Three modes of retirement. I’ll give them names, a la Ms Mentor, to help keep them straight. Commentary will come later.
Merry specialized in modern British drama. She put in 30 years, the point at which full benefits kicked in, and retired at sixty. She sold her house, sold or gave away her furniture, books, and most other belongings, and moved to London, where she lived in a bed-sit and went to the theater five times a week. When I last checked, over a decade ago, this was still her life.
Jerry, more or less a contemporary (he and Merry both were full professors when I was hired), delayed retiring. He loved teaching, and kept at it for forty years. Then he moved sideways into directing a student-focused organization on campus, until eventually it became clear that they really needed a professional director, and he was eased out of that position. Even now, he hangs around the office as a volunteer, muttering about how the mighty have fallen.
Terry, younger than either, spent their career building up an interdisciplinary program dear to their heart, then bowed out of working with that program due to conflicts with colleagues in other disciplines, and retired a couple of years later. Terry always wanted to change the world, and started feeling that they weren’t making much progress at that while teaching for LRU. Terry now volunteers for a couple of good causes, with considerable responsibility for organizing and fund-raising for one of them; this is stressful, but also shows direct world-changing effects, so it’s rewarding enough to keep Terry happy, at least for now. It’s also mainly remote work, so could continue after Terry’s partner retires, at which point they might move.
For the moment, I’m leaving aside examples of people who have retired due to health problems (their own or a spouse’s), and those who immediately moved to be near their children and grandchildren. I could wind up in the former group, but the latter is not applicable.