A Christmas Wish

2010 has been a difficult year for many with financial turmoil, employment challenges, natural disasters, and our own personal events that we have all had to deal with. And as is applicable to this retirement blog, we have all gotten one year older for better or worse! There are many of us who will only too happily look at 2010 in their rear view mirror, glad to take a chance on what 2011 will have to offer.

Looking back over my first year blogging, I would say my journey has been educational, interesting, sometimes frustrating, inspirational, challenging, and overall a very positive experience. I have met some wonderful people and discovered a bunch of helpful and interesting blogs focusing on retirement and planning for retirement. I have scratched the surface of social media with its amazing ability to foster communication and inspire interaction. And I hope I have shared useful information and brought a smile to a face or two on occasion.

I want to share a few thoughts as we prepare to exit another year, just some bits and pieces, odds and ends, a little of this and that.

  • I have learned that retirement is a journey not a destination – it is up to each of us to live the best most satisfying life that we can all along the way. Retirement does not begin on a specific date but is a state of mind, a preparation and planning, a way of life.
  • Health is fleeting so do not take for granted one single day. Our physical and mental state can change in an instant so do not overlook what we have today. And true appreciation means getting up off the couch and experiencing the world around us.
  • Accepting Aging is an important piece to the retirement puzzle. As we get older, we can expect changes galore and unfortunately not all positive. But it is part of the journey and we are not making it alone. Just ask 75 million baby boomers who are on the same train with us!
  • It is not all about money – we need enough money to live comfortably, safely, without fear and able to pay our bills. We do not need a fortune to be happy. And the real cost of building a fortune is lost time with those we love, stress and no time to spend taking care of ourselves. Enough is enough.
  • Retirement is our time to do what we want to do – whatever that may be. For some it will be working in some way for others it will be as far from work as possible. But whatever it is, if we are doing what we want to do, it is a good thing.
  • We must take the initiative to stay busy, active and engaged in retirement – physically and mentally, we need to get out there. The options are MANY but it is up to each of us to step up to the plate.
  • Fight the fight – each day I ask God to give me the strength to deal with whatever the world will throw my way.
  • We can never love friends and family too much – but we can keep trying.

Congratulations to us all for having survived 2010.

Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year.


Senior Citizens Debate Renovation vs Relocation

For many senior citizens, the dream has been upon retirement to move away from their current digs and relocate to that retirement Shangri La where they will happily live out the rest of their lives. With no job or child raising responsibilities to tie seniors to any specific locale, we wistfully imagine a life beyond the snow and away from the traffic and mayhem that we have had to deal with. This is our chance to escape from what is into what can be.

But moving and relocating is a big endeavor and not something to be undertaken lightly. Before senior citizens can move, you need to sell your current home and ideally get what it is worth – no guarantee of that these days. In “Renovate, not relocate, is new trend for baby boomers” (I wish I had thought of that title first!) a realtor notes that declining prices in suburbs “appears to be keeping a lot of aging boomers from selling and moving to something befitting their changed lifestyle.”

Then you have to find that perfect place to relocate to but there is no guarantee that your vision of what life will be like at your new destination will in fact be reality. The only way to know what your new life will be is to live it and by that time, you are kinda committed.

And finally, with a move retirees leave behind friends and family that you know and love, hoping to re-establish quality relationships in your new neighborhood but again, no guarantee.

What if instead of moving from your familiar neighborhood and friends and coffee shops and restaurants where everybody knows your name you instead make some changes, some renovations to your current domicile? If you were to implement the improvements that you may have considered over the years, would you be happy where you are? Maybe where you live today can with some changes morph into that Shangri La you envision.

What would you change?

If you choose to go down the path of renovation instead of relocation, you are in luck. This time you get to do what you WANT to do! You don’t have to evaluate each and every potential improvement in terms of how it will impact your resale value – you are not worried about selling. The focus instead is on creating the perfect surroundings for your retirement years so you can go for it. With that in mind, what renovations would you most likely go for?

Universal Design considerations – this is a house built for a retirement couple so any changes you make should include elements that will allow you to retire in place for as long as possible. Little things like lower counters, fewer steps, easy-to-open door handles, and in general well thought out architectural design that facilitates the needs of senior citizens. You will not regret for site here.

Game room – I have always had an issue with the garage. In general, we are talking about the biggest room in the house, probably 400 square feet for a standard two-car configuration. There is SO MUCH we could do with that room if we did not need to park cars there. And in our retirement, the likelihood is that we will share a single car so there is even more wasted space.

So in my retirement Shangri La, the garage becomes the pool room! A nice pool table centrally located with enough space to shoot any shot that comes along during the course of the game. I would also have a dart board off to one side and maybe even a foosball table for those so inclined. A quick bit of insulation for cold nights, some dry walling, a dash of paint, some carpeting on the floor is you want and there you have it. There will be never a dull moment with your spacious entertainment room always ready for action.

Bathroom – have you always wanted a big tub to crawl into at the end of the day, a few candles sputtering on the counter top, with a nice glass of zinfandel in your hand? Options are many for tubs and jacuzzi and shower appliances and you-name-it so spend some time searching and find exactly what you are looking for. If you cannot afford to bring out the big guns and add a Jacuzzi tub, look into refinishing your existing tub and/or shower. Without spending too much, you can have a good-as-new hideaway. Remember, this is the house you are retiring to so don’t be conservative if you want a splash or red or yellow or even pink – just do it! And may I recommend nice plastic wine glasses to cap the experience.

Kitchen – if you like to cook, there are many choices for kitchen improvements from gourmet stoves to super-efficient dishwashers to unending options in the small appliance arena. Kitchen remodeling can be an expensive undertaking but you can definitely improve the workability of your cooking space with various gadgets, helpful devices and thoughtful arrangements. Investigate the kitchen supply areas in your major stores or if you want to step up, Sur La Table or William Sonoma will not do you wrong. And remember that convenience, ease of use and ease of cleaning will become more important over the years so plan ahead.

Some just-plain-cool extras

  • Heated tiles on the kitchen floor welcome your bare feet
  • “Touch lamps” that are turned on by tapping any part of the lamp rather than searching for the on/off switch
  • Heated towel racks in the bathroom are nice touch
  • Remote control fire places that with the press of a button “fire-up” and allow you to adjust the temperature as well as fan speed to quickly heat any room
  • Did you know that they actually make heated toilet seats these days!

The attraction of moving to a small beach community for your retirement home may be what ultimately sends you on your way. Something new can be exciting although a bit risky, so you need to weigh your personal desires and those of your spouse and make the best decision. Cost, weather, distance from family, local amenities, and a host of other variables need to be considered. But I believe it does provide some small peace of mind when you have options. To move or not to move, that is the question. And each of us will need to answer according to our individual tastes, loves, desires, and budget.

Positive Direction for Senior Citizens

Depending upon who you ask, the baby boomer generation ranges between 70-77 million folks born between 1946 and 1964. Senior citizens populating this group have many common beliefs and shared experiences over the years including politics, music, hobbies, life challenges, world events, and a focus on how we want to and expect to live. And the size and influence of our generation is something that cannot be ignored.

As baby boomers begin to move into retirement, the impact will be felt widely from jobs to resource requirements to health care to retirement communities. Fortunately for us all, the world has taken notice and positive things are in the works to support the wants and unique needs of senior citizens.

Positives for Retirees

Acceptance – as 75 million baby boomers move into senior citizen status and begin to retire, getting old is not so bad any more. The world’s obsession with youth, especially in advertising, is changing with the positive realization that youthful living can be experienced at all ages. From the Poughkeepsie Journal, 93-year-old Fran Avirgan is just one example of an active senior. She volunteers at the library, acts as treasurer of the Rhinebeck Farmers Market, remains politically involved, attends a knitting class that makes afghans for a homeless shelter, plays mah jongg with friends each week, cooks, bakes and reads in her spare time. No moss growing on this senior!

In 2008, a Gallup poll covering 340,000 people between 18 and 85 found that “by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why.”  And Madison Avenue is well aware of this as they re-tailor ad campaigns to address the growing senior citizen segment along with their wallets. The good news for retiring seniors is that as we assume a larger proportion of the population, we experience commensurate power to impact politics and products and the future. Never known for being quiet, the baby boomers will continue to speak their mind and get involved in society at all levels. Senior citizens will continue to be a force to be dealt with and the rest of the world knows it. Love us or leave us but at your own risk.

Medical advances – science continues to amaze us as it pieces together puzzles that have eluded solving for decades. The average life expectancy in 1940 was 63 while today that number has grown to just over 78 years. Cancers like Hodgkin Disease that forty years would have been a death sentence are now curable with the right combinations of treatment. Prescriptions are readily available to control cholesterol, battle high blood pressure, assist in managing diabetes, help in the boudoir (just heed the four-hour warning), and a host of others all adding to the quality and longevity of our lives. Although many diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other age related maladies are yet to be cured, efforts continue across the world on all fronts and progress is being made. Positive medical advances will continue and everyone will benefit.

Focus on the elderly – senior citizens have special requirements if they are to fully enjoy the world around them. Positive improvements are happening on many fronts.

  • Travel – tour groups which focus on senior citizens are available to meet you at the airport upon arrival and take care of all your needs. Guided tours are paced for older walkers with breaks and refreshments along the way. All transportation and connection details are addressed and when you return at the end of the day, a quality dining experience awaits. Cruises similarly cater to seniors with events on ship and entertainment fitting their likes.
  • Exercise classes specifically for senior citizens to work on areas most important to maintaining their health and quality of life are regularly on the schedule at most spas and fitness centers these days.
  • Universal design guidelines help to create a living environment for senior citizens to stay in their homes as long as possible. With a little attention to details such as the height of counters, access to electrical outlets, safety in the bathroom, and other architectural planning, seniors increasingly have the chance to retire in place.
  • Lifelong learning opportunities for senior citizens are increasing, offering the chance to return to school either to complete that degree we never quite finished or to pursue that special interest that the job always prevented us from following. Learning keeps our minds active and makes our conversation that much more interesting so everyone wins!
  • Even the internet and new social media tools offer an easy way to reconnect with old friends or communicate with family. No surprise to those currently on-line, a recent study found a 100% increase in social networking usage for those over 65 from April 2009 to May 2010, all the way up to 26%.  The current batch of senior citizens is pretty computer savvy so more and more are taking the time to stay in touch.

It is not all positive news for senior citizens as our knees will still ache and spicy food will still be a threat to a good night sleep and anything less than a dollar is not worthy of bending over to pick up. But I believe that the direction of the world is good news. Seniors have a significant role to play and everyone wants us in the game. So step up!

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.