Retirement - Change? Challenge? - What next?
by Irwin Lengel
Recently, we have been thinking about becoming the reverse of “snow birds.” Snow birds spend the good months (summers) at home in the north and spend their bad months (winters) in the south. We, living in the south, have no reason to leave during the winter months but wanted to try something else in the summer months. Walla – why not spend our summers up north (where many of our relatives are) and become “north birds,” spending our winters back down south.
Such a plan will have both changes and challenges. While we are looking forward to, not only embracing the changes, we are also aware that the challenges will have to be reckoned with as well. Being around as many years as we have, we are also aware of the fact that some changes are good while others not so good, and the same holds true about the challenges. The secret is how one deals with them.
What do we think of when we think of change? We can either be afraid of it and not accept it; accept the change but be miserable about it; or accept it and just move forward, making the best of the situation. None of us know what the future holds and I am sure we will have some things arise over the next few years that might seem scary. A good example would be our age (as of this writing I am 76 (almost 77) and my wife is 78 (almost 79). Fact is we aren’t getting any younger and thus as we age, our health seldom improves – if anything – it may get worse. So far – our health has been pretty darn good, but…….yes, there is my proverbial but – one never knows what tomorrow might bring.
Knowing that our lives will constantly be in a state of change no matter how old we become – one thing I learned is that we should always be thankful for what we have versus always wondering about what we could have had or what could have been. There comes a time in life when we recognize that change is a part of life and depending on how we approach those changes, life can be beautiful. After all, how did that old saying go: ”It ain't over till (or until) the fat lady sings.”
If one will recall, this saying, according to Wikipedia, is a colloquialism which means that one should not presume to know the outcome of an event which is still in progress. More specifically, the phrase is used when a situation is (or appears to be) nearing its conclusion. It cautions against assuming that the current state of an event is irreversible and clearly determines how or when the event will end.
By now, those of you that have followed my rants and raves should realize that we (both of us) are still works in progress. So how does one approach such a change in lifestyle? Being the inquisitive person I am, the older I become, the more I wonder how other people address change.
Enter Google and the numerous articles found there that pertain to change and how people adjust to those changes. When we think of change, we basically think of – say – going from a two-bathroom house to a one bathroom house and how complicated it might be to get accustomed to waiting for the bathroom to be free. Or being used to waking up in a bedroom with windows to having a bedroom that has no windows. Or perhaps being used to an electric stove and now must get used to cooking with gas. Like I said – changes and challenges.
One article I came across and one that really puts changes and challenges into perspective, while slightly off point as it relates to the changes/challenges I am referring to, does make one realize that many times in life, the changes and challenges we come across that have to be dealt with are minor in comparison to some of the changes and challenges others face every day of their lives.
Thinking about change – picture a person who has become blind – how do they go through a daily routine and address the obstacles/difficulties that might be encountered every day of their lives? And that is after the fact that they realize their lives will never be the same.
For instance, we think nothing of waking up, walking to the kitchen, popping a K-cup into our Kuerig coffee-maker or for those of us more high-tech minded, perhaps we are fortunate to have a machine that we can program the night before so it will start at a pre-set time thus having the coffee already waiting for us to tap a cup by the time we reach the kitchen. Such is not the case for a blind person.
While some machines are this way, programming the machine could be a nightmare and not worth it for a blind person. Another option would be to have a friend set the coffee-maker but wanting to be independent and self-sufficient, this isn’t really an option. So, wanting to enjoy that first cup of coffee, say around six o’clock in the morning, the other option is to set an alarm and use a simpler toggle switch coffee-maker. But even here, we run into problems – does the person rely on a talking alarm clock, one that uses Braille or some other high-tech gadget. Probably none of these as each cost more than the average alarm clock. Other alternatives would be a wake-up call service or quite possibly a cell phone. But then again – there is the added expense.
Do you see the pattern I am creating here? What about the bathing process? We just step into the shower, pick up the shampoo and shampoo our head (I prefer not to use conditioner as it messes with my beautiful locks). But what about a blind person? How do they distinguish between shampoo and conditioner? Body wash or shampoo? What are the options? Well, there is the identifying each bottle by Braille labels but this will require some high-tech equipment to create labels for the various bottles. Yet another cost. Or, the individual could become accustomed to the various shapes of the bottles remembering that such and such bottle is the shampoo and the other shape is the conditioner. It will require a good memory on the part of the individual and/or expensive equipment to assist with the identification process (Braille label maker and so forth).
What about clothes – how does this person decide that the clothes he or she has picked out to wear that day are (a) compatible and (b) color coordinated? What about breakfast – say the individual wanted Eggo Waffles for breakfast. Do they know how to program the Microwave Oven? Back to the labeling process (the microwave oven will have to be labeled in such a way to familiarize the blind person which buttons do what and how to set the time for whatever is being micro-waved.) Either way – once again we are talking about a costly addition to the individuals budget.
And then being the age I am, my thoughts run to medications. How does a blind person handle taking the correct prescription medicine at the right time. If we are talking about only one or two medications – not necessarily a problem because the individual could go by feel or shape of the pill – assuming, of course, they are shaped differently. Different shaped pill boxes could work as well. There is also the timing of when to take the pill to contend with as well. What about when the pharmacy uses a different manufacturer and the pills come in a different shape? But back to the opening statement of this paragraph – what if there are six or more medications that are needed daily? Yet another challenge!
While this article started out discussing changes and challenges facing those contemplating retirement as well as present retirees – it is becoming one about putting things in their proper perspective. Whether we are of an age that we are contemplating retirement, recently retired trying to determine what we want to do with the balance of our lives, or been retired for quite a while now – fact is that there are always changes and challenges over the horizon. How we address them becomes the factor as to whether we will become “Grumpy Old Men and Women” fighting every change coming down the pike or step up to the bat and say to yourself – all the while remembering that there are others out there facing much greater changes and/or challenges – “I can do this!” Easy Peasy!
Time for us to enjoy these retirement years.
Until next time!