Abby Ellin, New York Times, writes about the late-life renaissances that many Baby Boomers experience when they re-decide what they want to be when they grow up.
When we were younger, many of us drifted into college studies and post-college careers that may or may not have been our first choice but at least paid the bills. As we near retirement, or even years before retirement, we wonder, “Is this all there is?” And when we wonder like that, we get dissatisfied, and when we get dissatisfied – if we’re gutsy – we’ll do what it takes to become satisfied. If we don’t attain our desired level of satisfaction, we’ll languish: lose vitality, grow weak, and become feeble. My oh my, is that what you want? Read the rest of this entry »
Those of us working the 9 to 5 work day drudgery can’t imagine having any difficulty filling our days with whatever the heck we want to do once once we’ve walked off our career path and onto the retirement treadmill. To be sure, the first several months – perhaps even the first couple years – we’ll readily manage the forty free hours a week now available to us post-employment.
But what about the point in time when we wake up in the morning, complete our morning rituals, sit in our easy chair and find ourselves thinking, “Now what?” Those of us who barely have enough time in the day to organize our thoughts can’t imagine ever being restless, but chances are, each and every one of us will be well-acquainted with that feeling at some point in our retirement future.
So what’s a person to do? Go back to the grind just so we have something to do that removes the boredom from our lives? Hell no. What we can do, however, is take on a project that satisfies our need to be useful and productive, but also satisfies the needs of those hidden citizens in our community whose needs far outweigh their means.
That’s what Leon Delong did when he got restless. He became aware of a pattern of waste that was going on in office buildings all over the city of Seattle: at night, janitorial crews replaced partial rolls of toilet paper with full rolls so that the nether regions of the next day’s workforce would have plenty of the stuff to take care of their toileting needs. Perfectly good partial rolls went unused – and worse – were thrown away. Thanks to the Toilet Paper Guy, however, these perfectly usable rolls were donated to food banks all over the greater Seattle area.
When you read the above, did you think, Big deal, it’s just toilet paper; it’s not like the food bank customers were offered a filet mignon to take home to their families. Hold onto that thought for a moment and think back to an incident where you scrambled for some sort of “cleaning implement” to finalize your stay on the commode. As the above article’s writer, Danny Westneat, stated, “I know it’s just TP. But as someone who once substituted coffee filters in an emergency, I can attest: It’s like gold when you don’t have it.”
When you become restless in your retirement years, who will you become?
- The Perfectly Usable But Discarded Produce Lady?
- The Overstocked Slightly Irregular Chartreuse & Hot Pink Striped Bedsheets Guy?
- The Unsellable Dented Canned Good Lady?
- The Super-sized Box of Costco Bandaids Person?
- The You Fill in the Blank Guy?
The possibilities are endless because there is no shortage of need in your community. Visit a food bank or homeless shelter and ask them what is their greatest need; the product that is most in demand. Then go about defining a way to meet that need. Come on, you have all the time in the world to do so and still have plenty of time to enjoy your own leisurely retirement activities.
“So take it from the Toilet Paper Guy. Life is like a toilet-paper roll. What you do with what you’ve got left is up to you.”
Historically, it’s the adult children who move back into the parents’ home, oftentimes because of financial issues. Apparently that is no longer the sole definition of multi-generational living.
In a USA Today article, Who’s moving in? Adult kids, aging parents, Haya El Nasser writes, “(A)bout one in seven say they already have a ‘boomerang kid’ – an adult child who moves back home – or elderly parent living under their roof.”
This brings about two unexpected events:
- The parents who enjoyed their empty nest and started to reestablish themselves as a couple, instead of just as parents, suddenly have an adult living with them who just happens to be the kid they gave birth to 30 years ago; or
- The adult child who strove to establish his home with his spouse and their 2.5 kids suddenly have a parent living with them requiring just as much attention, if not more, than the young children they themselves brought into this world.
The USA Today article above focuses on a rising trend towards families deciding to purchase larger homes than they would have previously considered with the anticipation that it would be more economical to have other adult family members living in – and contributing to – the same household. Talk about a paradigm shift! Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Home Builders says, “I remember when I was in college, no one wanted to be near their parents.” That thought certainly resonates with me. When I was single in my 20s and early 30s there was no such luxury of renting a place on my own and living-at-home was definitely not an option. At one time I had two roommates so all three of us shared the same bathroom, kitchen and common living space. Inconvenient and not as private as we would have liked? Certainly – but the only way to afford housing and have the ability to put away money for our future was to split costs with other like-minded adults.
A Pew Research report earlier this year showed that “the share of Americans living in multi-generational households is at its highest since the 1950s.” OMG! As a Baby Boomer who was born in 1953, I just have to repeat, “OMG!!!!!”
My focus today is on the caregiving issue – that adult children and/or Baby Boomers find themselves with the added responsibility as caregiver to a loved one. In my article Start your retirement – start your job as a family caregiver I address the caregiving aspect of Baby Boomer retirement which sometimes evolves into multi-generational living. Our quality of life definition tends to change as family caregiving is added to our lives. But it’s a fact of life for many of us and one that very few can escape. But herein lies the problem…
Most of us aren’t prepared for that eventuality. Those of us who are counting the days until retirement kid ourselves into believing that caregiving happens to others, not to us. And our adult children find it difficult to wrap their minds around that type of living scenario whilst in the midst of their hectic career development and ever-changing family dynamics.
So what happens? We find ourselves in an emergent situation that requires immediate action that may not be well-thought out because we don’t have the time to make a well-informed decision. We all know that the worse time to make a life-changing decision is in an emergency. There is a wealth of information available at our fingertips – the worldwide web is replete with helpful resources. Even this website has many articles written on the subject. As you browse through this website’s categories, be sure to enter a search term in the “Search My Site” box located at the right-hand side of each content page.
I’m not suggesting that you finalize plans that might not be implemented until many years down the road – or at all. What I am suggesting, however, is that we all become aware that a) these issues exist and could very well happen in our own lives; and b) we’re going to do what we can now to make wise decisions later.
In an earlier article, “Retirement planning – its not what you think,” I talked about the planning required to have a quality of life after retiring from one’s job that relies on spending your time in a way that pleases you, and benefits others.
My closest friend, Sophia (not her real name), is in her 80th year of life and for the seven years that I’ve known her, Sophia has struggled with boredom, but not just boredom per se. Sophia wants to matter; she wants to make a difference; she wants to contribute to the world around her. In a recent e-mail to me, Sophia said:
“There are too many active Seniors roaming around the coffee shops and Malls wondering what to do next. Even my friend Walter, at age 97, felt a sense of accomplishment yesterday when he washed all the bed linens and remade the queen bed – this done using his walker, back and forth.”
Sophia epitomizes the bored retiree that I discuss in my article, “Voices of the bored retirees.” We often think that when we retire we’ll be satisfied with being able to golf whenever we want; sleep in as long as we want; work in the garden whenever we like, and read all the books we’ve stacked up, but not had the time, to read. My father was one of those retirees who longed for the opportunity to be on the golf course as often as he wanted. A month post-retirement, he was bored with it all.
Another quote from my friend Sophia: “I really believe that much that we call Alzheimer’s is just a simple lack of interest in remembering what no longer matters. There is definitely a veiled space that occurs now and then when it is either too painful to remember, or not worth it to try. This, in addition to physical pain and boredom, can reach a kind of black hole.”
I know my friend very well, so I know that she doesn’t support that type of Alzheimer’s reasoning, but what she said really resonated with me. Too often we focus too much on what doesn’t matter, and far too little on what can matter greatly in our remaining years. Gerontologist S. Barkin believes that we have a responsibility to actively walk through our retirement (or Baby Boomer) years:
“What do we want to do for the remaining time in our life? We all should be mining our experiences and the wisdom therein to help with our present, and our future paths.”
Most of us, even when we’re enjoying the relaxation we so richly deserve in our retirement, truly strive to create a new purpose for our life. We want a reason to get up in the morning. We strive to contribute to the community around us.
Does the retirement age need to be raised in order for that to occur? Or can we be just as effective, and less bored, by cultivating a lasting purpose after we’ve entered the long sought-after retirement phase of our lives?
O.K. BABY BOOMERS OUT THERE:
- What’s your plan?
- What’s working – or not working – for you?
- What’s your cure for boredom?