Simon Chan (BA ’98) spent years as a financial executive helping people plan and save enough to retire comfortably. But his exploration of the non-financial aspects of retirement revealed a gap in industry conversations and services, especially when addressing how people are living much longer lives.   

Simon Chan posing inside Hagey Hall atrium

Simon Chan (BA ‘98)

He discovered that those approaching or already in retirement were concerned not just about financial security but also about finding purpose, creating meaningful connections and maintaining a sense of fulfillment.    

This realization prompted Chan to take a personal gap year, during which he left his executive role to spend more time with his family. He later joined Communitech, Waterloo’s regional innovation centre, where he focused on talent development and the future of work. 

This experience fueled his passion for addressing the evolving needs of people in mid-life and retirement, leading him to delve into the intersection of technology, workplace trends and the global demographic shift toward longer lifespans.  

Chan launched Adapt with Intent in 2022, a consulting firm that works with leaders, educators and organizations to reframe their thinking and redesign new ways of working across life stages. His colleague Kyra Jones (BSc ’09, PhD ’14), came on board as chief design officer in 2023.  

Adapt with Intent helps institutions, workplaces and communities comprehend the implications of longer lives and aging populations.  

“As people live healthier and longer lives, the traditional retirement model needs a paradigm shift,” Chan said. “More than 60 per cent of people see retirement as a new chapter in life, an opportunity for exploration and growth. We need to build structures that support individuals in transitioning from their primary careers to a stage of life where they can explore new opportunities.” 

Simon Chan interacting with Waterloo students and staff inside the Hagey Hall cube on the second floor

Adapt with Intent conducts workshops with companies and individuals to navigate three key stages: reframing, rethinking and reimagining retirement. 

1. Shift your perspective 

Reframing retirement shifts the focus from financial-only considerations to emotional preparedness. Mapping out post-retirement plans, identifying sources of meaning and building a supportive community can help people transition effectively.  

2. Challenge your assumptions 

Rethinking retirement helps leadership teams and individuals consider how these needs might affect them in the next chapter of their lives. Embracing a positive view of aging — backed by studies demonstrating its correlation with an extended lifespan — encourages a flexible and optimistic reconsideration of retirement.  

3. Redesign the future 

Reimagining retirement emphasizes cultivating an innovative and adaptive mindset. Engaging in hypothesis-driven exploration, experimenting with new ideas and maintaining a beginner's mindset is crucial for designing the next chapter in life.  

Collaborating with organizations, these workshops guide individuals and leadership teams through stages, preparing for challenges and opportunities in an aging workforce. Chan aims to unlock untapped potential in older adults, fostering a future where all ages contribute collaboratively to meaningful endeavours. 

“In today's workplaces, a big trend is the presence of five generations working together,” Chan said. “The crucial question is, how can younger individuals, like traditional-age students, gain experience collaborating with other generations in this multi-generational environment?”  

This presented an opportunity for Adapt with Intent to work with Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) at Waterloo. Together, they developed a pilot program bringing older adults and students together to solve problems by participating in a design sprint, a time-constrained, collaborative process. Teams address and solve complex problems through ideation, prototyping and testing.  

The initiative combines virtual and in-person formats, bringing people 50-plus and traditional-age students together in workshops to foster skill sharing. The pilot addresses food insecurity, demonstrating innovative approaches for diverse age groups to tackle broader societal issues collaboratively.  

Chan attended the Stanford Center on Longevity Century Summit, where leaders and experts in longevity discussed solutions and grassroots strategies, including his work with CEE, to prepare communities for longer lives.