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Over the last several years at work, chances are good you’ve done a host of retirement planning. You’ve probably made a budget, figured out which accounts to draw from and when, maybe even downsized your home so as to save on utilities – but have you looked up some tips for a happy retirement? You want to enjoy those years when your time is free to fill up as you choose, right? After you’ve done all the planning and your last day at the office, you’ve got to sit back and have some fun. Here are a few ideas to help you get started as you make the transition.
Create a workout regimen
It’s no secret that the best way to get the most out of your golden years is to keep yourself fit and healthy. This goes far beyond just keeping your ticker tuned up and beating strong, more research emerges all the time pointing to exercise as a means to stave off the effects of conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. Many health clubs and community centers offer classes geared specifically to retirees that test your balance and help build muscle, so do some asking around for the best ones.
Dig into a hobby
It’s a subtle truth, but sometimes it’s tough to fill all the hours your job used to take up. You probably used to squeeze in some time on the weekends for woodworking or gardening, maybe playing a game of bridge or bowling occasionally with friends. Well, now you have the opportunity to do them all you want, so consider becoming a bit more serious about having fun with your interests. Have you had a project in mind for a while to beautify your home or yard? Why not learn how to do it yourself (and consult with some experts) so you can have the satisfaction of putting your knowledge and love to good use?
Get involved with a cause
There are probably dozens of organizations in your area that are begging for volunteers with your experience at this very moment – and not just because you’re a willing body they can put into a soup line. A growing number of not-for-profit groups are turning to retirees for help with everything from marketing to fundraising to program design, hoping to capitalize on their expertise without having to shell out the big bucks for a public relations firm. Find a cause that fixes a need you see in your community or elsewhere in the world, then see how you might be able to contribute.
Make new friends
Perhaps more than anything other than exercise, your ability to form and maintain fresh relationships is a key to your longevity. Intentionally seek out ways to engage with people from different backgrounds in conversation over lunch or a cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to lead to a life-long friendship worthy of the movies, but it will expose you to a variety of ideas, something that is key to brain function going forward. And, as you connect with people from all over, you might find other activities to fill your time with – salsa dancing or Australian rules football, anyone?
Advances in medicine continue to astound us. Over the years, conditions that were once thought a near-immediate death sentence now have treatments that will extend patients’ lives for months or years beyond the initial diagnosis. With the death of business icon Steve Jobs, interest in vaccines for pancreatic cancer – a disease that kills 95% of those who have it within five years – has increased dramatically. The good news is, unlike many other forms of cancer, there are actually some promising early trials moving into larger studies. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have created a novel treatment for the disease, one so intuitive it could end up creating dramatic change for the treatment of cancer in other tissues. Here’s what you need to know:
Simple and to the Point
Much like any vaccine, this one acts to stimulate the immune system. What makes this treatment unique is the ability to use this built-in response to attack tissues that generally find a way to hide undetected by the body’s natural defenses. Using dead pancreatic cancer cells altered to create a special chemical called GM-CSF, immune cells are enticed to develop antigens against this molecule quickly. Then, acting like a roving band of vigilantes in search of a criminal, they spread out to other tissues and fight active cancer cells. The resulting interaction slows the progression of tumors, possibly allowing other, time-tested therapies an extended period to do the work of killing the deadly growth.
Research is Ongoing
The vaccine, being relatively new in pharmaceutical terms, has only just moved into clinical trials. These tests, which include hundreds or thousands of patients instead of three or four dozen, will determine the fate of TeloVac – so named because it works on the telomerase enzyme cancer cells use to keep from dying. Essentially, scientists are attempting to figure out the best combination of vaccine and chemotherapy to use, a difficult balance that must ensure the immune system is allowed to attack the tumor at the same time radiation is being used to kill it. Researchers are looking into three different methods of counteracting the disease: a general dose of radiation and vaccine, a targeted application of both, and separate interventions. If all goes well, results are expected to be released in 2012.
It’s Not a Cure
The fact of the matter is pancreatic cancer is incredibly tricky. The condition is often silent for months or years, only manifesting when it has progressed to the extent of invading other tissues. At this point, time is short for the individual who gets the bad news. The idea, at this point, is not to reverse the cancer and return the tissue to a normal, healthy state. The limits of the vaccine – both in its scope and the length of time it’s been tested – mean it is used only to buy time. However, when you are faced with the possibility of surviving for several months as opposed to a few weeks, those precious extra days are worth celebrating.
There is something uniquely comforting about your own home. However, as you age, figuring out how to live independently and safe will become a concern. Try as you might, eventually you will face a decrease in your vision and loss of flexibility. You will remain as active as possible, of course, but time catches up with us all in the end. The key is to take steps to ensure you can stay in the house you worked so hard to own and the good news is there are a handful of simple changes you can make to help you remain there as long as possible.
The most common cause of injury and death among retirees is a fall – the Centers for Disease Prevention and control estimates reducing the tripping hazards in a home could make a significant difference in the number of broken bones suffered by people 65 and older. Here are some basic precautions to help you avoid becoming a statistic
Make the bathroom walk-in friendly
Slick tile floors can be a challenge to navigate safely when you are a world-class athlete, let alone when your balance isn’t what it used to be. Getting in and out of the tub is the biggest hazard, as it requires transferring with one leg lifted high over a barrier. A growing number of companies have designed special walk-in combination bathtubs that have low entry points and a waist-high, watertight door. Most give you the option of sitting or standing as you bathe, using a removable showerhead to reach as much as six feet from the wall.
Exchange shelves for drawers
Under-counter shelves are frequently used in the kitchen for storing pots and pans, but they can pose a danger to seniors who will be tempted to bend over or get down on all fours to dig for a saucepan. This creates an unsteady stance that can lead to strained muscles, too. Adding drawers allows the sought-after item to be pulled out instead of reached for, a basic modification that leads to major changes.
Watch your step
It seems straightforward, but are the walkways in your home free and clear? This goes beyond a pair of shoes in the hall – are there loose rugs or slick spots? Paying attention to the surfaces will keep you from being caught off guard when you set foot in a room. Also, be sure to place nightlights in each room and ensure there are light switches inside each door. Being able to flip on a lamp quickly will make those late-night trips to the refrigerator about a piece of pie instead of a hospital visit waiting to happen.
Be by the phone
In the event of an emergency, the ability to communicate is crucial. Every room in the house should have a telephone available. (You can turn the ringer off on several of them, if the noise is too much.) In addition, it’s smart to have a charged cell phone handy, whether you carry it in a pocket as you walk around your home or as a backup in case your line is down. When time is of the essence, you’ll want to be sure you can get a hold of someone as fast as possible.
As decades of work turns into free time in retirement, it is natural to feel a bit confused as you make the transition. Where you once spent your entire day cooped up in an office with several other people, it can be tempting to begin spending hours on end cooped up in your house alone. Of course, that’s no way to spend your golden years! Unfortunately, a large segment of retirees find themselves feeling down – or worse, diagnosed with depression – as they lose the sense of identity once attached to their work.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though! If you find yourself dealing with the blues, remember these five ways to boost happiness and you’ll be back on the sunny side of the street before long:
Build new relationships and strengthen older ones
There’s no way around it, human beings are social creatures. As you separate from the workplace, take care to maintain the friendships you cherish. Meet an old buddy for lunch every once in a while to catch up on life, it will give both of you a much-needed break from the daily routine. That’s not all, though, you’ll want to seek out opportunities to reconnect with family, too. And, since you have so many extra hours in the day, you can get out and meet some new people to widen your circle. Do your best to find avenues to stimulating conversation, whether it’s with a child home from college or fellow gardening fanatic.
If you’re like most people, old wounds can creep into your mind when there aren’t other activities to keep your brain busy. Everyone has been through bad experiences and – whether we know it or not – mistreated someone. Find a way to release all that pent-up energy, as it is toxic waste to your emotional state. Without releasing the pain, either through a long journal entry or a polite conversation, you leave yourself susceptible to focusing on negative circumstances – an antidote to happiness if there ever was one.
Engage in something meaningful to you
There is nothing quite like a worthy cause to energize people. Find a way to connect with an organization doing good in your community, whether it’s providing services to cancer patients or helping children from rough neighborhoods learn how to read. The fact of the matter, despite how you may feel, is that you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that could make a difference in someone else’s life. When you dedicate time to the pursuit of something larger than yourself, you are more likely to encounter joy and fulfillment. Plus, you will be able to share your passion with another, which might light a fire that burns bright well into the future.
It seems like the list of benefits tied to regular exercise gets longer and longer every day. Studies continually show that maintaining even a basic level of fitness is good for more than your body – your brain gets a good workout, too. Though the mechanisms aren’t fully understood, scientists have discovered links between emotional health and physical activity, as well as delays in the onset of memory loss or dementia.
Find ways to be grateful
It might sound a bit trite, but counting your blessings is a simple way to get back in a good frame of mind. Strange as it is to say, you can’t really focus on more than one thing at a time. If you are holding onto pictures of the best things in your life – great family and friends, fun hobbies – you will find it easier to brush off something that tries to bring you down. When you start to feel your mood shift into a lower gear, quickly name ten things that make you smile (then another ten and another, if necessary).
Maintaining a clear, agile mind is a key to enjoying all the retirement planning you did while still on the job. If you are like most retirees, the search for ways to keep the brain healthy has extended into a quest to find foods to sharpen your memory. When you consider 20 percent of all the calories you consume end up being used between your ears, it’s little wonder that what’s on your plate might be important. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of ongoing research into the relationship between eating and mental health, so developing a solid idea of the best choices is getting easier all the time. Next time you go to the grocery store, make sure to put these items in your cart:
These “little trees” – broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and others – contain a lot of antioxidants. These tiny chemical powerhouses are media darlings nowadays, being touted to help slow aging and mental decline. On top of that, they are high in fiber, which will help with digestive health and might even decrease our blood pressure. (The latter helps oxygen reach your brain with considerably less effort by the heart.)
You always thought salads were for people trying to lose weight, didn’t you? Well, they can certainly benefit those looking to shed a few pounds, but they are also loaded with folic acid – a vitamin which studies have indicated might affect memory. Skip the romaine lettuce and go for the darker shades of green: spinach and kale, as well as collard, mustard, or turnip greens. Interestingly, these veggies are relatively high in calcium to keep your bones strong, too.
Dark colored berries
Much like the cruciferous vegetables, the deeper colors in certain berries indicate a higher presence of antioxidants. What’s more, they are filled with anthocyanins and flavonols, which have a protective effect on brain structure and, according to animal studies, might even help reverse memory loss. As if any of us needed a reason to get our hands on the sweet stuff, you can say you’ve got a basket full of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and cherries for the sake of your brain! If you can get them fresh from the farm, do so. In the off-season, take a stroll down the frozen foods aisle and pick up a pack without extra sugar added.
Catch of the day
In recent years, the positive effects of fatty fish like salmon and mackerel have come to light in a major way. Filled with omega-3 fats, which go on to become components of nerve cells in some cases, these sea dwellers ought to be the main course two or three times a week. If you are unable to make that happen, then consider a high-quality fish oil supplement. Research has shown a correlation between higher omega-3 levels and decreased incidence of dementia, as well as reductions in memory decline. Even an extra three years at your best (as one study showed) will make a dramatic difference in your quality of life down the line.
Aging brings about changes of all kinds, some which challenge your independence. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being able to hop in your car and go for a spin whenever you choose. However, reaction times slow as the years wear on, so it’s necessary to be aware of a few safe driving tips for seniors to ensure you stay safe on the roads. After decades maneuvering two tons of steel around, letting go of that freedom can be tough to swallow – but there will come a day when you must, for your sake and that of other drivers. You may not be prepared to hand over the keys, nor may you need to yet, just monitor these factors to be sure you make the most of your remaining time behind the wheel:
Plan When You Drive
Choose the time of day
More people are on the highways and byways during rush hour, everybody knows that. The vast increase in cars creates a greater chance for an accident, especially if an angry driver cuts you off trying to get to an exit. Avoid the traffic snarls by heading out during off-peak hours unless you absolutely have to and do your best to keep from driving at night or during bad weather – the decreased visibility makes it that much tougher on everyone.
Know the way
It sounds simple, but one way to minimize distractions while you’re behind the wheel is to lay out your route ahead of time. At the very least, you can make things easier by not backtracking, though it might be helpful to have a reminder of when you need to turn, too.
Go Back to School
Refresh the rules of the road
Though you may still feel just as spry as you did the day you got your driver’s license, the fact of the matter is a lot of things have changed. Several organizations, such as the AARP and AAA, offer safe driving courses geared specifically toward retirees. And, if you take the class, you might be eligible for discounts on your car insurance, too.
Take Care of You
Manage your physical health
We all know taking care of the body is crucial to living well, dealing with achy joints is a challenge when you are out for a walk or climbing stairs. It can become a big problem, though, if you are unable to turn your head to see the blind spot when changing lanes. As you go through your workout routine – and before you climb in the car – take some time to do some flexibility exercises.
Get your eyes checked
Most people have an annual visit to the eye doctor anyway, so this is pretty much a no-brainer. Be sure to keep your prescriptions up to date and pay attention to any advice he or she has. Your eyesight is one of your most valuable assets when driving and, as it fades, you will transfer to the passenger seat.
Pay attention to the signs
Suffering from some brain fog? Having a tough time seeing the road signs? Feel like your medications make you woozy at certain times of day? These are all indications your time driving must be limited or will come to an end. It can be tough to admit that you have to call time on your experience on the road, but you know your body better than anyone. Make an honest assessment periodically, then begin coordinating with family members and friends for rides as necessary.
There are all sorts of expenses to consider as you enter retirement. After having a steady paycheck for decades, you will have to live on a fixed – and reduced – income when you finally separate from the workplace. For many, understanding which expenses are necessary and which ones can be set aside is a tough decision. Whether it’s cable TV or retirement insurance for seniors, “How important is it, really?” will get asked a lot as your final day on the job nears. Some retirees will come to the end of term or whole life policies right before or just after leaving work behind. Though coming up with the answers can be a challenge, there are a few things to consider in order to make your final determination:
What is paid off?
The security provided by your life insurance policy is generally tied to those assets which will put the greatest burden on your family in the event of your passing. In most cases, this means a mortgage or car payments – do you have balances on loans like those? If so, having some coverage lined up is probably a good idea. Otherwise, you might be able to get by without it.
Who is counting on me?
To many, the idea of setting up a monetary protection for loved ones remains an attractive proposition. This goes far beyond paying off any debts you and your spouse might have, it allows you to put loved ones on solid ground for years or ensure your grandchildren will be able to attend college – both of which are admirable goals. Though it will require necessary notation in your will, having family or a favorite charity as beneficiaries will give you a tangible legacy beyond the affect you have on their lives as a person.
Are there financial incentives?
It may sound like an odd question, but some whole life insurance plans are structured to act as an annuity. This cash value, which accrues over time, can be drawn on or borrowed against in the event of medical emergencies or unforeseen home repairs. Some couples use these as an additional form of retirement planning beyond the stock market. If you are looking for a more stable investment as part of your portfolio, this might be one way to achieve that.
Can I afford it?
Ultimately, this may be the most important question you have to answer, but it’s last for a reason. As you consider cutting costs in order to fit your new, career-free lifestyle, the amount of money you have on hand from month-to-month can be a powerful motivator to just slash what seems unnecessary. With life insurance, however, you lose track of how crucial it is until you actually have to use it. This is why it’s important to look at cost last. Sit down with your accountant or financial planner and go over your options. A trusted professional will have insights into your goals, as well as how to make everything mesh together to the greatest benefit of you and your family.
Moving from the workforce into your golden years will provide an abundance of free time, something most people have trouble dealing with than they would like to admit. For many, the confusion is lifted when they discover all the fun activities for senior citizens created by local clubs and organizations. Research continues to shine light on the necessity of social interaction and exercise as a means to live a vibrant, fulfilling life for as long as possible – but how do you go about it? Though the best way is to see if you can connect with others (either individuals or organizations) about new hobbies, here are a few ideas for you to try:
Crossing a treasure hunt with the fresh air of going for a hike in the woods, you’ll find this a great way to get some exercise outside of your typical gym. Helpful guides are provided by a national association, which will give you insight into the materials necessary, planting procedures, and what to do when you find one.
Long known as an enjoyable way to gather mementos and photos, this is a great way to share memories with loved ones. Some people like to create individual books for each grandchild, providing them with pictures and stories from when the little one entered the world.
Much like scrapbooking, this is an opportunity to gather your thoughts about the life you’ve lived as you walk down memory lane. Many families lament the fact there are scant written records of a grandparent’s history when it’s too late, so spending some time chronicling your thoughts and experiences – from childhood to this morning – will give them something to cherish and pass down.
Sure, you might know how to waltz and fox trot, but how about something with a little flair? The coordination required to pull off a good tango or salsa requires your brain and body to work together in different ways, meaning your fun class will do a lot for your mental and physical health.
If your doctor has given you the all-clear for vigorous exercise, think about doing something other than meeting with a personal trainer. Many organizations have created “Masters” leagues specifically for retirees in sports as varied as table tennis and soccer, giving you the chance to relive your glory days – or make some new ones!
The dropping costs and increasing quality of your average digital camera has opened the world to shutterbugs of all skill levels. And, since you can review the photo immediately after you take it, you have a better chance of getting the perfect shot.
Have some pent up creative energy? There are all sorts of ways to turn your artistic desires into beautiful necklaces and bracelets – or more, as your skills grow. Walk the aisles of your nearest hobby shop to find some beads, then let your imagination run wild.
Play an Instrument
Those of us that didn’t want to take piano lessons when we were young often end up wishing we had followed through later. Why not take a stab at learning how to play now? There are a variety of instruments out there and plenty of places to take classes, so you don’t have any excuses!
Not a year goes by in which a reports circulate about retirees being tricked into giving away their financial resources by a dishonest person pretending to act on behalf of a fictitious agency. Or, even worse, legitimate companies occasionally hire salespeople willing to stretch the bounds of ethics and prey on unsuspecting elders with fantastic tales of unknown problems their product or service can solve – often at a steep cost. The fact of the matter, unfortunately, is that safety for senior citizens is a concern for the individuals themselves and their loved ones.
The city of Detroit encourages retirees to “BOSS” life around. Wherever you go, take care to “Be Observant, Smart, Safe” and you will have a leg up on criminals in search of targets. Thanks to a few simple precautions, you can protect yourself both in public and at home:
Out on the Town
- Be aware of your surroundings, whether you’re at the grocery store or driving through a sketchy part of town.
- Avoid carrying large sums of cash in your purse or wallet, and make sure to keep them close to your body – handbags close to the body for ladies and billfolds in the front pocket for men (a rubber band around the outside can provide an extra challenge for a pickpocket).
- Have a look around when you get into or out of a parked car – especially in underground structures – and always keep your doors locked when driving.
On the Homefront
- Look through the peephole when there’s someone at the door. If you don’t know the person, ask them to identify themselves and the purpose of their visit before opening it. Do not be afraid to call the police if they are unable to produce an ID badge or are unwilling to leave.
- Make sure all your locks are in good condition and install deadbolts, then work to secure windows that are difficult to pry open.
- Be suspicious if a caller is unable to produce a name when asked. If he were to say, “Who is this?” politely ask “Who are you looking for?” or “Who would you like to speak with?” In the event they can’t specifically identify someone – like “Mr. Harold Jones” instead of “the man of the house” – hang up.
- Refuse to give information out over the phone to strange callers. Though some will have legitimate-sounding titles, when the conversation turns to requests for your name, address, marital status, credit card number, etc. then end the call immediately.