DrG, it's great to see a post like yours. An enthusiastic approach to life is what gives it true meaning. Sometimes we worry so much about how many $$ we'll have in retirement, forgetting that money is unimportant when finding real satisfaction in life.
I have a friend who is younger than you (79) but like you, he and his wife are our models for aging with grace. They are active, alert and interesting people, who have friends of all ages. My widowed MIL lives with us, and it's sad to see her slow mental decline as she deliberately cuts herself off from establishing any new friendships or hobbies. We encourage her as much as we can, but left to herself she will just sit in front of her computer and play mah-jongg games all day.
She serves as a reverse example - an example of what NOT to do and be, in one's old age. People like you, however, are a true inspiration to the rest of us!
As we got off the ratrace and took early retirement we have had to face the mortality of our parents. My mother is still alive and will be 93 in July, 2010. We have taken to our RV and are workamping around the USA. Our family has differing thoughts on this, but it has been great for us. We stay close enough to visit our grandkids during the summer and head south for the winter. We have made a "new family" with our workamping friends and the people we meet along the way. I was not sure we could live in about 320 square feet, but it has been good. We will continue doing this for as long as we can or as long as we want . Then we will have to adopt an exit plan.
My parents did the workamping thing for over 15 years before they decided to stop and rest for awhile in a Skip Camp in AZ. My dad just passed this December but he so enjoyed the life. He had been a geologist in his working life and often would work in National Parks giving lectures about the local geology of whatever region he was at. It kept him young and going until the end. As for an "exit strategy" just go til it feels right to stop then enjoy yourselves in the more relaxed lifestyle.
Very basically a workamper is anyone who is working while living in an RV. The jobs are many and cover every gamet . We have worked in campgrounds from Texas to North Dakota and most of the places we have worked have had pay as well as the site and utilities. Workamping extends whatever funds you have; there are places that charge something for the site, but we have always been paid. We have worked in private campgrounds and a county campground and also spent one winter at Big Bend Nat'l Park working for the concessionaire. I have maily worked in the office or have done activities , my husband has worked maintenance and also park host. Workampernews.com is a phenomenal source and where we have gotten our jobs. We are now members of Club Workamper. We use Workampernews to find available jobs and decide where we would like to go and what jobs seem to fit with us. We joined Workampernews 2 years before my husband took early retirement. We downsized, downsized and downsized again; sold the house and have been on the road since September 2001. We have spent every winter in Texas and have spent summers in: Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico and North Dakota. If you have more questions feel free to ask.
freestar, speaking as one who is now four yrs into early retirement, there's a lot you can do to prepare yourself.
First, you do need to build a 'community' or 'family' for support. Retirement has many aspects, but the biggest one is that there is a cut-off of the consistent feedback and verbal interaction one receives from work. This is a real hurdle for a lot of people. In our case, we have to coordinate with our friends and family who are still working. They don't have time for 2 hr lunches, and everything still revolves around the weekends for socializing.
So you need some sort of daily exposure to others that is more meaningful than greeting the postal worker as s/he hands you your mail, LOL. This is where the web can be useful, if used judiciously. I'm on my PC a lot, but going on forums is only about 25% of my time spent.
Second, what kind of support network do you need? DH and I don't need a lot of outside interaction, but retirement has enabled us to deepen several casual friendships, because it's so much easier for us now to match other people's schedules.
I've done volunteer work at various times - literary project, animal shelter volunteer, earthquake emergency neighborhood contact - but although I enjoyed it (and found the last very useful), I didn't continue with them. But I think trying some volunteer work can really help one figure out what to do in retirement - and even doing a little volunteer work can help out a non-profit, so you've done something good with your time and energy.
Third, one must look at retirement as a series of phases. Your physical health and financial resources are going to determine when your activities and interests change. I wrote the second post in this discussion thread - and the 79 yr old friend that we admire so much, suffered a serious medical emergency from which he has yet to fully recover. Before this happened, he used to walk two miles a day, and still golfed regularly. But now he finds it a struggle to walk half a mile, and golf is now impossible.
Only you can honestly determine your factors for both mortality and morbidity, and plan a financial future that will allow you to explore the new opportunities retirement can bring.
Sometimes those opportunities can be as simple as furthering one's education, either through traditional or alternative schools; joining a social group (amateur theatre, neighborhood gardening projects, etc.) - but everything depends on one's willingness to open up to new people and new thoughts.
If you are willing to make the effort to meet new people and try new things, I think you'll find that you can develop a strong emotional support group that is as meaningful as any blood link.
Best of luck to you on your journey forward!
Not sure if exercise has been addressed. It is critical - and so much more fun if done with others. My wife and I go to the local gym together - do our own thing, but it gets us there. I've seen others do regular walks together. In winter, lots of seniors do the rounds inside of the larger malls.
Don't forget to work with weights to balance the aerobics (of course, check with your doctor first, and get professional advice on how to use weights and machines properly).
Our first job in retirement is to address our health as proactively as possible. A terrific journey, for sure.
Thanks for this response! It was helpful! I am near to retirement, probably at 70 and
you addressed the issue of daily support systems. So true! Sometimes it is difficult to
push oneself, but it is necessary to avoid the isolation.
I am sixty-eight and work at a small college; I am also working on a second
doctorate. It is never too late!!!
I went to a dissertation meeting on Saturday morning. It was the best support I
could hope to receive. Are there others who are working on dissertations that you could
meet with on a regular basis? Please don't give up!!! There are always "moments of
I am near to retirement (one to three years). I am working towards a second doctorate
at Drew University. Will you share thoughts on the retirement experience? I am concerned
that I will miss working full time. Any insights?
I loved reading this DrG, and have printed out to place on the bulletin board above my computer at work. I'm 60 and cannot retire at full benefits for 5 more years, and have lately heard way too many negatives floating through my mind... like what if my health declines, what if I don't have enough to live, other "end of the road" kinds of thoughts.
You have inspired me to think of all the advantages to continuing to work and stay engaged and vital, as well as the opportunities life has to offer as we age, so long as we present the right attitude toward life. Your attitude is stellar! Thank you!
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