01/25/2015 11:31 EST | Updated 01/25/2015 11:59 EST

Writing A New Chapter: The Many Faces Of Modern Retirement

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There is a strange misconception about how we see retirement, as if stopping work simply means that we retreat into our homes with knitting needles and reading glasses. But this isn’t exactly your parents’ retirement; the same people who are hanging up their gloves are the ones who are changing the face of retirees all over Canada. Welcome to the world of options where being a retired senior citizen can actually mean you now have more options than ever to enjoy your well-deserved golden years. Take a look at just a few of the options you have to look forward to:

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Go back to work

As the average Canadian’s lifespan increases, so does the number of retired workers coming back for a second crack at the job market. According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, 37 per cent of retirees older than 55 years of age returned to the workforce in some shape or form in 2013. Sixty-three-year-old Joanne Campbell, after a 40-year long career in marketing, returned to Algonquin College to teach online marketing courses. It gave her the freedom to continue to work part-time, 15 to 20 hours a week, while giving her the freedom to travel and visit friends. Living proof that if you love what you do, your job never does feel like work.

Go back to school

If going to school has been a long-time goal of yours but it never happened for you, it’s never too late to consider going back. As of two years ago, many universities have waived all or part of tuition fees for those over 60 years of age. Of course, there are restrictions and the amount of tuition waived differs for each institution, and ultimately depends on which program or post-graduate program you’d want to take. It’s a great opportunity that is far more affordable than the alternative, which is to pay full price for tuition year after year. If you were put in a sticky situation where you had to drop out of high school, there’s a solution for that, too. Plenty of adult education centres will help retirees get their high school diploma, as was the case for Cathleen Kay Eddison who, at 89 years of age, became British Columbia’s oldest high school graduate in 2013. It’s never too late to learn!

Follow your dreams

Somewhere between our childhood and growing up, we may have forgotten about our personal dreams because life just kept getting in the way. But now that you have the time, money, and health, using this time to actually follow your aspirations is a real option. After retiring from his business in 2005, retiree Archie Hood — a self-professed wine lover — went back to school and worked his way from the bottom rung of a winery to chase his dream of becoming a sommelier. Sandy and John of Toronto downsized to a condo after retirement and started ticking off their travel bucket list, and have visited New York, Chicago, and have plans to see Boston and Europe as well. No matter how outlandish your dreams seemed in the past, there’s never a bad time to get your finances in order so you can make your dreams a reality.

Get political

It’s the unfortunate truth that retirees and senior citizens are often overlooked and underrepresented in all aspects of life, including in the media, need-based-care, and especially politics. Gone are the days that retirees suffered in silence; large advocacy groups such as the National Association of Federal Retirees (FSNA) make sure that retired seniors have a voice in politics and fight for better health care plans and finances that will benefit them. If you’ve wanted to get political on your demographic’s behalf, it really is as easy as supporting advocacy groups that look out for your best interest. Just last year, the FSNA group challenged the government’s cutbacks to benefits and made national news — proof that there is indeed power in numbers.

Live an alternative lifestyle

As long as your finances and time are in order, live that lifestyle that you were too busy to in your younger years. Live abroad like Phil and Marg Timmons, a retired couple from Barrie who relocated to Arizona and spend their days golfing all year round near their property that is only minutes away from convenient malls and amenities. Fred and Marg Ford simply turned down the option of owning a traditional home after retirement and instead bought a mobile home in sunny Florida, where they now live. If you have the means, even consider moving into a retired seniors only retirement community, like this one they have down in Florida where the fun never stops and everyone parties like it’s 1959.