The Retirement Wisdom Podcast

The Retirement Wisdom Podcast

The Vintage Years – Dr. Francine Toder

November 21, 2022

Retire? My guest today has a phrase that better captures this phase of life than the word retirement: The Vintage Years. So how are you planning for your vintage years? Dr. Francine Toder joins us to discuss how to do so with your brain in mind. And that means including novelty, complexity and problem-solving into your day-to-day life. Taking up an artistic pursuit, even without any prior experience is one way to bring those elements into your vintage years.

Dr. Toder joins us us from the San Francisco Bay area.


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Francine Toder, Ph.D. is an emeritus faculty member of California State University, Sacramento and is a clinical psychologist retired from private practice. She is also the author of The Vintage Years: Finding your Inner Artist (Writer, Musician, Visual Artist) After Sixty.Her most recent book is Inward Traveler: 51 Ways to Explore the World Mindfully.  Her extensive writing on diverse topics appears in magazines, professional journals, newspapers, blog sites and as edited book chapters. She resides in the San Francisco Bay area.


For More On Francine Toder, Ph.D. 


The Vintage Years: Finding your Inner Artist (Writer, Musician, Visual Artist) After Sixty

Inward Traveler: 51 Ways to Explore the World Mindfully


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Retire Happy – Dr. Catherine Sanderson

How Can You Be Better with Age? – Alan Castel

If You Love Your Work, What Challenges Will You Face in Retirement? – Michelle Pannor Silver


Wise Quotes

On the Power of Novelty

“Basically, neuroplasticity means it’s plastic, it can continue shaping itself. And the way it does that is through novelty, complexity and problem solving. So let’s say you play golf and you like to play golf and you’ve been playing golf for 40 years. Well, I’d say either you take up another sport or you learn to hold a club in your opposite hand, which is almost impossible and very counterintuitive, and most people would not like it. But that has the benefits of what I call novelty and problem solving. It would be the same way if you were a knitter, I’d say take up a different craft or knit something totally different or in a different way. So you don’t have to change hobbies, you just have to change the way you do it. Or find a new hobby. Even if you didn’t know what you wanted, you could go back to something you did as a child.”

On Wisdom and the Richest Stage of Life

“This is the richest stage in life. For one thing, I am a psychologist, so I look at the world through psychologist eyes. When you get to this stage of life, your mental health is probably better than it’s ever been. And partly, and this may surprise some people, it’s because the drop off in certain hormones, estrogen and testosterone and some other ones, that pull for other kinds of activities. And when those are gone, there is more room for taking up something new. And besides that, at this point, we have wisdom. I’ll give you an example. Kids have little bookcases full of half a dozen books, and by the time they’re out of school, you’ve got a big bookcase, and by the time you’re 60, you’ve got a huge bookcase. Well, it’s the same way in your brain. You have a huge amount of storage in your brain, and excellent problem solving skills that young people don’t even have. Those two things together make this the richest stage in life.”

On Staying Sharp

“The most important thing is exercise. And while that isn’t an art form, it certainly can be added to an art form. Many of the artists who I interviewed did some kind of physical thing to facilitate their readiness for pursuing their art form. Even the 90-something artist who was a wood sculptor who I mentioned earlier, when I went to interview him, he showed me the hand weights that he used to get ready for doing his sculpting. And even though he used a walker, he had leg lifts that he showed me he could do with weights on them. So no matter what your level of ability is or whether you’re handicapped or you’re not, there’s something you could be doing. Another one, a writer, Caroline, in the book, before she would do any writing, she’d take a long walk in the woods that were adjacent to where she lived. So exercise, all of the research indicates that’s the most critical thing. Don’t forget about your body. And so that’s the key thing. The second thing is to do something that’s new and complex. I’ll go back to this idea of these three things that I sort teased out of. All of the literature that I read was about novelty, creativity and problem solving. Novelty, newness, do something new. It doesn’t matter what it is. And you could try anything. If you’ve never been a gardener, you could start gardening. If you are a gardener and you like flowers, try photographing them or painting them. And this is what I observed with a lot of the people I interviewed. They sort of didn’t have a plan. It just evolved. But often it evolves out of some kind of physical activity. So that’s critical. And the complexity means if you’re doing something, make sure it’s requires something that’s just not too easy. Learning a foreign language is a good example of that. It is really difficult and it’s good for your brain. You don’t have to be proficient, you never have to speak to another soul. You’re doing it for yourself. But you might find that there are ways in which you connect with other people around that activity as well.”


About Your Podcast Host

Joe Casey is an executive coach who also helps people design their next life after their primary career. He created his own next chapter after a twenty-six-year career at Merrill Lynch, where he was Senior Vice President and Head of HR for Global Markets & Investment Banking.

Today, in addition to his work with clients, Joe hosts The Retirement Wisdom Podcast, which thanks to his guests and loyal listeners, ranks in the top 1.5 % globally in popularity by Listen Notes. Business Insider has recognized him as one of 23 innovative coaches who are making a difference.

He’s the author of Win the Retirement Game: How to Outsmart the 9 Forces Trying to Steal Your Joy.


Intro and Outro voiceovers by Ross Huguet.