Life in Retirement, Tucson AZ
What are you going to do?
The question here is not what is your retirement going to be like but what are you going to make of your retirement? Retirement is just like graduating from college or high school. You get to make the choices and you get to make it work or turn it into a failure. You get to decide! There are lots of manuals but not even The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Retirement Planning can prepare you for what is to come.
A recent poll done by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health called Retirement and Health Summary, September 2011 formed the basis of an NPR series called Life in Retirement on their All Things Considered morning show. The series began running last Monday, September 26. The poll’s stated purpose was:
This poll was conducted in order to capture first-hand the perspective of those who will shape the nature of retirement moving forward: people over age 50, including not only people who have retired, but also people who plan to retire (“pre-retirees”) and those who do not plan to do so. The poll covers the following areas: 1) The retirement experience of retirees and the expectations of pre-retirees; 2) Perspectives on the timing of retirement; 3) Steps taken to stay healthy in retirement; 4) Views on the role of Medicare and Medicaid in retirement; 5) Perceptions of what makes a community a healthy place for retired people; and 6) Concerns about being admitted to a nursing home during retirement. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
As I began to read the different related articles and the research I began to wonder: Do I really want to know this? See, I love my life each and every day. Even the bad days that I am alive are much, much better that the alternative. Forgive me for that old joke. But it is true. So when I read through the transcript that NPR posted online for the radio segments called Life in Retirement I could only think “Just shoot me now!” These commentaries are just the down and dirty facts. Really, there was not one thing in those articles that made me feel better about tomorrow. No money, Medicare problems, extended nursing home stays, etc.—you name it, we are just never never going to survive, or so they are telling us. (You can also find the article relating the information from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation called Retirees and Those Near Retirement Have Different Views of Golden Years.) If we are to believe NPR, RWJF, and the Harvard School of Business, older people are not thinking in a very positive way; in fact those of us over 50 are a very gloomy group. I wonder whose fault that could be? Better yet, what are we going to do about the attitude?
The survey says that 75% of retired people are happy with their retirement. Almost all say their relationship with their families is better, 76% watch their diets and exercise, and 88% see their doctor regularly.
But what about the 25% who say their retirement is not good? Who are they and why are they so unhappy? I wondered if a great many of these people were unhappy with their lives before. See, we all know that not everyone is just thrilled about each new day. Some people are never happy. Depression, dissatisfaction, life’s circumstances, education, and health issues can take a toll. I have always said that retirement did not change much in my life. I am a wife, mother, grandmother and educator. I just kept doing what I had always done. I just did all those things at my own pace. I was happy with my life then and I am happy with my life now. But then that is just me. I will admit that it was harder for my husband…but then that is another story.
Being realistic about our situation is always a good thing. Not everyone will move to the beach and sit in the sun all day, every day, day after day, 24/7! In fact, like working at the candy store, it would get old after a while. The trick is to work a little and play a little. It could be that we will all work a little more. Does that mean a dark cloud should hang over the sun? I just don’t think so. It could be that people might find a way to retire and use their retirement as an opportunity to work at a job of their own making—one that they love.
We have a friend who was a teacher in wood shop at the school. When he retired he started a handyman business and even employed his children. Another woman taught piano and yet another tutored.
I have been retired a long time. My husband and I have worked at this retirement thing and let me tell you, if I had known then what I know now, I would have done it differently. But, isn’t that the way life is? Where is the fun and adventure of knowing how it will end before you have even begun? As I have said many times before, retirement is good…you get to decided how you go about it…the decisions are up to YOU. Maybe that is why many people are unhappy…maybe they just aren’t looking within themselves for the answers! The trick is to live within your means and keep busy. The tradeoff for a smaller lifestyle is the fact that your life is your own. I think that is a very good thing. But then that is just me—I am part of the 75% who are very happy!
What is the solution? I’m not sure if we will ever get it right. But I do know that if someone does not begin talking about the good things soon, our ship is sunk. The study said that this is “the perspective of those who will shape the nature of retirement moving forward: people over age 50, including not only people who have retired, but also people who plan to retire (“pre-retirees”) and those who do not plan to do so.” Retirement will be what you make of it. Only you can “shape the nature of retirement moving forward.” The quality of this time in your life is up to you.