Senior Citizen Scams If you have a senior citizen in the family, there really is nothing more heartbreaking than to discover than to find out that your loved one has been the victim of a senior citizen scam which robbed them out of their precious retirement savings and puts their retirement at risk. When you come to the realization that this wholesale robbery has occurred, you don't know who to be angry at. It's easy to want to be angry at your parent or grandparent but its they who are the victim here. They need your love and help more than ever now, not guilt and anger. But its you who feels victimized as much as your loved one. By robbing your parent or grandparent of their savings, they could be come a liability to the family which will be costly to you and your siblings. You are not going to let your own flesh and blood go hungry or go with out medical care or a good place to live. These are good motivations to know what can be done about senior citizen scams so you can have a plan of attack. Now, once the scam has been executed, there may be some resources to track down the crooks and recover the lost funds. Scams come in all shapes and sizes. They may come in the form of an internet scam that steals thousands from your parent or grandparents credit cards. They may come from home repair scams that cost them big bucks and deliver nothing. They may be "get rich quick" schemes that targeted your loved ones because they were concerned about retirement savings. If you can locate who scammed your loved one, be relentless in pursuit of them. Don't be afraid to enlist the aid of local media. Local television news teams often have groups trained to go out and target these scam artists and expose them to public scrutiny and distain. Scam artists are like cockroaches. They don't like attention and they don't want to be noticed. If you can get your scam artist under that kind of microscope, they will often crack and return the stolen funds rather than face further attention. But there is a limit to what you can do legally and it's not a good idea to go after them personally. Not only do you not need to commit a crime yourself but these people are criminals so they may not be the kind of people you want to tangle with. So be smart but if the funds cannot be recovered, just get control over the situation, stop payment on any checks and cut off the funds quickly to stem the hemorrhaging of funds from your senior citizen loved one's accounts. The real defense against senior citizen scams is prevention. Even if it is just this article that raised the red flag for you, start now finding out how your retired parents or grandparents are using their funds. One way to do this is to offer taking over the management of their money. They may love to see you handle paying their bills and worrying about their taxes so they can relax and enjoy their retirement. Then you can be sure that any money that goes out through those accounts goes to proper and worthwhile uses. But talk to your senior citizen to inform them of the dangers of scams. Many times people of the previous generation are too trusting and easily convinced of the validity of a scam. They need to have that high level of distrust so they become virtually scam proof. One rule you may put in place might be that they have to review any investment or new expenditure with you so by talking about it, proper questions can be asked. Convince your senior citizen that anything that cannot stand up under scrutiny is probably a scam. Make sure you emphasize to them that any offer that must be done now or could be lost if you require documentation is not a worthwhile business no matter how enticing their offer is. By instilling a measure of caution and skepticism in your senior citizen and by becoming a watchdog of their resources yourself, perhaps you can spare your senior parent or grandparent from the heart ache of a senior citizen scam and deny access of crooks to the ones you love. Fighting Loneliness When you are raising your kids in your adult years, it seems you will never know a minute's peace. Each day was another explosion of yelling, running and wild activity in the house from the moment the kids are born until they are grown and moving out. It was when the last one finally made their way into the world that you actually knew what is was to be alone, at least the two of you. A full life such as this makes the adjustment to senior citizen status, retirement and the time you may spend alone and with time on your hands a bit of an adjustment. The adjustment is even more profound if you enter your senior years alone and you find yourself alone much of the time. The problem of loneliness is chronic in senior citizens so it's good to get out ahead of it so it doesn't cause serious problems the longer it goes on. The negatives of loneliness in senior citizens are well known. Excessive loneliness can easily lead to a sense of isolation, desperation and depression. This can result in substance abuse or worse if the senior citizen doesn't find a way to fight back against that feeling of being alone. It is easy if you are in your house that used to be filled with children to feel abandoned and resentful when your day passes with no human contact. If you have relocated to an assisted living center or nursing home, the problem may be even worse as you don't have the comfort of familiar surroundings. But to feel sorry for your self and blame your children for not coming to see you is not a healthy way to fight this enemy. Yes, your children should call or come see you more often. But short of moving in with you or you with them, the problem of loneliness will have to be solved by you and using other means. It may seem like a simplistic answer to loneliness but the beginning of solving these problems is a simple prescription which is -- Get Out of the House! If waiting in your house or apartment for people to bring companionship to you has not worked so far, it probably isn't going to. So you have to get out there and engage life directly. If you can become proactive and take command of the situation, you will find the opportunities to find friendship and companionship are diverse and abundant. Among some of the ways you can get in the company of other people are: * Senior citizen functions. If you are in an assisted living or retirement home, there are events being planned all the time for you to get out and meet your neighbors. But even if that is not your living arrangements, most local communities have senior centers that have as one of their primary missions in life to provide social outlet for senior citizens. So use that resource to its fullest. * Volunteering. There are so many excellent ways for you to volunteer at church, with civic groups or in the arts that you can stay continuously busy. Not only do you get the gratification of doing something good for others, you get out and meet people which is a sure cure for loneliness. * Church. If you are active in your church, they always have ways for you to be involved during the day. Some of them will be volunteer opportunities but others might just be attending a good bible study or social time with your Sunday School class. * Pitch in with the grandkids. This is a wonderful way to get out. You love those grandkids and by giving your children a way to get out and leave them in a trusted place, you do them good and get tons of great play time with those sweet children. These are just a few great ways for you to get out and meet people who will welcome you with open arms. These are areas of life that are eager for an enthusiastic Grandma or Grandpa to jump in feet first and get involved. Getting involved means staying busy and staying busy means never feeling lonely again. And that is the permanent cure for loneliness. Coping With Anger About Aging They say there are stages of grief. Some of those stages include denial, depression and acceptance. But one that many of us experience is anger. While we most often associate grief with the emotions when a loved one passes away, we can go through grief about a lot of things. People go through grief when their house burns down or when they lose a job or a pet. An area of loss that we don't often lump in with grief causes is the physical decline of aging. You can detect that you or senior citizens you know are experiencing grief from their loss of youth from comments they make. It is common to hear them look back with remorse at lost youth and with the loss of functionality and strength that happens when we age. As a senior citizen sees their strength decline and perhaps go through one of the many natural ailments of aging such as arthritis or problems with elimination, it is not uncommon to see a response of anger result from their impatience with these problems. Nobody asked to get old. And I am sure that if we could put it to a vote, aging would lose the election to continue to be part of our lives. As much as senior citizens hate to grow old, your loved ones hate to see it happen to you. And while you as senior citizen may not see it happen, your family is grieving the loss of the "young mom or dad" as much as you are. The problem with being angry about growing old is there is nobody to take it out on. The result is often we lash out at those closest to us because the frustration with our aging bodies causes our temper to flare up spontaneously and a loved one or caregiver is the one who is handy to get mad at. You know this isn't fair and when it happens, you are sorry. So it would be good with finding ways to cope with the anger about aging in a productive way. This kind of coping is necessary so you don't lash out at the innocent. But it is also healthy for you to learn to cope with the aging process because stalling out in the grief process will create tension in your emotional system, which can cause physical problems such as ulcers or problems sleeping. So how do we get rid of the anger we naturally feel at seeing our bodies decline? A wise man once said that we get angry because of a false sense of entitlement. It comes when our expectations do not line up with reality. A false sense of entitlement comes when we come to the conclusion that we do not deserve to get old. The best way to confront and put aside that sense of entitlement is to recognize it. It seems simplistic to just come out and recognize that everybody grows old and we are not entitled to be exempt from the changes that come with aging. But if you can recognize that consciously, it will help take anger out of the loop when you are coping with the affects of aging. Resolution of grief comes when our expectations line up with reality. The attempt to deny the advance of years is the sole cause of midlife crisis in your younger days and that emotional response to aging can create devastating results as the one in crisis tries to behave as though they are not growing old and make bad decisions based on that concept. So too, if you can recognize that these problems are the natural result of aging and the best thing to do is to take care of yourself to try to minimize their impact, you will live with a much healthier attitude toward aging. By focusing on your diet, your exercise, a wise use of substances and doing all you can to stay rested and emotionally sound, you will see the negative effects of aging become minimized. Moreover, you will be a happier person and that shift in your emotions can go a long way toward keeping you young at heart. And that is the best way to turn back the effects of aging from the inside out. Stretching Your Retirement Savings There is what we call in business a "paradigm shift" when you move from the working world to the world of retirement. A paradigm shift means that the rules we live by and the economy that regulates our lives will change dramatically. Whether you have a large retirement package or you have retirement savings that are going to take some care to stretch out, you will begin to live on a fixed income and stretching your retirement savings will become a hobby, a passion and a lifestyle that you will get good at over time. If you are just stepping into the retirement paradigm, learning the ropes from the old pros at the skill of stretching the retirement dollar will serve you well. It will be these old experts that will know how to have a fun evening out on the town for under twenty dollars, when the right time it is to buy at the supermarket and how to leverage coupons to your best advantage. If you have left the active working world, you may need a way to focus your attentions since all of that business energy can be used well to focus on how to use your retirement funds to best advantage. One way to use all of that business expertise is to take on the challenge of what is commonly called "home economics" to learn the best ways to economize and cut expenses of daily life. Home economics is something that is commonly associated with young women preparing to become housewives but the wisdom of how to recycle household items, how to take care of household utensils and tools to reduce the amount they have to be replaced and other important economy tips can go a long way on cutting down on expenses so you see that retirement nest egg gets depleted more slowly. Little things mean a lot when it comes to home economics. Turning off lights and not running the heater when you can put on a sweater seem like petty savings but by not consuming power, you are not only saving on utilities, you are living green as well which is good for the earth. Similarly, you may be able to do more without going out in the car then you thought. Perhaps you can walk to the store rather than drive. Perhaps you can take public transportation for a low cost rather than use up expensive gas and cause more wear and tear on your vehicle. These little things can do a lot to stretch your funds so they are there for the important things. Another way to use your business sense is to find ways to supplement your income or use your retirement savings intelligently. With the internet, you may be able to find ways to invest your savings more shrewdly so you can actually generate revenue by making your money work for you. You can even find part time jobs that can be done from the internet or perhaps in town that do not put a stress on your "retirement status" but bring in a nice little revenue stream while giving you a chance to get out and be with people. Lots of businesses like to use senior citizens in this way so everybody wins. By taking on the challenge of stretching your retirement savings by both becoming a guru of home economics and finding new revenue streams, you can protect that precious nest egg so it continues to be there for you year after year assuring that you are cared for and have everything you need to live a happy and productive retirement lifestyle. Can Grandpa Still Drive? Some of the issues involving helping your senior citizen parent or grandparent can be difficult and full of tough decisions. Seniors face unique medical and lifestyle issues that call upon them and those that love them to find solutions that they can live with. And it's very common for senior citizens to live in denial about the effects of their advancing years and to accept the changes in the way they live that must happen for them to continue live in a safe and healthy way. Driving is just such an issue. For most adults, the ability to drive a car is an integral part of our sense of empowerment and freedom. We seldom think of what it would be like if we couldn't just "jump in the car and go." But that feeling of complete freedom to go where you want and when you want is such a deep part of how we all function that it seems inconceivable to any of us to lose that mobility and freedom. But for senior citizens, there will come a time when they will need to give up driving. The causes are many but the most common reason that calls for senior citizens to stop driving is failing eyesight. While much can be done to preserve the eyesight of senior citizens, if their ability to see becomes a hazard behind the wheel, they will have to be told that its time to let that precious freedom go. So how do we help our senior citizen loved one accept and then cooperate with a plan to reduce or eliminate their driving? You might be surprised that when it comes time for you as the child or caregiver of a senior citizen to talk to them about giving up driving, they may have already begun to think about it. Senior citizens are very aware of their physical condition. So while they may resist giving up the car or van, they may know deep down that this time would come. Some other compelling reasons to take that step sooner rather than later are: * Doctor's orders. If the senior citizen's doctor specifically directs that Grandpa cannot drive. The senior will often respect that directive even more than family advice. A doctor's credibility goes a long way on this issue. * Their own safety. In the same way that no senior citizen wants to "fall and not get up", the idea of being in an accident which may cause serious injury resulting in painful recovery and possible permanent reduced freedom and mobility is a compelling reason to turn the car keys over to someone else. * The safety of others. It's easy to find news stories of a senior citizen who continued to drive only to be involved in an accident that caused injury or death to others, maybe even children. That prospect is so horrifying to a Grandma or Grandpa that they may choose to ground themselves then ever face that kind of guilt. * Savings. Getting rid of the car means no more upkeep, car payments, gas expense and auto insurance. Senior citizens are penny wise so that kind of savings can make a big difference. If your senior citizen comes to understand that accommodations can be made to help them get out and about, the loss of that car may not be a big deal. Public transportation or buses that community services centers send out to retirement villages can help senior citizens get out to the grocery store and to doctor's appointments. And if their family pitches in to help drive Grandma or Grandpa around, not only do they lose the expense and liability of driving, they get more family time too. And that is a great incentive to give up driving and let others serve as their chauffeur. Time to Write the Great American Novel How many times when you was moving through the decades of raising a family and building a career did you say that you were going to write the great American novel when you retired? Now as you settle into a life of retirement and the lifestyle of a senior citizen, do you wonder if now might be the time? After all, this is the time of life when you always promised yourself you would uncork all of that creativity you have been keeping pent up all these years and let it spill out onto the world. So why not give it a try? Nobody ever got hurt trying for greatness. But even if you don't achieve "greatness", your years as a senior citizen are a wonderful time to explore the creative side of you. It might not be "the great American novel". That phrase really is a way of expressing that we all have something creative and unique to give and our senior years are a great time to let them out. The idea that writing, or painting, or acting or any of the creative arts are the venue only of the young has been proven wrong time and time again. It seems creativity and creative expression really knows no age limits. In the last few years we have had Haley Joel Osment, Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood all vying for the Academy award. That makes a 10 year old, a man in his late middle ages and a senior citizen all being evaluated by the same criteria for greatness in acting. The young boy didn't win that year but keep your eyes on him. He has plenty more to give. In fact, it is notable that a few years later when Clint Eastwood won the Oscar for directing, he remarked that much older directors than him were still making their masterpieces. So he was a youngster in his 70s just getting started striving for greatness. These are just a few examples to show that if these senior citizens can shine in their creative work late in life, so can you. Don't be afraid to get out there with the youngsters and take the introductory classes in the art form you want to try out. You may have always dreamed of painting. You know that Picasso and Rembrandt did some of their finest paintings as senior citizens. So go ahead, go to the junior college or the local museum and enroll in classes. You may be the Grandpa or Grandma of the class but once the other artists see that you have something burning inside you to express artistically, they will respect you as a fellow artist and peer in the artistic community. This is not to say that writing the great American novel or other forms of creative expression are not going to take work to master. But in that department, you also have the inside track. As a senior citizen, you are not stranger to hard work. You worked hard to raise a family, succeed in a career and provide for others all of your adult life. Now its time to use some of that work ethic to let your own light shine and for a little while, let it all be about you. Take Some Risks There is a classic image of a senior citizen driving with their turn signals continuously on and poking along 20 miles under the speed limit on the highway. A popular comedian once quipped that if he was 80 years old, he would "drive like hell" since, after all, why not take some risks at 80? It's true that as we move into our senior years, we do become a bit cautious in how we conduct our affairs. Now, if you have health difficulties that a fall or a serious illness could prove life threatening, those precautions are called for. In defiance of that comedian's remarks, our lives are precious and just because we are closer to the final years of our lives doesn't mean we want to see our lives end too soon and miss out of a minute of this time on earth and time with our children and grandchildren. But one aspect of that joke has some food for thought as we think about our lifestyle as senior citizens. There may be some good reasons to get out there and take some risks in life and to enjoy the thrill that a little danger can bring. Recently the elder President George Bush went skydiving even though he was well into his senior years. His life of achievement showed that President Bush was not afraid of a challenge. And by getting out there and doing something fun and that may have been a dream of his, he showed that our senior years are not all about rocking chairs and naps. It's also a time to live out our dreams. Some risks, like skydiving, can be done with the guidance of skilled professionals to help reduce the actual dangers. But the illustration of what President Bush did emphasizes one rational for to "go for it" and take some risks in our retirement years. For one thing, it's a tremendous inspiration to younger people when they see their elders exhibiting courage and a willingness to get out of their comfort zone. Many times your own children may be the ones who need that kind of inspiration that they too should live life courageously and not let fear stop them from enjoying every moment. Another great reason to take a risk is that it may be a great way to bond with family. Not long ago, I had the chance to go white water rafting with my grandson. Now I am not an adventurer and not in physical shape to do anything athletic. But this was a moment where I could establish a bond with my grandson by going into a great adventure with him and coming out of it with great stories. Because I am writing this article for you shows that I made it. There were a few heart stopping moments but I wouldn't trade those moments with him for the world. You too may be presented with a chance to make a memory with a loved one by taking a risk. And it's worth going for it, in a reasonable fashion, to capture that memory and build that bond as well. Some risks you might take don't involve physical danger. Maybe you need to finally take the plunge and get up at the local open mic night and deliver that stand up comedy routine you have been polishing up with the family. They say there is nothing more terrifying as facing a crowd and trying to make them laugh. But when you hear their laughter and their applause, that will be a dream come true for the amateur comic in you. So consider taking a few risks as you plan your activities in your busy retirement schedule. The rush of adrenaline will put some spring in your step and give your heart rate a workout. But it will also add some fun and adventure to your life. And that is something we all can use. Stripped Shirts and Straw Hats There was a study recently that found that the majority of people who graduate from college with majors in music never go on to a career in music. Besides the natural conclusion that a lot of kids never use their degrees, it leads to another less obvious conclusion. And that is that there is a lot of musical talent out there that is not properly tapped. As we discussed that finding, you may have remembered an ambition you may have had in life to have your own singing group and to enjoy arranging and performing shows, even if it was on an amateur basis. The classic example of this kind of group is the good old barbershop quartet. There is something about barbershop harmonies that are continuously always fun to hear. And when you see those four men or women get up there in stripped shirts and straw hats and launch into Lida Rose or Good Night Ladies, the temptation to perform like that yourself is pretty strong. There is no better time to put together your own barbershop quartet than in your retirement years. That huge population of hidden musical talent is almost certainly hiding out in your retirement home or community. The odds are that when you put a notice up on the bullion board at the retirement home or Laundromat of the senior citizens center that you are putting together a barbershop quartet, you will get flooded with interested seniors who want to be a part of the fun. It will take some rehearsal and maybe a few voice lessons to get those old voices up to snuff but there is no reason that the singing voices of four well rehearsed and talented senior citizens cannot belt out those tunes and get everybody's toes tapping. And think of the gratification you will feel that you didn't let your musical talent go to waste because you are using it to bring music and joy to others. But barbershop is not the only kind of music that you and your musical senior citizens may want to build a group around. While they were not senior citizens, most of us don't think about the fact that John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd lived out their dream when they put together The Blues Brothers. These were two men loved the Chicago Blues sound and they took that love of music and pulled together a band that gave us all a lot of fun and joy hearing them perform. Who is to say you and a few "Blues Brothers" you know form the senior citizen community could not put together just as fun to perform locally. Putting together a band in your senior years gives you the chance to live out a dream of performing from any genre you love. Many of us dreamed of having our own garage rock and roll band when we were young. The thing that is great about genuine rock and roll music is that it is perfectly suited to be played by a bunch of kids with electric guitars and a drum set and some rehearsal in their parent's garage. Well nobody can stop you and the other "kids" you know from grabbing some instruments and putting together a set list of classic rock and roll songs to perform at the next senior center dance. You add popular numbers like Louie Louise, Chantilly Lace and Itty Bitty Teeny Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and you will have a set list that will take you places. And seeing that crowd respond and get out there and dance to your music is just the fulfillment of the dream you need to tell you that you did the right thing putting your music together and getting out there to perform. And who knows, playing classic rock might even get you some chicks. Stalker Stalkers There is an epidemic of crime going on around us. And it's an epidemic that is invisible and happening in homes all around your community quietly so that nobody knows its happening. It's a crime that will take the dedication of people who care deeply for their families and have a lot of time to track down these criminals and see to it they are brought to justice. The crime is internet stalkers and they are out to steal the souls of our children and grandchildren. We all may have seen on television the shows where they catch internet stalkers who come to houses thinking they will be able to molest a young girl or boy. It is horrifying to see that such people may be preying on our grandchildren even as we speak. As grandparents of our sweet grandchildren, we have a knee jerk reaction to try to gather them close and hold them so these terrible people cannot hurt our children. But in the case of internet stalkers, this just isn't possible. Stalkers go onto internet "chat rooms" which are web sites where young people can talk and socialize with each other by typing messages back and forth. The messages go back and forth as fast as the kids can type them so they have a lot of fun gossiping and just being kids just like they do at school. This on the surface doesn't seem to be a bad thing. But an internet stalker isn't a child. He is an adult who wants to seduce your grandchild and get him or her to come to them and then molest them. The outcome is often tragic and could even end in death for the deceived child. And the problem is that internet stalkers are not criminals in any other way. The ones who have been caught come from all walks of life and are most commonly respectable citizens in every other way. That is what makes them hard to catch and this epidemic so hard to stop. Because there are thousands of internet chat rooms and millions of people using them, it's hard for law enforcement to know how to watch for stalkers. Internet stalkers blend in with the rest of the chatters, often disguising themselves as children themselves to deceive others. So it takes a skilled eye to find them and then to catch them in the act. What is needed is an army of stalker stalkers to haunt these rooms, identify the stalkers and turn them over to police for prosecution. As senior citizens, we have the time to be stalker stalkers. And we certainly love our grandchildren enough to want to stop these terrible men from hurting our kids. We can talk to our children about how to protect their kids and they can give them guidelines. But the reports tell us stalkers are incredibly clever and patient so we need that next level of protection and we need this army of stalker stalkers to go after these fiends and put a stop to what they are doing. It will take some learning about the internet and computers to become a stalker stalker. You will need a connection to the internet in your home or apartment so you can also find chat rooms and begin to get a feel for how chat goes. There really is no classroom training for this job. You will have to learn how kids talk online and the way they communicate. You will have to watch conversations to see if you can spot signs that certain internet chatter is trying to manipulate another into something unwholesome. Often chatters will send pictures or use webcams to show pornographic pictures to children. If you can catch an internet stalker doing that, you have caught him in a crime and you can get them prosecuted. But above all, don't try to take action yourself. Learn all you can about the internet stalker from your own chat skills. Before long, you will get good at it. But also work with the operators of the chat service and with local law enforcement. If they know you are a stalker stalker, they can be ready when you put them on alert to take action to bring these perverted people to justice. And when you see that a stalker was taken out of the chat rooms because of your work, you will know that you did your part to protect your grandchildren. Smart Traveling for Senior Citizens One of the real joys of retirement and enjoying your senior years may come in the form of travel. Travel is broadening and many senior citizens save for a lifetime to enjoy a lifestyle of travel once they are retired. The image of becoming a world traveler in their senior years is one of those dreams that kept them going when life was tough in their working years so they certainly deserve to hit the road and enjoy the fruit of a lifetime of work. If this is the kind of retirement fun that you have in mind, it pays to plan ahead so you travel smart. Being prepared for a long trip makes sense for anybody but if these trips you will be taking are to be the dream trips you want them to be, you don't want to see those vacations turn into travel nightmares. A big part of smart traveling is knowing well in advance what you are going to need on the trip. But it may be even more important to know what you are NOT going to need. By packing light, you make the chore of pulling large pieces of luggage through the airport less difficult. And if you are going to be staying in several places on the trip, packing light means less repacking as well. It will take some experience as to what works for you in a travel situation to know how to pack. You may wish to build a special travel wardrobe of garments that wear well under stress, don't wrinkle and can be rinsed out and used again one the road thus extending their usefulness and cutting down on excess clothing. Another way you can cut down on the bulk en route is to not take very much with you that can be bought when you get there. By not taking a lot of toiletries, you cut down on the problems with airport security and the chance of toiletries leaking in your bags. Smart traveling for senior citizens also means having your prescriptions all up to date and well documented. You should get good copies of all prescription drugs, eyeglass prescriptions and other documents that you may need to get refills on the road should you lose or run through your medicines. Alert your local pharmacy so if they need to consult with a pharmacy where you are going, that phone call won't catch them by surprise. And file copies of all of your travel documents with a loved one so even if you lose everything, you can still get your documents sent to you or by email or fax. These kinds of precautions eliminate panic in the event of a problem while traveling. Similarly make sure your itinerary and copies of your passport and credit card numbers are kept in secure places and on file with a loved one. Go through your wallet and think about each card and important document you have and how you would handle having those cards canceled and replaced should you lose your wallet or purse. By keeping those important numbers where you can get to them quickly, you can move fast to cancel credit cards and get replacements virtually immediately from your hotel should you get robbed or lose your valuables while traveling. By thinking ahead like this and staging in your mind every possible problem and planning how to respond, you eliminate the chance that your trip could be stopped and your fun brought to an end because of a difficulty. Then when things do go wrong, you just shift to plan A-B-C or D and you are right back in business. Romance in the Sunset Years When you watch television or the movies, you would come to the conclusion that romance is only the stuff of those in their teens or 20s. As though somehow once someone reaches full adulthood, much less senior citizen age, the concept of romance is completely out of the question. This may be more a function of the fact that more people in those age groups go to the movies than any grounding in reality about romance. But we know for a fact that romance in the sunset years not only is possible, it might be the sweetest romance of them all. Part of the confusion may lie in another misconception or "myth" about senior citizens that they are not capable of sexual activity. There are two levels of error in this misconception. The first is the idea that people over 50 are sexually inactive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sexuality is a healthy component of adult life at all phases of our maturity and senior citizens are just as capable of sexuality in their relationships as your most randy teenager, albeit probably good deal more careful. The second misconception that is good to confront and put to rest is that even if sexuality is not part of the mix, seniors are not romantic people. This misconception is without a doubt held people who don't spend any quality time with senior citizens themselves. If anything, the opposite is the truth. If anyone tracked the movie rental patterns of senior citizens, they would witness that seniors have a healthy appetite for romantic comedies and have a healthy interest in romantic relationships. Retirement very often is a time of tremendous rebirth of the concept of romance between senior couples. Married couples who may have seen the romance fizzle in their relationship during the child raising years often see that element of their relationship blossom and become even more sweet and exciting than it was when they were dating. Adult life before retirement is often packed with pressures of raising kids and getting them "launched" as well as work and social pressures. This kind of thing can take away the emotional and mental energy needed for romance. So when a marriage matures into retirement years together, its common for senior citizens to rediscover why they fell in love in the first place and experience a new era of romance that is fun and thrilling for both. But senior citizens who find themselves single are perfectly capable of looking for romantic times with others of their own generation. If they have managed their finances well, senior citizens may be well equipped to enjoy an active dating life and enjoy romantic evenings with each other that enrich their lives and keep them upbeat and looking forward to their next romantic experience. Moreover, seniors have the time and the leisure to nurture their romantic relationships slowly. So the suspense of building a romance makes that romance full of excitement of discovery is easily afforded for a senior citizen who may not be as "eager" to see the romance "go somewhere" as a youth looking to start a family. But dating and enjoying romantic times with the opposite sex also provide much needed companionship and deep friendships can evolve from romances in the golden years. If the senior citizen has lost a spouse, these times with others their own age can fill a gap left by that spouse and help ease the transition and the grief so the senior citizen can move on to single life successfully. Making Washington Listen The federal government is the type of institution that works on the squeaky wheel principle. That principle, simply stated, is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Applied to Washington, that means that it will be the areas of life that public officials think will get them the most votes that will get attention and the rest will get ignored. It's sad to say that about our representative system of government but it's true. As senior citizens, we have some very real needs that must be attended to at the governmental level. The Social Security System and Medicare are obvious issues that we need to see defended. We have seen numerous attempts by ambitious politicians to try to shut down these programs that are so important to senior citizens. That is why, we as senior citizens need to learn to be the squeaky wheel so they know we are not to be overlooked. The arrival of the baby boomer generation into the ranks of the senior citizen population is going to help tremendously. This is a huge generation that swells the ranks of any group they join. They are also a vocal group who are not afraid to take action at a political level to get what they want from the government. Working together with these "new recruits" to the ranks of concerned senior citizens, there are some things we can do to make sure that Washington listens to our concerns. We are not the kind of population that would be prone to stage a "million senior citizens march" on Washington to make our voices heard. But we have something powerful going for us that few other organized groups enjoy. We are a large body of the population and we represent a lot of votes. Moreover, senior citizens as a group vote more often and with greater solidarity than any other segment of the population. That means that politicians have to be aware that if an issue is important to senior America, we will turn out to vote and we will vote in unity to get our collective will known and convert that will into public policy. It's important that we don't leave the work of making Washington listen to somebody else. There are active things we can do to make our voices heard on a regular basis including: * Writing our congressmen and even our president to let them know what we want and when we are unhappy. * Influencing who gets elected through contributions to candidates that represent our views. * Staying informed on what is going on in Washington so legislation that might hurt senior citizen causes don't get passed without notice. And when we notice such legislation is moving though the system, we need to raise hell about it until it dies in committee. * Working in unity. There are as many republican senior citizens as democratic ones. But when it comes to protecting senior issues, there is just one party and that is the party of senior citizens. Whatever party does well at looking out after the interests of senior citizens should get our support and those who do not need to lose their right to represent America in Washington. These are bold statements and somewhat demanding but that is how the American system of government works. We have an advocate in Washington who has taken on the charge of watching out after our interest. That advocate is AARP and their voice counts for something when they speak to our representatives. So by being active in AARP and being active in politics, we are protecting ourselves, our friends and neighbors in the senior citizen community and those coming along behind us as well. We must not abandon the fight or decide we are done even when we get some wins at the federal level. There are fights at the state and local level. And not all issues that are important to seniors are strictly senior citizen issues. We also care a great deal for the welfare of our children and their families. So we as an influential political force can do all we can to protect family issues and the sanctity of the family. This is a high calling and one that needs all of our support. But it's a noble cause that deserves our attention as well.
Hide and Seek Children love to play hide and seek. When you were raising those sweet kids of yours, it was great fun to join them in that game. Another variation on it that lots of us play with the grandkids is "where's Grandpa?" This is the one where you hide your face and then suddenly show it to a baby just to see that look of surprise and delight when they see Grandpa or Grandma over and over again. While these forms of hide and seek with the kids were fun when they were little, now that they are grown and you are Grandpa or Grandma, there is a form of hide and seek that isn't so fun. That is when the children move far away and it gets harder and harder to stay in touch with them. We grow so used to knowing every little thing that goes on with our children. If they have grandchildren, they don't really appreciate how much you want to see them every day and enjoy every aspect of their lives. But when the kids live in another city or another state, that becomes almost impossible to pull off. Sure, you knew as far back as when the kids went off to college that you would go through some separation anxiety. But the desire to be more in touch with your family goes a lot deeper than just a dose of empty nester syndrome. It goes to the very foundation of who you are. We are by nature family oriented creatures. For many senior citizens, there never was a time when they were not in the middle of a family situation. If you moved directly from the home of your parents into your married family and had children right away, family life was a continuous flow in your life. So when the time comes for the children to leave, especially if that means they will be in another state, the depth that you miss them is tremendous and the deep desire to be more in touch doesn't diminish with time. Is the answer to move to the same town where the kids are living? Sometimes that is possible. But we know that it's the nature of young professionals that they may be moving again and again because careers that are being built often call for that kind of commitment. This is less difficult for the kids if their families are young and they are enjoying the adventure of living in different places. But for you as a senior citizen, living in one place, making friends, finding a church or social group and becoming part of a long lasting community is important to feeling secure as you enjoy your golden years. The good news is that we live in at time when information technology can help you stay more in touch than ever before. There are new ways coming along every day that you can use to reach across spans of hundreds of miles and feel you are part of what is going on with your children and those precious grandkids. Some technologies that can help include: * The internet. Through email and other modern technologies, you can exchange messages with your children many times in a day. * Digital cameras. The ability to take pictures has gotten so much more accessible with cameras becoming part of mobile devices, phones and other machines you and your kids may have on you all the time. So you never have to miss out on a cute photo of what the grandkids did this week. * Instant messaging. This is email taken to the extreme. With IM you can have an online conversation with your children that is as dynamic as a live chat and stay up to date on everything that is going on. * Webcams. This is the ultimate in staying touch. You can go so far as to put cameras in different parts of the house so the kids can see mom and dad every day and you can watch the children and grandchildren play and talk to them almost like you are there. Everybody will have to get used to these new tools of communication. But as much as you will be thrilled to see and talk with your kids every day and see them so much more often with these new tools, they will love being able to have some "mom and dad time" with you as well. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren There is a family phenomenon that you may face now as you should be heading into a leisurely life of a senior citizen and retirement. But if you find that you are being called upon to raise your own grandchildren, that is a senior citizen lifestyle that is very different than what was expected. It might be somewhat comforting to know that the incidences of grandparents being called upon to raise their grandchildren is more common now than ever before. But the fact that a lot of senior citizens have to raise their grandkids doesn't make it any easier to face that challenge yourself. There are a lot of reasons by senior citizens find themselves raising their grandchildren. The nature of the problem will say a lot about how you approach the many issues of child rearing. The reasons range from death of the parents to situations of abuse, drug or alcohol difficulties or if your child had the baby out of wedlock. So the extent to which you can have the birth parent active in the life of the baby will be driven by the severity of the reason you are being asked to become a parent a second time around. Probably the biggest question you will is what to tell the child. Honesty is so important in raising children. It wont take them long to figure out that his or her "parents" are a lot older than the other children's parents. So if you can be honest, while that creates other anxieties in the child, those are much healthier for him or her to confront than dealing with being deceived about parentage issues. If you have the birth mother living with you as well, that can be good or bad. As the girl's parents, you will be doing her a favor if you enable her to serve in her own parental role as much as she possibly can. The ideal situation would be if the child knew this was his or her mom rather than go down the road of saying she is an older sister. Then you can serve in the capacity of caregivers and facilitators but still allow that natural mother/child bond to help both grow into those roles. It may be hard in the short term but as the child grows older, you and your daughter will be glad you made the effort to handle the issue this way. The availability of other family members will also be a factor in the demands of parenthood. Children are active little creatures and they love to run and play actively, especially with their parents. But sometimes senior citizens are not as much the run and play as much as the cuddle and read a story kind of parents. If the child has uncles or aunts living nearby who can step in and provide that kind of support to the child, that will take some pressure off of you to try to keep up with the kiddos. As you step into the role of parent of your own grandchild, it's proper although a bit frightening to look down the road 18 years and wonder, will I make it? It's a fair question and one you need to make provision for. Any parent provides for their child in the event of their death and in the case of seniors raising children, those provisions are even more important. But the provisions don't just end with financial support. If Grandpa and Grandma both pass away before the child is done growing up, there should be a natural and acceptable home for that child to go to that will be comfortable for them and where they can continue to grow and learn with as little interruption as possible. Short of the death of your children, don't discount the return of your child to assume the role of parent again. You don't want this to be a hostile interruption. If there was abuse or substance problems, there will be legal oversight and a case worker will have to be involved to determine if your son or daughter is capable of being a parent. But if they can accept that responsibility and they are prepared to both love and care for the child, then you can hand that responsibility over and feel fulfilled that you did your part to assure your precious grandchild was properly cared for when he or she needed you the most. Going Back to School For most of us, our senior citizen years are a time to relax, maybe pursue a hobby, travel or just relax and let life go by. But, for many, retirement isn't just a time to lay the goals of life down. It is a time to look back over life at the unfinished challenges and then go back and finish them. And for many, an unfinished goal in life is to go back and get that degree. Whether it is finally graduating from high school, finishing your bachelor's degree or starting and finishing a masters or PHD, it's a big challenge to go back to the classroom and get that certificate, especially when you do that as a senior citizen. So why do we do it? This may be a question your children ask when they see you going after such an ambitious goal so late in life. But when you think about it, we as senior citizens have a right to be a bit offended by the question. Where is it written that we are denied the right to better ourselves just because we are in the later years of life? Implicit in the question is the implication of, "What is the point of you getting a degree since you are not going to do anyting productive in retirement and you are so close to death?" The last thing we as senior citizens want is to be seen as people who are just sitting around waiting to die. Many a senior citizen has started an entirely new career and accomplished great things after 50. With the advances in medical science today, it's perfectly logical that you could live 20-30 years or more "in retirement". That is plenty of time to accomplish great things. And starting out this era of life with a good education makes just as much sense as a youth doing so as they start out on their first career. This is not to say that going back to school is going to be easy. If finishing your high school degree is the goal, you are going into an alien world and one that was probably pretty hostile the first time you were there. Your presence in the high school or college classroom is going to be the source of some humor and you might take some teasing for being there. But those same kids will come to admire what you are doing and enjoy having "grandpa" in class with them each day. On top of the social situation you may create in a high school or college classroom, school is a challenge. You will have to get used to being in the classroom and listening to lectures, reading textbooks, taking notes, doing papers and taking exams all over again. If you go after an advanced degree and take several classes, you will be a very busy senior citizen just keeping up with your studies. But there are some joys you can expect from going after an advanced degree. College life and being on a college campus each day is by itself a very stimulating environment. And you may find yourself at a few pep rallies and enjoying campus life just like the other students. Being with young people each day can be energizing and you may find yourself looking and acting as much like the youth you "hang out with" as you do your fellow senior citizens. But the greatest benefit of getting that advanced degree is the pride or accomplishment you will get. If you are finishing your high school or bachelor's degree, it no doubt nagged you all your life that this was something that you started and didn't finish. So by going back and finishing it, you close that door and take away the power of that nagging voice. Don't be surprised if you fall in love with academic life. Learning is tremendously addictive and you may wish to go on for yet more studies in fields of learning that have always fascinated you. Nobody will turn away your tuition dollars if you just want to be in college for the pure joy of learning. And you will be an inspiration to your fellow students when they see you succeed and they tell themselves, "If Grandpa over there can do it, so can I." Giving Your Time Away One of the joys of retirement is that you are into a time of life when making a buck and worrying about using your time "profitably" is less of an issue. But it's not entirely accurate that all senior citizens want to retire to spend the day rocking on the back porch and taking long naps. Human beings are by nature workers and doers and that need to be productive and be a part of something bigger than yourself doesn't go away the day you stop working for a living. This is why volunteering is such a great way for senior citizens to use the time and talents they have to benefit others. And more and more, nonprofit and community service organizations are finding a rich resource of free and enthusiastic talent in the ranks of senior citizens. For the senior citizen, the chance to volunteer for a cause gives them a chance to feel important and useful. It provides human contact outside of their age group which is often a frustration for seniors. While seniors love being with those of their own generation, it's just as important for them to be with people the age of their kids, young people, teenagers and children regularly. In addition volunteering gives seniors a chance to invest themselves in something they believe strongly in and do so with a greater depth of commitment than they ever could before they were retired. The opportunities for volunteering in the community are so diverse that you can literally find a volunteering opportunity to fit any retirement situation and any temperament type or area of interest. Here are a few great volunteering ideas just to start the list. * If you have had a life of commitment to your church, there is always a need for volunteers to work with ongoing projects there. Many churches operate libraries, youth and family centers and schools who thrive on volunteers to keep reaching out to the community with these services. * If you love the outdoors, the parks service may be able to use you to help with upkeep projects on city lands. You can also help coordinate charity events such as fun runs and marathons which will get you plenty of fresh air and do good for others along the way. * The arts often use volunteers and you get to participate in great artistic programs. Opportunities like ushering at plays or music events at the local theater, serving at the admittance desk or conducting tours at the museum or helping to build sets for the local theater group can be great fun for an outgoing senior citizen. * For a senior citizen who is home bound or introverted, work can be found stuffing envelopes, doing internet research or making phone calls for charitable causes that can be done right from the comfort and safety of their living room. * For the retired senior who is good with tools and loaded with knowledge and talent about construction, habitat for humanity is an outstanding and ongoing program that will use those skills to the fullest. Missions programs from local churches also find great work for talented seniors who want to help the less fortunate. These are just the tip of the ice burg of the great ways senior citizens can volunteer. Seniors are great volunteers because they are full of life and energy but at the same time patient and skilled at managing projects because of a lifetime of achievement. This is why volunteering is a perfect match for the needs for seniors to get out and engage life. And they make a real difference in important causes along the way. Fun Is Different Now Even as senior citizens, you can probably remember being a child when the most important thing in the world was having fun. Well there are some remarkable similarities between your life as a senior citizen and those carefree days of childhood. For one thing, when you were a child, you didn't work for a living, you felt secure that you had what you need. Hopefully in your senior years, you too are able to retire with the knowledge that you did a good job preparing for retirement so you have some carefree days to enjoy now too. Another similarity that your kids may have pointed out to you is that, like it was when you were a child, you occasionally do things that are not allowed to do. But now it seems to be our kids telling us what is ok for us to do or not do. But every so often, you have to throw caution to the wind and go ahead and party late into the night, go parasailing or go to a punk concert. And even though it isn't good for you and you will probably get a lecture for it in the morning, you had a great time taking the chance. But fun is different now that you are a senior citizen than it was when you was a child. Now there is nothing better perhaps than spending a day trying to improve your golf game. A long rainy afternoon with a good book is just the thing for a senior citizen and it will be a day of fun you will remember for a long time because this is what it means to be retired. Some other ways to have fun as a senior citizen that are notably different from childhood or even when you was a working adult might include: * A day sorting yarn for a big knitting project or laying out the fabric to make artistic quilts to sell for a charitable cause can also be a day of girl talk, giggling and gossip that seems almost like the sleepover scene from Grease as much as it is a gathering of mature women enjoying the afternoon together. * Getting together with the boys and going out to help build a shed at your son's farm gives you the chance to play with tools, mess around with building materials and remember what great fun it is to just build something. * A bus tour to Branson or some other exciting nearby attraction takes on a whole new sense of adventure when it's big day when they change the lunch menu at the cafeteria downstairs. * Going to a high school football game used to seem like a nuisance when you had to attend to watch your boy play third string center or your daughter cheer and hope she doesn't break her collarbone. But now when you get to go, even if you don't know a soul on either team, being in that exciting setting is the kind of good clean fun you look forward to for weeks and think back on for months. Just as the fun is different now as senior citizens, so are the toys. Now, enjoying an afternoon stuffing envelopes for the church is as much a fun as a game of playing checkers as long as you can do it with your friends and yak and share stores as you work. Now, going to a military base to look at their archives is more than just mildly interesting. It's a trip through your own past and if you can enjoy that with others who fought for their country as you did, each of those guns and pieces of equipment in those display cases bring with them treasured memories that will have you and your senior friends swapping war stories for days after. Yes we have fun differently now than the young people do. But anyone who thinks for a minute that senior citizens never have fun are as far off from the truth as they can be. Because you have laid down the cares of career and raising children, you can really relax and let the fun of each day sneak up on you. By putting yourself in the mindset, that life is still a great adventure, just about anything you do can become a source of joy and fun. But even though fun is different now, life is still worth living because it is tremendously fun. Bringing in the New Blood When a senior citizen finds a new romantic companion late in life, it's a wonderful moment for both. Romances late in life can provide a much needed source of companionship and love that may be missing if the senior has lost a spouse or is going through their golden years alone. But it's common for children of seniors to go through some anxiety when they see dad or mom enjoying the company of another romance in their lives. And getting the kids to accept your new girlfriend or boyfriend, especially if that romance is going to result in a wedding. Part of your children's resistance to you dating comes from anxiety about losing their parent which may be just as deep and lasting a grief as you had in losing your wife or husband. It may seem strange but often it is the children of the marriage who go through the longest grief when a parent passes on. You may have already moved along in your processing of that loss much more than they. To children, the parents are a permanent institution and the idea that one of them would go away seems inconceivable. And this feeling often survives well into adulthood. So that is the first big adjustment your family ahs to make when they see you beginning to enjoy the company of the opposite sex. They must be assured you are not going to replace mom or dad in their hearts and that this romance will never remove the love you cherish for that departed spouse. To the children, that love must endure forever because it is the foundation of their concept of family which is a big part of their own identity as well, even though one parent may have passed away. This is a next step in life that calls for you, the senior citizen and the wise old Grandma or Grandpa in the family mix to use some of that sensitivity and wisdom of your years to help your children and even grandchildren accept your new romance and evolve with you to a new phase of life. If you have the chance as you begin a new relationship, the time to begin the acceptance process is before that friendship becomes a romance. By sitting down with your children and discussing that this will happen, even before it happens, you begin the acceptance process. In their minds and emotional systems, they begin to understand your need for companionship and for love and for romance. You need that as much as they do. So you explain it to them. Then as you begin to see a romantic interest, be open with the family about what you are doing. Adult children can even get to the point that they will be your advisor and your cheerleaders as you enjoy a new era of dating and romance. Once that area of life is open, then when you do "bring home the date to meet the family" it wont be such a difficult thing. But by keeping the adult children always in the loop, they can talk with one another, agree that this is the best possible thing for you and even work to help the grandkids accept your new romance. Before long, he or she will be able to come for dinner, join in the holidays and really become part of the family. Just as you opened your heart when your kids were dating and finding new loves, you will teach your kids to open their hearts to someone who is becoming important to you. It's a cycle of life but if we handling it lovingly and honestly, it's a good cycle. Becoming Gandalf In the classic books, The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf was the wise old wizard that guided the heroic party through to success. While we don't have real Gandalfs in our lives, you may be able to remember when you were young that wise elder statesman that you looked up to and revered because they were a source of wisdom and caring when you as a young person seemed to be continuously confused and afraid about what was happening to you in life. As you enter your senior citizen years, it's a good time to reflect on how that elder in your young life served such a valuable function of helping and guiding you. Perhaps your reason for being in the place of elder statesman in your family's life that you too become revered and that you can serve them with wisdom, compassion and love. So the question might be, how do you fill that role and "become revered" the way the wise old Gandalf was? You don't have the magic that Gandalf had to help his young charges through their struggles. Perhaps the first step of becoming the wise revered elder of your family is to see yourself in that role. By creating a vision of a wise elder, perhaps using the model of who that person was in your youth, you give yourself a role to grow into. Picture situations in which you were able to be there for your family and they would turn to wise old Grandpa or Grandma and get just the right advice for the hour. One such situation might be at Christmas. Late Christmas Eve, your grandchildren can climb up in your lap to take comfort from you being there for them. It is this kind of sweet moment where they should be able to ask Grandpa or Grandma anything that troubles them. You will want to bring the maximum amount of patience and love to that sweet time with your grandchild so he or she knows that Grandma or Grandpa is a font of endless patience and endless answers to their questions. This is the way you become revered. The psychological results of just that short time with you can be powerful in a young life. Just knowing there is an elder in their lives who is always there, never too busy for them and with whom they can talk about anything and who will probably know the answer gives a child the confidence to face life with courage and calm. That is a wonderful gift you give to your grandchildren and its something only you can give them that is a gift even their mom and dad cannot provide. As you fill that role, your children and their spouses too will start to see you in the role of wise old Gandalf and someone they can always turn to. When you were in the role of parent, they may have looked to your parents for that role. But now that you are stepping into the senior role, you may get late night phone calls from adult children who just need a caring ear to listen and a soft loving voice, slightly deepened with age, to just assure them that they can handle the crisis and that they will be all right. It will take courage for you to not panic and to fill that roll of comforter and adviser but it's a crucial role that only a grandparent can provide. But probably the most important thing you can do to become the one they turn to when they need Grandpa or Grandma is to always be there. This is harder than it seems. A friend of mine tells of a call he got from a teenage granddaughter at three in the morning. She needed love, advice as well as emotional counseling. And as dearly as that senior citizen needed his sleep, he was there for that little girl and guided her through the crisis until she was sleeping peacefully in her bed. And why was that child able to weather a crisis in her young life? Because Grandpa was always there for her. And if you make sure that there is no situation that your kids or grandchildren cannot interrupt to come to you for help, advice or comfort, you will capture a revered place in their hearts that will be yours to keep forever. A Time Consuming Hobby When you are raising a family and involved in a demanding career, if someone asks you what your hobby is, you probably would answer "Who has time for a hobby?" That is why retirement and your senior citizen years are the perfect opportunity to get involved in a time consuming hobby and be able to throw yourself into it with gusto. The purpose of a hobby is to allow you to explore an interest and even build an expertise in an facet of life that you follow for the sheer joy of learning and engaging in that activity. You have no interest in making your living at that hobby and for most of us that do build up a hobby life, to earn money at it would ruin the fun of it. You want to be able to go after that hobby at your own pace and "do it your way" without the nuisance of a boss or someone telling you that you are doing it wrong. Many hobbies are recreational activities. Golf, bowling, pool or playing poker are such hobbies. And each of these are the kind of pastimes that require dedication to get good at them. And once you have your expertise up, you get a real gratification from competing in that sport and demonstrating that your years of devotion and the time you put into that hobby were wroth the effort. There is just a certain satisfaction to becoming so completely lost in a hobby that time disappears and before you know it, a day can go by and you didn't even know it. That kind of mental absorption keeps your mind sharp and functioning which is good for your health in many ways. And many hobbies are just that time consuming and just that fascinating. If you have a flair for the technical and mechanical, Ham Radio is a hobby that seems to become a passion for those who become enthusiasts. The joy of Ham Radio is being able to communicate around the world through this private network that anyone can join. And Ham Radio operators have at times proven valuable in communications during time of national crisis when perhaps other forms of communications were not available. To find that perfect hobby, look within at areas of fascination that you never got a chance to express and explore. If you cannot get enough of history, the civil war or the renaissance, reenactment and renaissance fairs give you the chance to all but travel back in time and enjoy the feel of being part of that era in history. If theater is your passion, dozens of local theater groups will take all the time you can give even if you don't have an acting bone in your body. And enjoying even a simple level of involvement in the theater like putting together posters or painting sets can be just as exciting as getting out in front of an audience. The key is to find something you love and find others who love it too. This is the great thing about hobbies. There is almost always someone out there who is just as fascinated by this field of interest and probably a whole society who are just as able to see a day or a weekend disappear becoming absorbed in their hobby. So throwing yourself into your passion also opens doors of social interaction with others who may not be senior citizens and that is refreshing. The benefits of getting involved in a time consuming hobby are many. You do need to use some common sense and balance so you take care of your health and spend time with family and friends. But that leaves plenty of time to be obsessed with your hobby and have all the fun that this kind of pastime can bring to you. A Home for Grandma When you have a senior parent, the concern for their ability to maintain their lifestyle can be a significant worry. Almost without exception, senior citizens resist the idea of moving out of their house and into an assisted living facility or nursing home. You as a child of a senior citizen may see issues of safety if your aging parent continues to live independently. If their spouse has passed on, there may be issues of loneliness and depression. Hallways and doors of old homes are often not built to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs. And the vision of your children's Grandma or Grandpa falling and being unable to reach you for help is frightening. And then there is the financial side of maintaining their home and paying the mortgage if it is still active. So the question is whether you should try to help your aging parent with moving on to an assisted care facility or if it can be worked out for them to stay in their home. There are some compelling reasons to help them stay in the house they have lived in for so long if there are ways to overcome the problems. Studies show conclusively that senior citizens that live in their own homes are happier and healthier. Your parents may have long lasting friendships in the neighborhood who provide tremendous emotional support and can look in on your parent from time to time to assure they are safe. And the ability to get out in the yard, feed the birds, keep a pet or tend a small garden has untold health benefits both mentally and physically for a senior citizen. Steps can be taken to provide for the unique needs of a senior citizen if you want to work with them to keep them in their home. The family and friends of the senior citizen can take on the chores of upkeep of the home, yard work and repairs so the home continues to remain safe and viable as a living space. This also reduces the expenses of home ownership. It is very likely that from a financial point of view, you can work with your senior citizen to reduce the costs of staying in their home. If they still have a mortgage, the outstanding balance may be quite low but the payment still high. By working with the mortgage company, you may be able to refinance the loan to drop the payment considerably and make it more affordable even than living in assisted care or a nursing home. You can also work with utilities companies and credit sources who may have programs to assist the elderly in owning their own home. By utilizing the resources already in place, you may be able to get your aging parents costs into a reasonable range and help them establish a budget that allow them to live comfortably on social security and whatever retirement funds they have. You can also find home nursing care and put good technology to use to make it possible for your parent to have quality care in the home and to have the resources to be able to reach out to you in the event of an emergency. Services like these do well at providing for the needs of senior citizens so they can virtually spend the entire remainder of their years living in their home where they are happy. The key to making all of these steps work is to enlist the partnership of your senior citizen parent. By sitting down with him or her, you can review that keeping them at home is a shared project and that they should do all they can to make this work. They will be enthusiastic to make that kind of effort and stay in the home they love so much. Putting Your Affairs in Order Moving into the phase of life of a senior citizen calls for thinking about things that you might have put off before. This includes many of life's philosophical questions and looking back on life and thinking about what you did well and what you regret. But aside from those reflective questions, there are some basic things you should do now to "put your affairs in order" so that in the event you come to that final day of your life, your children and those charged with such affairs know what to do. It seems almost morbid to "put your affairs in order" early in your retirement life when you are healthy and active and there is no obvious threat that the end is near. But these are not decisions that should be put off until your health begins to decline when you are significantly older. These are decisions that call for a mature and thoughtful review by a senior citizen fully in command of his or her faculties. That means that putting your affairs in order is something to do now and not procrastinate about. After all, when you started a family, you didn't wait until the children were grown to buy life insurance or think about their education. You took care of that when they were still crawling around in diapers because that is what mature adults do. So now its time to be a mature adult about end of life paperwork so those affairs are in order and ready for when they are needed. The kinds of end of life issues that should be decided, paid for and settled now and by you include: * The settlement of life insurance and who has the authority to close it out. * Is your will up to date and correct? This should be reviewed from time to time if your assets change or other details need to be altered. * Are your medical directives decided and signed? This includes your decision about whether you wish to have your life prolonged if you are on artificial life support after a catastrophic illness or injury. This is called a DNR or "Do Not Resuscitate" order and what you decide will be the law to medical teams who are caring for you during those final days. Don't leave this decision to loved ones to agonize over when they will already be in emotional distress. Be the adult and make those decisions now and make sure your children and loved ones know what your decisions are. * Are the proper legal documents for the disposition of business assets and how you wish to see other legal affairs handled properly documented and in good legal order? A final review by your lawyers will give you peace of mind that these documents will not be susceptible to legal action after you are gone. * Do you have your funeral arrangements decided? It is you who should decide where you will be buried, whether cremation is preferred and other details of the ceremony. If there are particular hymns you want to have sung at your funeral, a church or minister you want to see handle the ceremony or other details that are important to you, document those so your loved ones can observe your wishes. Many prepay for the burial plot and casket in advance. This is an act of love if you do this and take that burden off of your loved one's minds. Of all of the end of life decisions you will make, the most important one will be making sure all of these documents can be found and that you have carefully trained a trusted friend or relative in finding and executing these documents. The last thing you want to have happen is for your children to have to hunt through boxes of old documents to find life insurance papers, your will or other important end of life documents. Create good legible copies that are legally correct and secure them where they are safe and easy to locate. Go through them with your executor or who will be responsible for them so they know exactly how your will and other affairs should be administered. And make sure everybody has copies including all of your children and everyone who is mentioned in the will. In this way there will be no questions when the time comes and everyone will know what to do. Ethical Wills You probably did not wait until you officially became a "senior citizen" to prepare your will. Most of us put one together early in life and at least when we have children and realize we do have assets and we need to make sure the kids are taken care of in the case of an accident that suddenly takes you out of their lives. So you know well what goes into your will and how to document exactly how you want your estate taken care of in the event of your death. There is a good feeling that goes with knowing that you have made sure your affairs are in order long before you need to them to be. Senior citizens today are in the best health of any other generation. So while you are still healthy, active and vibrant, now is the time to make sure your insurance, funeral directives and wills are all in order so you have that information on file and a designated loved one well trained in the event of your early departure from this life. But there is one will you may have left out of your preparations so far. That is what is called your Ethical Will. An Ethical Will is unlike any other document you will prepare. This document has no legal bearing on your estate. It does not pass along property or instruct your executor on how you want your financial, business or property affairs to be handled. Instead, your Ethical Will passes along to your loved ones something more precious than property. It passes along your values. An Ethical Will is a very personal document or set of documents that is used to resolve issues that may be remaining at end of life, to communicate the ethics and morals behind your legal decisions or to provide sage instructions to your children or friends about how you want them to carry on your legacy of charitable work or value based activities once you are gone. In a way, the Ethical Will requires more thought, prayer and consideration of what you actually want to say to your loved ones than your conventional will. Typically, you prepare an Ethical Will to be given or read to your loved ones after funeral as way of giving them one last touch of who you really are as a person. So you can see that an Ethical Will can be a precious memory that will be treasured long past when your wealth or possessions are no longer around. Your Ethical Will may be passed from generation to generation. Just imagine if you had a document written by your grandparents or great grandparents that spoke with heart and from a personal perspective about what they found wonderful about life, where their values took them and what they would pass to you from their heart to you, their child far off in the future. That document would be of tremendous value to you and would be precious to your children and grandchildren down the line. Ethical Wills can also be used to seek forgiveness for wrongs committed that you just could not resolve in life. Conversely, you can give forgiveness where it may be needed and heal a life long rift between you and a family member and provide peace and closure as you go to your reward. You don't have to prepare just one Ethical Will. You could prepare a separate one for each child, for your spouse and for your business associates and friends. Obviously each will address a different level of intimacy and arena of values and ethics. It's a good thing to think about if you want to leave an Ethical Will for your friends and loved ones. There is able reading on the market about how to get started writing your Ethical Will. And if you take the time to put down on paper your heart and soul in this way, it will be source of comfort for a level of your "affairs" that you put in order well in advance that is even more meaningful than your conventional will or other end of life documents. Finally Dealing with God There is an area of life that for many of us, is a big unanswered question. When we are in the decades of working hard to support a family and raise kids, we don't have as much time to deal with big unanswered questions. Philosophy and things having to do with ideas often take a back seat to the necessities of life. But as you move out of your active working life and into retirement and the life of a senior citizen, you finally have the time to ponder the bigger questions and try to resolve troubling issues of the heart and soul, now that you have the time to grapple with them. The big unanswered question that may have waited all your life to be answered is the question of God. It's strange to think of God as a question. But whether there is a God has implications either way if the answer is yes or no. If we can decide with absolutely certainty that the answer is no, then we have issues of meaning. The issue of meaning comes from the need for us to feel we were put here for a purpose. And if someone put us here, that someone has to be God. So if we conclude in our own logical abilities that there is no God, we also sell away our ability to assign meaning to our own existence in this life and that is a pretty big price to pay. If we decide that there is a God, we are faced with the question of what to do with that. How do we "deal with God" if he is indeed there and what does he want and how can I communicate with him? Now, we cannot answer these big questions in this paper and it would be foolish to try. For one thing, it's a question that has to be answered individually. So if you ask fifteen people about this issue, you might get back that many answers. Senior citizens have some compelling reasons for putting in the extra effort to figure out how to deal with God. For one thing, as seniors, we are statistically closer to the end of our time on earth. And the outcome of our decision about the issue of God will have a lot to do with the afterlife, which is to say, whether there is a heaven or some other form of living past the portal of death. And if we determine that such a thing is a possibility, that introduces all kinds of new possibilities into the equation of approaching that transition in the next few decades. Another compelling reason why are in a good place in our lives as senior citizens to confront the issue of God is that we have a lifetime of experience and time to think about this behind us. Our alleged greater wisdom and knowledge that comes from being the elders of society give us an advantage in tackling this big question. So we should feel confident that we are equipped to take on the question, even though it's a big one. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to try to find an answer to this question. If we provided no guidance to our children as they grew up about this issue, they may be still seeking answers even now. And we want to be able to give wise counsel for those sweet grandkids when they crawl up on your lap and ask, "Grandpa, is there a God?" It is no time to have to say, "I don't know." We have resources. There is the Bible and other religious texts that might provide insight. And there are churches on virtually every corner to help you sort out this problem. We must be courageous and not side step the question as we may have done throughout life. The issue of God is a serious question and its one that deserves our mental time to try to resolve it. By giving the question serious consideration and the benefit of the doubt for both sides of the issue, we as senior citizens and grandparents will be taking a journey into knowledge that will benefit everybody that knows us, once we determine the answer once and for all.
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