Tonya Thompson, Photo by Eva Menezes


Former Occupation: Biomedical Engineering administrative assistant associate.

Age: 56

Time at U-M:
Came to work in laundry services in 1977. Retired from Biomedical Engineering January 2011. Returned to U-M as a temporary employee November 2011.

Why decided to retire:
I thought I was tired of working. I had worked 33 years, and I said, it’s time. My thought was, hey, I’m done. I’m gonna be at home and I can do what I want to do and hang out with the grandkids. So that’s what my plan was.

What happened after retirement:
I’d say maybe seven months in I got kind of…bored. I thought, I need to see some people. I need to talk to someone other than my husband.

I’m not a hobby person. So I cleaned as much as I could clean. I cooked as much as I wanted to—dinner for the husband, all that stuff. And I thought, I just have to see somebody. I can’t stand this! I started going back to my old job, visiting. I was emailing them, “What’s going on?” I went there once and they said, “Did you leave? I thought you retired!” And then I thought, yeah, I did, but I miss everybody.

If you’re at home, you sit in the house and the soap operas come on, and the game shows come on, and Wendy Williams, and it’s like, enough is enough! I cannot look at this, not one more day. I’ve got to get out there.

How returned to work:
I remembered hearing that I could temp. So I went in to HR and talked to the folks that I already knew. Diane Vasquez, she’s the manager over there, she said, “Tonya, you can work as much as you want.” And that’s all I needed to hear. I got a job in 2011—the same year I retired!

The best thing about being back at work:
I like the people. That’s what I like most. That’s why I like to get up in the morning and come in. If they offered a regular job, do you know I would jump on that? I am ready to go back to work.

The right age to retire:
I would say…69? As long as I’m physically fit and mentally fit, now I say, why stop? If you’re doing something that you enjoy doing, why stop?

Advice for others considering retirement:
Think about it really hard. And have something to do. You have to keep doing something, because once you sit down and stop, it’s over.