"An empty man is full of himself." -- Edward Abbey

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This Is Not Your Great Aunt's Retirement

     When I was younger, my view of retirement was informed by my Aunt Han (short for Hannah, and actually, she was my mother's aunt). In my eight or ten-year-old mind, Aunt Han was a true spinster -- she'd been married once, but had been widowed for a long time. Her claim to fame, she told us incessantly, was that she was in Paris in 1927, one of a hundred thousand people who thronged to witness Charles Lindbergh land at Le Bourget airport after making his historic trans-Atlantic flight.

     But by the time I knew her, in the 1950s, Aunt Han was a wizened old lady who lived in a far-off land called Florida and came north to visit in the summer. She lived with our family for about a month, then stayed with my Uncle Tom for a few weeks before returning to the land of the heat and the old.

     She was a dour old woman who never smiled. She spent most of her time drinking tea and scolding us kids. My mother would sometimes make me sit at the kitchen table to keep her company. That was an excruciating experience, sitting there, watching her sip  tea. I'd scarf down my snack in 30 seconds. "Tommy, don't bolt your food; you could choke," she'd warn. "You're supposed to chew each bite 30 times before you swallow."

     Meanwhile, it could easily take Aunt Han an hour to eat one piece of toast. They were the longest hours of my life.

     So . . . how times have changed! We don't associate Baby Boomers with spinsters. And most of the retired people I know are doing a lot more than sitting around the kitchen nibbling on toast.

     Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting says that one of the advantages of retirement is the opportunity to do things that a working schedule doesn't allow, such as attending a Broadway matinee in New York City. She recently enjoyed a reunion with four long-time friends, enjoying a long lunch (including dessert!) and joining throngs of other tourists in the Big Apple.

     If you want to know what show she saw, open the curtain at One Friendly Summer Day in the City. Here's a hint: all five of the retirees walked out of the theater "with smiles, memories past and present, and familiar songs ringing in their ears."

Colorado 4052
     Meanwhile, Laura Lee Carter is going one better. In retirement she and her husband are building a new solar-powered home in the Colorado foothills. This week they're putting on the final touches and moving in.

     It's a chaotic time. But she is thrilled that she's met a new friend who knows people in her small town. And now, after all the preparation and anticipation, she is reminding herself that "all of this stress will pass, and then we will be set for some serious rest and relaxation!"

     I don't know if my Aunt Han had to worry about her medical bills. In any case, I'm sure they would seem quaint by our standards. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about congressional restrictions on the government’s ability to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry that causes Medicare Part D drug prices to be significantly higher than those paid by anyone else, including people on Medicaid and in dozens of other countries. Costs in the United States per capita for pharmaceuticals average $1,010 annually -- more than twice as much as in most other developed nations.

     That's enough to make us outraged, or in some cases even desperate. As Robison reminds us, Medicare Part D covers almost 40 million people, and an untold number of them do not fill their prescriptions for financial reasons.

     Kathy Gottberg of SmartLiving365 found a book, Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, about how moms sometimes feel desperate and need hope and encouragement to help them carry on. But that made her consider: Don't we all need help and encouragement, now and then?

     We all face challenges at different phases of life, and while feelings of desperation might be universal, what we're currently facing and how we're coping are usually quite different. So Gottberg has come up with 5 Ways to Cope with Life at This Stage -- issues that most of us will likely encounter somewhere in midlife or later, along with some possible solutions for helping us get through them . . . and be able to breathe.


DJan said...

I really like your posts that point me to others that I might have missed and would be interested in reading. I'm off to read the only one that didn't already appear in my news feed. :-)

Gabbygeezer said...

Some good links here. I especially liked Kathy Gottberg's coping tips.

Snowbrush said...

I can see no ethical reason that Medicare can't negotiate drug prices given that veterans' hospitals can, private insurers can, and every country in the world can. The ONLY reason I can imagine is that Republicans care a whole lot about enriching companies that reward them with sinecures when they're done in Congress and, most likely, kickbacks while they're in Congress.

stephen Hayes said...

I envy your Aunt Han. I would give anything to be able to get into a time machine so I could be there when Lindbergh landed in Paris. WOW!

Janette said...

I think going to Paris and seeing Lindbergh land would be far ahead of most of my travels. What a thrill. Aunt probably lived on about $40 a month when you met her. Eating slow was the way my Nana kept her costs down.
My retirement is nothing like my widowed Nana. She depended totally on my mother and her sisters for any extras. When she passed, she had about five dresses in her closet. Everything in the house(except food) had been purchased before my grandfather passed---40 years before.
Life is so much better for those of us who have had the time, resources and energy to enjoy our retirement in a different way.

Tabor said...

Good links and stats, Tom. We all must understand this. I am currently listening to Sibelius and another health official tell me that drug costs are the lowest they have been in 50 years as well as new ways to provide health care to baby boomers.

Olga said...

My family had a great uncle living with us for awhile. My perceptions of "old" and "retired" have altered dramatically since those days.

Anonymous said...

I read an intersting article yesterday from 'Next Avenue' that said Sucessful Aging is defined differently these days and includes illness and infirmity because most of us will live so much longer than our parents did. The baby boomers have barely made it into "old age" so get out there and do what you can while you can because it won't last. BTW my youngest is now 50 and all my granddaughters are in their twenties. Time files....

I miss the old 'spinster' aunts. A new crop of them are coming, however....the millennials

Anonymous said...

My mothers only sibling is nearing 99 and what a pistol she is, but when I was younger I had to do everything for her ladies are ladies she would say and gentlemen are gentlemen, she had married several times it did not work out, but her ex-husbands were adoring to me when I moved to where she lived when I was 18, my own mother had already passed from this life, my grandmother was nearing 85 but she held on so I could graduate from college dying a week before graduation, it was a very bitter pill for me! I just never have given any thought to the term old and spinster and women at all..Now men in my family left us, they got to be old I guess but the women are brave, kind and loving and courageous..We all get old it is a matter of perspective and I have my family to have helped me see what age is really like and it is wonderful..