Why One Couple Decided To Shake Up The Meaning of “Retirement”

Terry and Bonnie Jackson

“Neither of us is retired,” Terry Jackson definitively states, as we sit chatting in his breakfast nook overlooking Lake Ontario. This statement reflects the couple’s lives for the last two decades: biking around the world (25 biking trips completed and counting), being busy with charity work (over a half-dozen charitable associations) and spending time with their three children and eight grandchildren.

I am meeting with Bonnie and Terry, childhood sweethearts who are approaching 50 years of marriage, at their home in Oakville, Ontario. Terry has a point, because “retirement” implies something that is passive and as I get to know them, I discover that their lives are anything but.

“We can be active all day long and still enjoy a nice glass of wine,” Bonnie describes their adventures around the world. She likes to call herself an “engager” versus a “retiree” or similar term because these activities keep them busy as much, if not more, than their traditional working years.

Terry spent his professional career in the banking industry; Bonnie developed a number of teaching and entrepreneurial pursuits in addition to raising their three children. Once their years of working nine to five were over, Bonnie and Terry began pursuing their passions full-time. And that meant – among other activities – replacing the executive leather chair with the bicycle saddle.

Not working full-time has meant being able to travel the world and explore through cycling.

They’ve completed more than 25 bike trips worldwide and pedalled over 10,000 kilometres across New Zealand, Holland, the San Juan Islands, Vietnam, Italy, France, England, Scotland, Costa Rica, South Africa, PEI, Newfoundland and Napa Valley. These trips generate a significant amount of physical and mental activity, providing them much more energy and refreshment than they believe a beach vacation or cruise would.

This level of activity has been their routine for many years. Bonnie begins her day on her home gym treadmill, which helps keep her in shape for cycling hills, especially to keep up with the youthful 50-year-olds on their bike trips. “We may look like the oldest, and we are the oldest, but we don’t act like the oldest,” Terry says. They complement their exercise regimen with sensible nutrition and regular supplements. There’s no special secret to their activity, however, as Terry explains simply: “Get up and go.”

But it’s their charitable work which they find most satisfying. “My volunteer work makes me who I am,” Bonnie says. This involvement is extensive, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, YMCA, Oakville Community Foundation, Erin Oaks Kids, Kerr Street Mission and Oakville Hospital. “We’re not going to stop,” Bonnie continues, and it’s evident this attitude applies to just about everything they do.

be proactive in finding passions to keep motivated, and not to focus solely on work

Terry says charities always need “time, treasury or talent,” and the Jacksons are happy to contribute all three. They say it’s part of their “responsibility to give back,” and they do this enthusiastically. “There’s such joy in giving back,” says Bonnie, who believes in the power of these efforts to help them continue to lead healthy lives. It’s “almost a selfish feeling” that she has in helping charities succeed with their fundraising, and this success has led to her being recognized by the Governor General with a Caring Canadian Award.

“The saddest thing is to hear that someone has died three days after they’ve retired,” Terry says when discussing the preparation needed to lead a full life after one’s professional career comes to a close. Charity has been a key component of Terry and Bonnie’s “retirement.” Their advice is to be proactive in finding passions to keep motivated, and not to focus solely on work. “Take the time and effort to seek out something that appeals to you,” Terry says. “It’s not going to come to you.”