Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 416 (160)Aging and Expectations

Hi podcast listeners. This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

My grandfather died at age 65: an old man it seemed to me. Now I am well past that and yet do not consider myself an old man.

Strange how things seem different as one ages. I just heard a radio program about aging and the “expert” talked about his concept of old meant as in old man or old woman.  He used age 42 or 43 as the cut off. Yep, after that the body and mind start to turn in the other direction. That came as quite a shock.  At least it did to me.

I am in my 72nd year. That makes me well into that old stage according to the expert. To justify his claim he talked about the aging of the body. The organs and muscles start to loose some of their pizzazz. Your body starts to decline and your mind is perhaps just a little bit slower. Downhill we go. Of course this is just the opinion of an expert based on facts. We don’t have to agree.

Since the age span has increased by 30 to 40 years in the last century, that means we will be living perhaps half of our life in this old or older zone. We might do well to prepare for something like that.

In our younger years we are always being asked what we are going to do in life. The question usually refers to a career plan. In the last half or so of life we are usually asked what we are going to do in retirement. Many of us never prepare. We just launch into it.

It only seems reasonable that for a period of  perhaps 30 or 40 years of living that we should indeed do some preparation. We need to develop some expectations. I’m not sure they need to be "Great Expectations", but at least some might be wise.

I have been retired for 27 years and have never wanted for something to do. I sometimes think it has been because of the expectations that I laid out for myself before retirement. I never went through the year or five years of adjusting to retirement. Not going to work on a daily basis seemed as natural as breathing.

A neighbor of ours retired almost two years ago and he is still having a hard time finding his way. He just can’t seem to settle. What to do? Another friend had Thanksgiving Dinner with us. His father is now 70 and been in retirement for 5 years. When asked if his father found his focus in retirement my friend shook his head and replied, “No, he can’t seem to find something that really interests him."

Just today a wood floor specialist visiting us as a matter of business – a leaking dishwasher from upstairs played havoc with our wooden floor – not good. He talked of visiting a friend in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico over the holidays. His friend retired there for lots of reasons the least not being the price of rent. Twelve months of rent for what would be equivalent to 3 months around here. His friend operates a school for poor children at the city dump in Puerto Vallarta. It is his retirement project. He is a former teacher and has created a school on a shoe string. He's doing good work. It is amazing what some people do in retirement.

As for myself, I wanted to become involved with the community in which I live. That has also been a ongoing experience. It seem like there are always projects of one type or another that need assistance – either to originate or to support. The list is long and varied. I started with work for Amnesty International in Alaska and then in Bellingham. Next week I will be attending my last meeting of the Whatcom County Parks Board as a commissioner. In between were a host of varied projects that satisfied my desire for involvement in the community.  They have included: political campaign work as a manager and then as a candidate, organizing and establishing a Farmers Market, teaching classes on Human Rights in Education at the University, organizing fundraisers for one thing or another, helping write community levies for parks and recreation, hosting a weekly community radio interview show,  and organizing a classical guitar society.

I suppose there are others that I have probably forgotten.

Another expectation that I had was to maintain good healthy through exercise. That has been a daily concern that thus far has never been broken; so far, so good.

I also wanted to pursue music. I felt as though there was a big hole in my life because of a lack of musical understanding. I picked the classical guitar. An instrument I could carry with me wherever I might go. And through the instrument I could continually explore and always have more to learn. It has served me well and continues to be very rewarding. I practice the instrument 3 to four hours almost every day and I always find it invigorating.

Expectations are something we retired people may need to give a bit more attention. Because we retire doesn’t mean we have to sit on a shelf. We need to prepare for retirement. Some questions we need to explore are: Where are we going to live? What are we going to do to be engaged? How will we get around? And how will we maintain or create a social network? I’d wish Charles Dickens had written a book entitled, “Great Expectations” that dealt with people who are facing retirement.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about. What are your expectations? Do they serve you well?

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