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A ‘Structured’ Retirement: Sam Arthur’s Story

May 25, 2017   |   Alliance for Aging Research Team   |   Healthy Aging

In this latest entry in the Aging in the 21st Century series, we share the story of Sam Arthur and his new experiences as a retiree.

Sam Arthur likes structure. Maybe it’s his science background as an organic chemist. Or his lifelong love of playing the guitar.

But whatever the reason, the Wilmington, Del., resident had enjoyed the structure his 37 years as an employee of the DuPont Corporation had given him. He built his day around his job and in his free time enjoyed his hobbies and adventures with his wife of 41 years, Judy.

Then, in an instant, Sam’s consistent life changed.

His tenure at DuPont came to an end, as Sam accepted a buyout offer as part of a series of job cuts at the company. Ironically, he had turned 65.

“I was enjoying my job more than I had in a long time. Then all of the sudden, my program was cut off,” says Sam. “I had 37 years at DuPont, and the offer was pretty good. So, I told them, ‘Fine, I will take it.’”

Sam knew financially he’d be okay. So his next challenge wasn’t planning for the future, it was adjusting to the present. “I had to start providing structure in my life that DuPont had provided to me for more than a third of a century,” he says.

He took his time at first. “I got up late every day,” he laughs. He and Judy also got used to being around each other a lot more. That was the first step in finding his new sense of structure. The second was diving into his list of goals.

Playing music was top at the list. Music has always been a central aspect of Sam’s life, going back to his teenage years living in Ohio, when he taught himself how to play the guitar. His inspirations were Peter, Paul, and Mary and if his current t-shirt attire is an indication, the Grateful Dead.

“At 14, I got a Sears and Roebuck guitar,” he recalls. “My first music experience was playing banjo in a jug band in high school. We playing old depression era music. One kid played a washboard. Another a washtub bass. Another played the jug. The lead singer played the guitar. He had a voice that made him sound like he was 100 years old. He was pretty good!”

From his rather unusual debut, Sam has always made music a central part of his life, playing in various bands. He currently plays in a church worship band as well as his bluegrass Americana band, the June Bugs.

“I find it extremely rewarding to play music and to network with people in the music world,” he says. “I want to keep growing as a musician. I want to continue to write music.”

The thing about Sam is that playing music in front of people is probably one of the few times when the attention is on him.

He’s, by nature, a more quiet type, content to use his talents in the background while others get the limelight. Modesty is more his style.

Part of that modesty is anchored in his faith, which has always been and continues to be an important driver in his daily life.

“All my life I studied the Gospels in the Bible. [I believe] Jesus is radical in his demands, and social justice is part of it,” he says. “My goal is to do things that are useful to people, whatever that turns out to be.”

For Sam, that includes increasing his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. It also involves seeing his two kids and grandkids more. And spending more time with Judy. He’s also considering becoming a math tutor.

Adjusting to the nuances of retirement is becoming easier for Sam as he builds his new structured life. While his life will change, Sam looks forward to the new adventures that await.

As he accurately notes, “There will never be a shortage of things to do.”

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