Make What Matters Most First

Bob is a fellow retirement blogger who I have known some months now and frequently go to for advice and to discuss our mutual interest. He gave me some good suggestions just the other day but I noticed something upon reviewing his email once more. In my focus on his suggestion for my blog, I overlooked a single line in his message where he mentioned how sick his mom was and how that was the real focus of his life right now, as it should be. Yes my blog is important to me but not as important as what matters most, namely the people in our lives, our friends and family, the ultimate reality series that we live each day. I sent a follow-up message to Bob apologizing for my oversight and making it clear that there are things that matter most in our lives and that I was a human being first, blogger second.

Being the fanatic Sharks fan that I am and having a roommate from days-gone-by who is similarly afflicted, we had scheduled an evening to watch the game against the evil Detroit Red Wings over a little BBQ and some beers. The date had been saved on our calendar for some time and both of us were looking forward to some serious checking on the ice and high-fiving in front of the TV. The day of the game, I received an email that his mom was not doing too well and could he come by for just a beer and to watch a little of the game since he did not want to leave her alone for long. My immediate response was that there are many more games in the season and he should “take care of your mom” – what matters most. Being a good son, he quickly agreed.

A friend of my Aunt shared with me her recent move into retirement. Her official retirement date was December 31, 2009 but she was able to go into semi-retirement in May to get a feel for the landscape before taking the final plunge. She had her concerns and was afraid that it was going to be “really, really difficult to go from working a fulltime job everyday to suddenly doing nothing. Even then, I was very nervous about what I would do as I did not feel very passionate about anything.  I was afraid I might not get up, since I had no reason to, and that the afternoon would roll around and I would still be in my robe, never really having gotten up. And then, I would feel really bad and guilty.” But she was committed and ready to head down that trail to a new life and new adventures. Then in January 2009, her husband died unexpectedly, three months before her plans to ease into retirement. Her best made plans were suddenly changed and what matters most in her life – her spouse – would not be a part of the new ones.

Our journey through life is an ever-changing, unpredictable experience with a dash of surprise thrown in for good measure. What we experience forms us into the people we are with our good habits and bad, our shortcomings, our insecurities, and our passions. Along the way if we are lucky we begin to understand what is important and to realize what really matters. And if we are wise, we learn to prioritize our lives with those most important things sitting high up on the list.

We never know what is in store for us. Life is lived one day at a time. Dreams can come true or they may not. Our heart may feel it is going to break but eventually, slowly we heal. It is not easy but it is what it is.

My Aunt’s friend had to deal with a tragic and unexpected loss which will impact the rest of her life. But she realizes what matters most and is living the best way possible. Among her many interests, travel is a priority. Here is how you identify what matters most and do something about it – how does her travel schedule for 2010 strike you: twice to New York City…Spring and Fall (theater, jazz clubs, good restaurants and friends); once to Washington D.C., twice to Southern California, once to Ashland, Oregon (theater again); a great trip to South America (the Amazon, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands), a trip to Colorado and Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico,  a high school reunion north of Chicago, once to Houston, Texas (don’t even ask why!)

Know that although in the eternal scheme of things you are small, you are also unique and irreplaceable, as are all your fellow humans everywhere in the world. ~ Margaret Laurence


Living a happy, satisfying retirement life is about prioritizing so that you are doing what matters most first with the limited time each day holds.

The bottom line, what matters most is living.

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

Universal Design Supports Independent Senior Living

The first of earthly blessings, independence ~ Edward Gibbon

Have you ever had to walk stairs that seem just a bit too high for your stride? Or strained on your tip toes in efforts to reach something high on a shelf? How about fumbling with a slick door knob just trying to get into your own room? Now imagine you are a 75-year-old senior citizen, significantly less sprightly than when you were young, a bit frail, occasionally off-balance, attempting to do these same things. Not only can it be challenging, it can be downright dangerous as one false step, a sudden fall, and a life-impacting injury can occur.

Most elderly would prefer to “age in place”, continuing their senior life in familiar surroundings within a familiar neighborhood. An AARP study found that 89 percent of Americans want to stay where they are living for as long as possible and for those 75+, the number rises to 95 percent. However, to do so safely require the right environment to support the typical needs brought on by old age, specifically within the home, but also the surrounding neighborhood. Universal Design is one way to fit the bill, defined by Wikipedia as broad-spectrum architectural planning ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to both the able-bodied and the physically disabled.”

Universal design came about after World War II to address returning veterans and the disabled. Today, it has been expanded to address the requirements of senior living. Properly implemented, universal design can make a big difference in facilitating independent retirement living.

Checklist – where you can make a difference

Kitchen – AARP indicates that the kitchen is the single place where universal design can have the most impact. Counter tops should be at an easily accessible height. Side by side refrigerators are easier to negotiate than those with freezers either above or below. Storage should allow easy access to contents via pull out drawers or lazy-Susan-type devices. Faucets are easiest to control with a single lever instead of multiple knobs for hot and cold.

Bathroom – an improperly prepared bathroom can be a dangerous place with the ever-present threat of slipping and falling. Some areas to focus on include: non-slip strips and floors on showers and tubs is a must; toilets that are at a comfortable height; support bars in the bath and shower as an added safety measure; bath tubs can now be had with doors to enter them instead of having to climb down into the tub; showers that are flush to the floor, with no edge to step over are finding their way into homes.

General – lists five tips for universal design including adapting the main floor for one level living and widening doorways to 36 inches with offset hinges. Some other general areas to improve include: bright lighting throughout the home to clearly illuminate rooms; levers for door handles instead of knobs; non-slip strips on the edge of stairs inside and out; light switches with the large flat panel instead of the old flip switch; electrical outlets that are higher from the floor for easier access; there are lamps that you can turn on and off simply by touching the lamp itself, removing the hassle of locating and turning the sometimes hard to find switch; smooth ground-level entrances without stairs.

Neighborhood considerations – is the neighborhood easy to navigate for a senior citizen? How much of a journey is it to the local grocery store, restaurants, community center, and fitness spa? Having these important places within walking distance – and not over steep hills or along dangerous boulevards – is an essential part to living independently in a community. How thorough is public transit in the area to get seniors to those destinations beyond the range of their walking?  Are there benches and areas to rest along the way?

The little things become increasing challenging as we age but that does not mean we are out of the game. There are adjustments that can be made to improve the quality of our retired lives. Attention to the details inside the home can support senior independent living. Knowing the layout of the neighborhood and taking advantage of available resources to get around helps to maintain independent living. We all want to remain independent for as long as possible. Universal design considerations can make it possible a little longer.