Coaching Older Adults Towards Retirement

strengths coaching in retirement

Many people consider strengths coaching for young adults and those in the workplace. Moving into the 3rd Act of our lives, coaching is just as important to bring out our best in retirement. Preparing for the retirement season may require us to use our Strengths in different ways. Finding the sweet spot will help us gain more fulfilment in the latter years.

Here Patricia Marrone Bennett shares her story and how she refocused her strengths when retiring. As a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, she shares some coaching tips when working with those in retirement.

Preparing to Retire – What are Your Dreams?

Retirement is a major life transition which provides coaches with the opportunity and challenge of helping people think about using their strengths to successfully make this transition. If someone is thinking about retiring how might their strengths help them plan for this next and different phase of life? What strengths might be useful to call upon at this time? How might a person’s strengths assist in clarifying their vision for retirement? Perhaps there are specific goals that a person wishes to accomplish?

My own life experience has caused me to think about this issue and apply my CliftonStrengths® knowledge to myself. I retired as CEO of my company at the age of 72. For many years I dreamed about all the things I would do after I was no longer working. I liked my job but there was never enough time to do other things like take piano lessons, write a memoir, learn a language, and create a perfect garden. These were a few of the things I wanted to accomplish during what I now refer to as my third act, and I had concluded that doing any of these things could not be undertaken in a serious way while I held the responsibilities of running a company. I decided to wait no longer, so I named my successor and I retired. 

The Reality of Retirement

There is a growing body of literature on the physical and psychological changes that can occur as a result of retirement. For example, many older adults don’t feel as optimistic after retirement. Retirement can bring about some significant mental health issues, including depression, loneliness, and anxiety. Because so many aspects of a person’s life are changing when they retire, the transition can feel a bit frightening. 

For myself, I was finding that the fantasy of retirement was not matching up with reality. A few months into this new phase of my life I began to feel a bit down. The many things that I had hoped to do were still important, but my energy level had dissipated. My work as a CEO had been fast paced and brought me in contact with many people daily. My company had been built on CliftonStrengths® and teamwork was emphasized so I seldom worked alone. I began to reflect on what was going on with me by thinking about my top five strengths which are Activator®, Strategic®, Communication®, Woo® and Positivity®. While I had learned to lean on these strengths as a leader, I was not sure how to use them now that I was not in that role.

Living Your Strengths in Retirement

When I thought about how my top five were impacting me, I began to laugh. Of course, I had been used to using all these strengths in the company of others who understood my strengths and helped me use them to the organization’s advantage. Now I was flying solo. I immediately saw how I needed to engage others in the activities I had planned for so long. So I began to deliberately reach out to others and discuss what I wanted to do. I encouraged feedback and ideas from family and friends. While I had to acknowledge that writing was a solitaire activity, I could engage with others by joining writing groups. I also registered for a year long program to become a certified Master gardener. As I began to find ways to call up my strengths in pursuit of my goals, I began to feel more energized.

I believe that there are many ways that CliftonStrengths® coaching might be useful for working with older adults. A person’s strengths can be called to mind not only in planning for and entering retirement but also in helping people achieve a sense of well-being at this stage of life. Perhaps strengths can be used by organizations and institutions serving older adults. Can the calling up of our strengths help us remember to follow our medication regimens? Can they be used as we begin to participate in new organizations or activities? And finally, how can our strengths be applied differently now that the container for our utilizing them is not the workplace?

The Growing Reality of the Older Generation

In 2021 there were 55.8 million people over the age of 65 in the United States. Data from the same year saw that the same age group in the EU represented 1/5 of the population. These figures call to our attention that we are living longer and that the percentage of the population that is older is increasing. Perhaps more importantly, people who are 65 or older have usually already left the workforce or are planning to do so.

Strengths Coaching Tips for Retirement

I believe that the inquiry into how our natural strengths can and should be used after we have left the workforce is important to the times. There are so many more of us engaged in this time of life. 

A few things to consider when we are coaching older adults.

  • Instead of striving towards a goal to be used for work, help them focus on a direction with meaning and purpose.
  • Consider how they can energize their themes in practical ways for their new season.
  • Help them use their strengths to overcome life’s challenges such as taking regular medication or exercise.
  • When taking the CliftonStrengths assessment, some clients may find it easier to have the 20-second timer for each question turned off. You may contact Gallup Customer Support at for help.
  • Remind them that they can call upon all of their top ten themes and more.
  • Invite them to think about how the use of their strengths can help keep them healthy. 

Header Image by Franz Bachinger from Pixabay

Further Reading

Aiming Strengths to Thrive in Sobriety – Going Alcohol Free
Develop your Strengths with the 34 CliftonStrengths Themes

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