months. The company doesn't care about my ideas once I leave."

I was surprised to hear his answer. Surely, a man who had been with Ma Bell since the early 1900s was an invaluable asset. They had to have some respect for his vast knowledge.

Granddad Hansen made the comments to me as he proudly displayed his ideas. It was 1957. He had designed an entirely new switching system that would modernize phone company electrical connections.

I thought Granddad was just being modest. If he would just push his ideas with the telephone brass, I was certain he would be recognized. However, he refused and insisted that no one would care.

At that point, I made up my mind that whatever profession I entered in the future, I would be invaluable to others after retirement. I would spend a lifetime acquiring knowledge about my job and help those who followed in my footsteps long after my departure.

I entered the field of psychotherapy. I received advanced degrees in the subject and postgraduate training in psychopharmacology. I teamed up in private practice with a well-respected psychiatrist and two psychologists in the area. I constantly kept up with continuing education via various university courses, as well as those sponsored by the California Medical Association. I was an oral examiner for the state boards. I even had faculty appointments in two graduate schools. I testified as an expert witness in civil trials. The experience of thousands of hours in clinical work would certainly be useful to younger therapists, once the decision was made to take down my shingle.

Then retirement came in 1995. There was no fanfare, no tears, no "We need you," or "Please stay in touch as a resource." It was as if I had never existed. In the 17 years since, only one practicing colleague has consulted with me. The only other phone call received was a request for records from a patient seen back in 1988.

Maybe Granddad had been right all along. But on the other hand, maybe it was just me.

So I asked a couple of physician friends who had also retired. One was an ear, nose and throat specialist, and the other was a pediatrician. Both had extensive professional backgrounds. Both told me the same story. Once you walk out that door, nobody cares about knowledge acquired from those many years of practice or what you can teach others.

My father, who died in 1993, had a global reputation as an oral pathologist. He was a department chair at the University of California, San Francisco. Dad also testified in numerous civil trials and had published over 200 professional papers.

Recently however, while doing a Google search, I found only a small sample of his work.

I don't think retired professionals are asking for accolades, awards or even formal recognition. We had our day in the sun, and we certainly welcome younger folks who follow in our footsteps. But what I knew in my field then versus what I know now is like comparing a Ford Pinto to a Shelby Cobra GT 500.

It just seems unfortunate that the resources of millions of experiential hours, belonging to thousands of retired professionals in so many settings, go quietly unnoticed and untapped.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 9:44 pm on Tue, May 8, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    "It just seems unfortunate that the resources of millions of experiential hours, belonging to thousands of retired professionals in so many settings, go quietly unnoticed and untapped."

    What do they want, a ticker-tape parade? The reality is that many have done some pretty important things that might never be noticed by the masses, but are certainly used by those who build upon all their work and knowledge. We are where we are today not because of one generation of brilliant minds; but as a result of many decades of trial and error that have resulted in things never even dreamed of just a few short years ago.

    Who among us today that claim the 60s and 70s as our youthful playgrounds ever imagined iPads, cellular phones or even CDs or DVDs? Most of us were content to watch the three major networks and a few UHF channels (without the assistance of remote controls to operate our black and white vacuum tube TVs) in between spinning our 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl records for entertainment.

    Technological advances move relatively slowly with smarter people standing on the shoulders of smart ones (although I dare say the 20th Century sped things up quite a bit) to bring such incredible things to the marketplace.

    To whine and moan in retirement because we believe we’re cheated out of our due only cheapens the effort.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 12:37 pm on Tue, May 8, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    For those who don't know, Dr. Hansen, whom I am sure is a very competent individual is his field of expertise, retired from the Lodi Unified School District some time after 2007, as a counselor at Lodi High School.

  • Frederick Goethel posted at 6:24 am on Tue, May 8, 2012.

    Frederick Goethel Posts: 51

    They don't have to if you do what I did. I'm a retired fire protection engineer, and like you, was at the top of my knowledge when I left. So, in order to pass on my knowledge and experience, I became a volunteer. I volunteered with a local fire department as an assistant fire marshal, taught clases at a county fire academy, and even did some pro bono work for several cities.

    There must be places where students are learning in a clinical setting. You could have volunteered there or at a place that treats indigent people. The choice is yours to make. If you do not sek it out, you won't get the chance, however if you look, you would have found numerous places to help the world.


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