Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 648 (160) Aging and Expectations

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

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 77th year. That makes me well into that old stage according to the expert. To justify the experts claim he talked about the aging of the body. The organs and muscles start to lose 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 need to prepare for something like that.

In the younger phase 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 extending for perhaps 30 or 40 years 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 expectations might be wise. We might do well to sit down and give some serious thought to how we would like our life to evolve throughout the rest of our time left. 

I have been retired for 32 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. It 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. “No, he can’t seem to find something that really interests him,” He replied.

Just today a wood floor specialist visited 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 12 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 shoestring.

It is amazing what some people do in retirement.

As for myself, I wanted to pursue classical music through the study of the guitar. An instrument I could carry with me wherever I might roam. And an instrument that I could explore and always have more to learn. It has served me well and continues to be very rewarding.

Another expectation was to become involved with the community in which I live. That has also been an ongoing experience. It seems 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 week I will be attending my last meeting of the Whatcom County Parks Board as a commissioner. My efforts then turned to the political side of life in our community. For many years my focus was on the Parks Departments in the city and then the county. A  host of other varied projects satisfied my desire for involvement in the community. 

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

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 like to read a book by Charles Dickens entitled, “Great Expectations” that deal with people who are in the later stages of life and facing retirement.


This is Retirement Talk.






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