The Best Senior Citizens Ever If you could sit down with a pencil and paper and list what the top five goals most people would put for their senior citizen years, what do you suppose would go on that list? Financial security would probably rank pretty high. And time with family would get good marks. But just based on the thing that seems to be most on the minds of senior citizens, the thing that would probably rank the highest would be good health, avoiding injury and continued long life. Now if you attend a seminar in good health for seniors, usually the things that get covered are diet issues and exercise. But more and more, research into what seniors are most successful and consistently live the longest and have the lowest incidence of health problems are not the ones who statistically work the hardest to observe strict diet and exercise guidelines. In other words, the senior citizens that are the most successful at being the best senior citizens ever are the ones who obsess the least about being successful. Much has been made of "the power of positive thinking" lately and some of it is probably a bunch of hype. But this research on the effect of attitude on how well senior citizens do mentally, emotional and physically does lend some credibility that a senior citizens outlook on life seem to have a great deal to do not only with their quality of life but how frequently you get sick and on longevity. Part of why this is has to do with expectations. If you enter your senior years with the expectation that you will be ill more often, will experience periods of low energy and will decline quickly over your senior years, that is probably what is going to happen to you. This is not just because the thoughts themselves have any power like the positive thinking people would have us believe. But if each day you wake up anticipating poor health and low stamina, you won't be as active during the day. You won't want to socialize with others and you won't have goals and ambitions. And these are the kinds of things that keep people of any age going. By "giving up" to the onset of old age, we send a signal to our minds and to our bodies that there will be no effort to stay fit and healthy. And because there is no effort in those directions, poor health and low energy results. Some call this the "self fulfilling prophecy" syndrome. Senior citizens that think they will do well, have an active lifestyle and continue to enjoy good health are the ones that do just as well as they think they will. But their counterparts seem to be able to "think themselves ill". There is a lot of cause and effect looking at your life with confidence and ambition can have. And it has been frequently shown that senior citizens who are active, who get out and take on projects, spend time with others and refuse to let old age get them down are the ones that stay happy and healthy longer and have better quality of life throughout their retirement years. Another paradox of the importance of attitude on the quality of life of a senior citizen has to do with thinking of others more than yourself. Senior citizens who do volunteer work are active in helping others and who are always finding ways to bless the lives of family and friends also seem to be happier and more successful members of the senior community. To state this simply, those who worry about others the most, benefit the most personally. But those who worry about themselves the most have the most to worry about. The best way to turn around the effects of bad attitude and get a change of outlook is seek better companionship. The old saying "misery loves company" is quite accurate. So to get a better mental attitude, be with people who have good attitudes. A positive and creative outlook on life is contagious. And it's worth the effort to change how you view your retirement life because to think negatively is only going to lead to problems. But if your attitude says you will get the best from life, you will experience that and become the best senior citizen ever. Smart Senior Shoppers Sometimes when you are retired and maybe living alone for the first time in your life, that telephone can be a godsend or the bane of your existence. When it sits there for days on end and never rings, it can have an effect on your mood and state of mind. But we have to beware that we don't let the phone become our salvation when people abuse it for solicitation to sell you things that you just don't need. Phone solicitation is not just a problem for senior citizens. You can find web pages and books dedicated to ways to turn a phone solicitation call into a joke for your own amusement. But people cheating you out of your money is no joke. So we need some guidelines for how to tell a legitimate phone call from a reputable company that you want to buy from or if we are about to be ripped off. If you can get your arms around the process of shopping via the phone or online, then you not only are a smart senior shopper, you are making yourself "not a victim" and that's a good feeling. * If you didn't need it before they called, you don't need it now. Slick salespeople love to "create a need" in you in their opening comments. You know the things you really do need and don't need so if the salesman on the phone creates a need you never knew you had -- you never had it. * Any offer that you have to take right now is a bad offer. This ploy is a one two punch. First it's an offer that sounds too wonderful to be true. The reason it sounds like that is that it's not true. Then they try close the deal with a false sense of urgency by making you feel you have to take their offer. You don't. * Only do business with companies you already know. If you never heard of this company that is calling you, tell them that you have a firm policy of only working with companies you trust. There is no answer for that. * A salesman is not your best friend. A slick salesman will get chummy and try to make friends to hook you. You don't need this kind of friend because his real goal is to get your money. * You be the boss of your charitable giving. Decide who you want to support completely on your own. Then give to those charities and that's the end of it. If someone pushes you for a donation, tell them it's a closed list and they can't get on it. * You probably did not win a special prize. You did not win a prize if you didn't enter the contest in the first place. That's a scam to get their foot in the door then sell you useless or nonexistent products to get your money. * You can have a policy too. A good firm policy is, "I never buy anything from anyone on the phone unless I initiated the call." It's a policy. You can't violate it and by sticking with it, the phone solicitor has no way of getting around that defense. * The do not call list. Your state and federal governments have programs where you can register your name and phone number so solicitors are forbidden by law from calling you. Get on those lists. Then if an unwanted sales call comes in, they can get in a lot of trouble. As a rule, the only way you should use the internet or the phone for shopping is if you initiated the purchase. Whether it's an email or a phone call, if they called you and you didn't ask them to, don't buy from that solicitor. This takes a lot of the decision making out of the process. There are plenty of legitimate business people, charities and retailers who will do business with you honestly. So feel free to have little or not patience for anyone who calls you to sell you something and start now getting taken off their lists. When you do that, before long the solicitors will realize you are not a victim and they will move on and leave you alone. Your phone might ring less often but when it does, it will be someone you really do want to talk to. And that's worth waiting for. Keeping Your Marriage Fresh in Retirement You may be able to remember that year when the last of your kids moved out. That first year that you are "empty nesters" had a lot of adjustments. But one byproduct of suddenly having the house empty for a lot of couples is what has been called the real second honeymoon. Because parents no longer have to care for their children as actively and they have the big empty house all to themselves, the opportunity is there for some real sizzle to return to the marriage. Now fast forward to the current year and month and you are settling into your life as senior citizens and retirement. Now, just as way back then, there are some new adjustments to be gotten used to. But guess what? All of a sudden you too may see a dramatic drop off in responsibilities and worries. Perhaps you finally stepped out of the working world and you can sleep late and take naps and go to bed early if you want to. If you sold your home and moved into a senior apartment or assisted living center, all the worries about home upkeep go away too. So this may also be a time for a real "third honeymoon" to use this new lifestyle to rediscover each other and see your marriage become fresh and new even if you have been married for decades. So how do you go about keeping your marriage fresh in retirement? A first good step is to make it a priority. When you were first dating, being romantic and discovering each other was your reason for living. That dedication to romance often disappears as the cares of career, keeping a home, finances and raising kids push everything else off of the priority list. Now is the time for some real romance. Forgot how to do it? Well Hollywood is more than happy to give you some suggestions. One great pastime to do with your spouse that is low cost and not stressful is to just start renting great Hollywood romantic comedies to watch together. As you watch the stars of Tinsel Town put on a display of how romantic people act and behave, you can get lots of ideas on how to keep your own marriage fresh with romantic outings and adventures. A lot of what makes romance exciting is surprise. You may not think there is anything to surprise your spouse with but that doesn't mean you cannot surprise him or her from time to time with a romantic and fun gift or unexpected romantic "hello". Suppose he comes home from his volunteer work to find you have the entire apartment decked out in candles and bows and you are dressed very pretty and you want to make the evening all about him and all about you as a couple. Unless he is made of stone, he will love that surprise. Or suppose she comes home from her bible study to find the bed covered in rose pedals, a bottle wine in ice on the table and a dozen romantic cards standing open with a sweet message from her guy. Even if it's the middle of the afternoon, that kind of surprise is going to get her motor running. Romance is about fun and laughter and becoming the kids you once were all over again. And in retirement, you have the time to focus on each other and become the top priority for each other. It will be a refreshing change of pace and it will bring out the kid in you to be silly, romantic and maybe even a little sexy with the one you vowed to share your life with. And if you get a little frisky, that's ok too. You are allowed. You're of age. Winning or Whining When you were raising that houseful of kids, it seemed that there was never a moment's peace for you. Of course, as a parent you like being with your children. But when you got home from a long days work, sometimes a little peace and quiet was what you were hoping for rather than a chorus of needs, demands, complaints and requirements for litigation of their petty squabbles. But that's what you got and you were dad so you took care of business for your family. Or if you had the kids around all day as the primary caregiver, as much as you loved them, they did get under your skin sometimes. It's funny now that you are settled into your senior citizen world that when you think back on those hectic days, you almost miss them. In our senior years, we have the opposite problem from getting too much of the kids. The challenge you have which is a universal problem seniors go through, is how to get more of the kids not less. There are plenty of enticements to make you want to see them more. They are grown up now so when you see them, it's like visiting with a friend rather than mentoring a youth. They are the adults now so they might even pick up the tab at the restaurant from time to time. And of course, there is that one magical world that draws to you want to see your children all the time -- grandchildren. So how do you go about enticing those kids to invite you over? You don't want it to be something they do out of guilt. You want winning not whining when it comes to finding ways to make them want to see you as much as you want to see them. Whining is universally ineffective. Nonetheless, if you poll other senior citizens, the guilt and whining and guilt method of trying to get their kids attention seems to be the mode of the day. A better way to create that same desire in your kids to see you is to be to them who they want you to be -- wise old granddad and sweet loving grandma. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, that principle certainly applies when it comes to your children and grandchildren. And your kids, no matter how great their married life is, have warm memories of your apple pie or that special smell of cinnamon roles that only mom can make. So bake for them often and let them know the kitchen is always open at grandma's house and moochers are honored guests here. Sometimes it gets overlooked in the hubbub of raising a family but your children will always need their mommy and daddy. If the door is open for them to call you or drop by for a glass of wine and some sage counsel, they will come through that door. Don't be pushy and don't be whiney about it. But if you gently check in with them and when you hear that special tone in your offspring's voice that is quietly saying, "Daddy I need help", you have a special coded phrase you can use to bring them to you. For me, whenever my kids needed me but were too proud or too much a "teenager" to ask, I just said softly and lovingly, "What's eating you, Sweetpea?" That phrase said it all. It said that the court of wise counsel was open for business and that this was an ear that would listen before it spoke and never judge you no matter what a mess you may have gotten yourself into. Then there is that magic word we spoke of earlier -- grandchildren. Those little bundles of energy love to see grandpa and grandma. So by keeping the door open to them, your kids will find ways to get their little ones over to see you. Whether its for the cookies or the counsel or the chance for the little ones to hear grandpa's jokes or for your daughter in law to learn your secret for growing prize winning tomatoes, you have some bait to lure those kids to come see you. So use that bait to entice them to see you. And the more they find grandmas house is a place of fun and love, the more they will love to come over. The Vacation You Have Been Waiting For One of the things many of us do as we dream of the life of retirement and living in our golden years is to enjoy some adventures and vacations that you may have put off when raising the kids. When you have those little ones in your life, you don't want to miss a single summer when you can take them to Disneyworld or to discover America with them so you can make memories with your family. So if your library of vacation pictures is mostly with Mickey and Goofy or on a huge water slide at Sea World, those are memories worth keeping forever. But now that the kids are off with families of their own and you are in these years that are just for you. So now its time for the vacation you have been waiting for. Its time for a vacation that is an adventure but also one in which you wallow in the lap of luxury. It time for a vacation that you see exotic things but never have a need that some eager servant isn't there to fulfill. And there is no other vacation thrill that meets this dream of the perfect retirement vacation than to take a cruise. A cruise of the Caribbean can give you the chance to see exotic locations and be just as adventurous as you want to be. I know when I first thought of being on a boat for 10 days, it seemed like the most boring prospect possible. But there just isn't any time to be bored on a Caribbean cruise. Even without getting off the ship, your cruise operators will be there to provide you with swimming, shuffleboard, deep sea fishing and just about any kind of amusement you can think of. But since this is your time to kick back and relax now that you are in your retirement years, no worries if you want nothing more than to lay on deck and watch the world go by. Your cruise servants will just make sure your drink is never empty or just leave you to read Moby Dick or just have the best nap you have ever enjoyed. Are there any tips you should be aware of before going on your Caribbean cruise? Well you are going out to sea so if you think sea sickness is likely, see your doctor before leaving and take your meds before getting on board so that kind of discomfort doesn't ruin a single moment of your fun during the trip. If there is any real danger to be aware of it is overindulgence. You will be provided with such a feast of food, drink and party opportunities that if you don't pace yourself, you could wear yourself out in the first few days out to sea. So get your rest and watch your consumption. Be aware that the rich foods that you are enjoying so much might be a bit much for your constitution. You can get your exercise with that morning turn around the deck or in an invigorating swim in the on board pool. To maximize your enjoyment, do some research up front about where you will be stopping so you know what to enjoy and what kind of shopping you want to be sure to do while you are there. Many of the shore leave opportunities on your Caribbean cruise offer fun and exotic things to discover that you can enjoy in advance with a bit of reading and study about the native lands that are your playgrounds for a few days on your cruise. You can easily get "hooked" on the excitement and fun of a Caribbean cruise. You certainly deserve to be pampered and have an adventure now that you have reached that plateau in your life of retirement. So get out there and have a great time. And take lots of pictures. They will give you just as much joy as the ones of you standing there with Mickey and Goofy. The Hardest Words We face a lot of hard moments in life. As you have raised your family, dealt with business issues and tried to be an upstanding citizen in your path from youth to retirement, you have many moments you are proud of. But anyone who has successfully come to their senior years also has a few relationships and moments that they are not proud of as well. One of the hardest to things to admit is that you ever were wrong. But the chances are that by this stage in your life, you can look back and think of times when you did treat people badly, where you were in the wrong and were not honest or ethical or moral in some aspect of life. But in the middle of a struggle, when we do behave in a shameful way, it's easy to just get past it, bury it in your mind and let the passage of time wipe away that memory. But your senior years are about more than just trips to casinos and sleeping until noon. It is also about reviewing the life you lived and cerebrating the joys and successes you have had. But to be honest with yourself, you cannot rejoice in the good without remembering those times when you were the one doing wrong and the people you hurt and the damage that was caused by your mistakes. This is hard to think about but as a mature senior adult, now is the time to decide if you are going to make that situation right or not. Facing your senior years is about putting your affairs in order so you can live out the balance of your days with a peaceful mind and a happy heart. And you are not going to be able to go to your grave knowing you did all you can to be the quality person you set out to be until you do what you can to fix the things you broke as well. In many cases, all that you have to do to resolve a mistake you made or to fix a broken relationship is to be prepared to say the two hardest words there are in the English language. And those words are -- I'm sorry. It would be a shame that would border on a Shakespearian tragedy if you look back at your life and identify those broken relationships that were caused by your pride, your impetuous activity or your greed. Some of those relationships may be very important to you and to leave them broken as you move into your retirement years is more than just a shame, it's unimaginable. So how do you go about saying your sorry and saying "I'm sorry" to someone with whom relationship ended a long time ago? Perhaps the easiest way to accomplish this very hard part of setting your affairs in order is to work through someone who can help make it happen. Suppose that in your young adult years, something happened in the family finances and you said something or did something to hurt your brother which caused that relationship to die. Now, decades from that event, that little financial squabble seems small and far away. But the hurt of that broken relationship is painful to you every time you think of it. It was you that caused that relationship to fail. You know that when you look in the mirror but your pride keeps you from calling your brother and just saying "I'm sorry. Let's be family again." But that's what you want. So perhaps another family member can be of assistance. Another sibling may be able to mend this family rift and be happy to see that relationship restored. If you can call that sister who still loves you and still loves your brother, she may be able to help soften the hurt feelings and be the mediator between two hurt brothers who desperately to be reconciled. You can bet that your sister would be thrilled to be the one to bring you two together. This is just one example of a way to reach out and say the hardest words ever to fix a mistake you made in life. It's a way to reach out to that person you hurt and just say -- I'm sorry. The Craftiness of Crafts Retired life often brings along with it more free time than we are used to. While having time to do things you always dreamed of doing and to just take life slow seemed like a dream when you were working for a living, raising kids and dealing with a mortgage. There never seemed to be enough time to do anything. As is the case with many of our "dreams", the reality of that lifestyle doesn't always live up to our imagination. Now that you are a senior citizen, sometimes you are not able to motivate yourself to get out there and accomplish those things you have been putting off for decades. For one thing, you may not know how to write the great American novel or take on some other big ambition. Big jobs require time to get your stamina and abilities up to the challenge. So what you need are some smaller scale accomplishments to jump start the process. This is where crafts come in. While you may feel like you have sold out to the life of just passing time doing crafts, the truth is if you want to become a great painter, you will have to learn to paint every day. And by doing prepared crafts or learning to make things with your hands, you can include your painting ambition in that plan. When you sell your first great pieces of art to a gallery in New York, you don't have to tell them you got your start doing paint by numbers sets at the senior citizens center. But there is a method to your madness at making crafts a big part of your lifestyle as a senior citizen. You can use crafts as a means to an end to accomplish some other goals in your retirement life. This is part of the craftiness of crafts that by becoming a member of a creative community, you also reap the benefits of "community" which are worthwhile goals whether you make anything worthwhile or not. From a mental health point of view, crafts are a great way to keep your mental atmosphere in good shape. It's undeniable that just the act of creating something does a world of good for your feelings about life in general. And if you love crafts as so many do, you can start a whole new passion late in life which you can finally afford to give in to with abandon because many of the "cares of life" are behind you now. A more crafty byproduct of doing crafts is the good it does for one of the biggest problems of senior citizen life which is loneliness. Your retirement center or local senior citizens center may sponsor craft session routinely. There other creative people in your peer group come out pass happy hours at a crafting table. By becoming a regular at those crafting tables too, you can forge new friendships and maybe meet a new friend of the opposite sex while you're at it. Nothing wrong with that. But probably the most crafty thing about becoming a grandma or granddad who makes crafts is your home will become a creative playground. And who likes playgrounds? Grandkids love playgrounds. You can stock your crafting closet with paints, crafting supplies and all the fun accessories that go with it. Then when your grandkids find out that going to grandma's house means making fun things, they will bug mom and dad to death for more time with you. It's tricky but it works and it's a totally legitimate way to make your home a place where the little ones come to be. You get to see them more, you get more friends at daily craft sessions and your self esteem goes up every day. That is what I call one great hobby. Should you Buy Before you Die? When your senior years are approaching, one natural instinct is to get your affairs in order so if your time to leave this life comes along "before expected", your estate is ready to go. "Getting your affairs in order" means a lot of things. It means making sure your debts are paid off and your investments are where they should be. It means making sure your insurance policies, stock documentation and all other financial information is secure and where your primary caregiver can get to it to resolve your financial affairs if you are gone. And it means making sure you have a will and that it is up to date so there is no question on what should happen in the event of your demise. One part of your final arrangements that also should get some attention from you is your funeral and your burial arrangements. For many, there is an appeal to buy your funeral plot, casket and related services in advance. The appeal of making this kind of arrangement is twofold. First, by buying everything in advance, you are sure your will is carried out exactly as you wanted it to. You can buy the casket you want to be laid in or make arrangements for the cremation if that is your preference. You can lock down the costs for the burial and know exactly where you will be laid to rest. And that can give you a lot of peace of mind. Secondly, it gives you peace of mind that your kids won't have to make all of those decisions when you pass away at a time when they will already be emotionally distraught. Funeral homes provide a valuable service but they are also a business and they know that they can get grieving relatives in just after the passing and sell more expensive funeral arrangements and an elaborate casket because your kids are hurting and want to give you a fit memorial. But there is a downside to making your funeral arrangements in advance. You should only consider it if you are sure you are not going to move again. More than once a retired couple moved to the state where the kids had relocated only to be saddled with a prepaid funeral plot in a town that will not be their final resting place. Moreover, that prepaid funeral agreement is a contract between you and the funeral home. If something happens to that funeral home, it's not certain that contract will be honored by the next owners. Moreover, if the funeral home disputes the contract after you are gone, your kids will have to fight that out with them which is far worse than just buying what they need for you to have a nice funeral at the time. There may be some alternative ways of getting some of the decision making process out of the way without saddling yourself and your kids with an unreasonable contract that may or may not be honored years or decades from now when you are gone. You can go to the funeral home you might consider working with and go through all of the steps of prepaying until they present you with the final contract with all of the costs listed. Then you can take that contract and leave and let them know you will be using that contract as the basis for your will and your heirs will be required to respect your decisions. In this way you have the exact coffin you want and you know the services you will allow. You also have the costs so you can set up a savings account or trust fund that is to be used exclusively for these expenses. In that way, you still keep the worry about the costs of your funeral away from your grieving relatives but you give them the liberty to use those funds wisely in accordance with your instructions. You can then use that information to write a very specific will that has rock solid instructions to your executor and your heirs that these are your wishes and they are not to be violated. Your children can take that document to that funeral home and buy only what you permitted in that will. In that way you have empowered them to be immune from the skilled sales tactics of funeral homes during that week when they are already in grief and vulnerable to suggestion. Sharing the Grief How do you go about comforting a friend who has lost someone close? This is a question that haunts people of any age bracket. But learning to share the grief of a friend is particularly important for you as a senior citizen because it's going to happen more often for you. There is no sense sugar coating it. As a senior citizen, you are going to have a greater incidence of people your age passing away than people of other age brackets experience. Of course, everybody has the experience of losing a loved one or seeing a close friend or a friend of a friend pass on whether they are young adults, middle aged, teenagers or even children. But as a senior citizen, it is gong to be more common simply because the end of your time as a senior citizen is going on to the next life. So when you hear that a dear friend lost someone close to them, you can empathize with their loss. But when it comes to going to your friend and offering comfort, that seems difficult and awkward. So it's good to learn the skills of helping your friend work through this time of loss and to share the grief with them in a way that is helpful to him or her. In the Jewish scriptures of the Old Testament, there is a story called The Book of Job that has a lot to say about grief and loss. In the story, the lead character, Job, sees all of his children killed in a freak accident and he loses his wealth and property as well. Most of the book is about dealing with tragedy. But when Job's friends come to give comfort, it's interesting that the text tells us that they came to him and sat with him for seven days without saying anything. When you are initially going to visit a friend after the loss, the nagging question is, "What can I say?" The truth is, there isn't anything you can say that lessens the loss. What your friend really needs is company. The initial loss he is feeling is the presence of that loved one. So we can take a clue from Job's friends and just be there for your friend or loved one. You don't really have to say anything. Just physical presence says a lot at a time like this. Sometimes it's just the routine things you would do for your friend anyway can do a lot to help them through a time of grief. Take him out to dinner or shopping for shoes for the funeral. Often what many people try to do is to do things for the grieving person as though they are disabled. But a person in grief craves regularity so being with you to do something routine together is a tremendous help. The best approach you can come up with for really being with your friend when he needs you most is to know how the process of handling the passing works. Most people who want to comfort a grieving friend go to see him in the first day or so after the passing. And you should do that for sure. But that first week will not be the time you are needed the most. Your friend will be busy with the funeral and seeing distant family and getting lots of attention. It's strange to see this but often the grieving spouse or friend goes through a time of joy during that week simply because it's a time to see family and friends and to celebrate the life of the dearly departed. The time when the grief becomes heavy and difficult for the one left behind is after the funeral is over and everybody has gone home and its time to face the days and weeks ahead without the one they are missing. This is the time to go to your friend and make yourself available. Be available, be easily accessible and be accepting of what they are going through so you can be a catalyst for getting back to normalcy. That is the most valuable thing you can offer your friend because it is more than just sharing his grief. It is helping him get through it which is the healthy way we all use to process grief and get on to a happy life. Rebuilding Bridges Family is important. Sadly in the busy world of your adult life, it's easy to get completely absorbed with taking care of your immediate family of your spouse and kids and dealing with issues of career, home ownership, finances and all of the other worries of life that so often we lose touch with those we grew up with. The outcome is that a lot of senior citizens reach their retirement years and when they do inventory of their life, they realize that their relationship with their brothers or sisters has gone cold. If the only reason that you have lost touch with your first family before you got married and have kids is busyness and inattention, that isn't so worrisome. But you may have lost touch with family due to resentments or a genuine effort to cut them off in the heat of some slight or insult that may have occurred before you reached your senior years. If that's the case, it's easy to feel remorse and a desire to "bury the hatchet" and rebuild those bridges to your siblings that you have lost touch with. But how to go about making things right with your siblings, particularly if they are far away geographically? If you don't exchange greetings even at the holidays and if you have not seen each other in years, this effort to reconnect with family before it's too late is going to take some courage. But there is something about the golden years that makes you want to put past resentments and broken relationships behind you and make things right again. If you have an address and phone number of your siblings, that is a great start. Perhaps the best way to "ease into" rekindling those relationships is with a greeting card. Just buy a nice card with a pleasant or funny greeting message in it and write one or two lines in there when you send one to the sibling you wish to rebuild bridges with. If you are aware of his or her birthday or important dates in their life, a card to recognize that event will be a good start. That card will come "out of the blue" to your sibling so the next step is to give it some time for that gesture to be absorbed. Make sure the card has your current mailing address, your phone number and email address somewhere on it. Your sibling may not have that information handy and you want to make it easy for them to respond to your gesture of reconciliation. If your sibling writes, emails or calls and it seems your gesture was well received, you are off on the right foot. Now you can kick it up a notch with another card but this time with a personal letter enclosed with more verbiage about life and what is going on with you. This is also a great place to retell some favorite story from childhood such as when the dog pulled over the Christmas tree or when dad did that church skit in drag to get your sibling remembering the good times when you were kids and thinking of anecdotes from your childhood to remind you of. You may wonder when the time will be right for the "big apology" and the emotional release of all those resentments. Well keep building that bridge. You cannot cross a bridge until it is built. Keep that correspondence going and kick it to the next level with a once a month phone call. Again, keep those calls light, social, funny and warm. Catch up with each other and send your love through your sibling to their spouse and children. This extends the act of reconciliation to your sibling's family who can be a powerful force to help the process along. Finally arrange a visit. And it will be during that visit, after some nice times together, some hugs and laughter with his or her spouse and kids and maybe a couple glasses of wine that you and your brother or sister can bring up the hurt feelings and put those resentments to rest once and for all. You will feel 30 pounds lighter when you are no longer carrying those hard feelings. And by going into your retirement years with your relationships restored and bridges rebuilt, you are going a long way toward guaranteeing yourself a happy and peaceful life in your golden years. Opening the Flood Gate of Communications with the Grandkids You may remember what it was like to raise teenagers. They seem to go into a funk at the age of 13 and stay that way until they have kids of their own. So now that you are a grandparent and it's your kids struggling with getting the silent treatment from their kids, do you have to write off those sweet grandkids who used to love to climb on your lap when they came over? Well you may know a deep dark secret that child psychologists know. Teenagers not only are not uncommunicative, they yearn to communicate what is going on in their lives. The teen years are an explosion of change that is unparalleled in life this side of the womb. So if a teenager can find an adult they can talk to, that would help them in getting through these tough teen years. Sometimes Grandma or Grandpa can become that willing ear and someone who a teenager can talk to about whatever is eating them up inside. All you have to do is open the flood gates of communications and the grandkids will pour their hearts out to you. And as a grandparent, there is nothing you would love more. Modern teenagers are not used to conventional letters. To them communications is email, instant messaging or text messaging over the phone. So they don't know the thrill they can get by just seeing a card or letter from someone they love come in the good old fashioned U.S. Mail. So to start priming the pump of communications, start sending your grandkids cards. Now don't make these all nostalgic and sentimental "grandma loves you cards". Be courageous and look at the hip cards and the really funny ones that will make the kids laugh and make them look forward to that next card they get from you. This can become a hobby and a passion. If you have 5 teenage grandkids, every week find 5 really cute and funny cards to send them. Then think of a clever thing to say on each card and just end it, "I love you -- Grandma", that sends a more powerful message that Grandma wants to communicate but that communicating with her will be fun.. Now phase two. Every now and then, write them a letter. Don't make it a long letter and certainly not a preachy letter. But make it light and fun. Find out what TV shows and movies they like and watch them. Get to know who the kids like in popular culture. You have the time so follow the gossip web sites so you can write to your grandkids about things they are talking about. All of a sudden, the light is going to come on and they will realize, "Hey, Grandpas cool". Now phase three. Since kids like to communicate by computer, you communicate by computer. Take some classes and learn how to use email, instant messaging and even text messaging. Then when you are pretty good at it, tease the kids with your IM nickname or your email box. You can find all kinds of silly digital "toys" you can use to lure those kids to talk to you online. The main thing is they will open the doors to their email and to their IM to you. Then, once you have that, you can make contact by computer and become a computer "buddy". The safety of talking on line plus the knowledge that "grandpa is cool" will let the kids know that they can talk to you. Before long the flood gates will open like never before. And when they are pouring their hearts out to you via IM or email, you will have done a wonderful thing for those kids. And that's what being a grandparent is all about. Not a Nursing Home There are a lot of things we look forward to when we prepare for a life of retirement and those "golden years" of being a senior citizen. Of course, it takes a bit of getting used to transition to becoming granddad or grandma and no longer having all those stresses of job and family. This is not to say that we don't have our share of concerns as senior citizens. Along with the transition to a slower life, however, we also get a new set of things to worry about in our senior years. Of course, your physical condition is something on your mind as your body ages. Finances can be a concern and, as always, you worry about your kids and grandkids. But one worry that sits at the back of the minds of many senior citizens that is the worry that some day your kids will put you in a nursing home. The aversion to the very idea of going to a nursing home goes back decades, probably to the days when a nursing home was really the only alternative when a senior needed medical care daily. It wasn't that long that the phrase, "going to a nursing home" was equivalent of being put out to pasture to wait for death. Moreover, the real nightmare has always been that your own dear children would somehow become tired of caring for you and just "stick you in the nursing home" just to get old grandma and grandpa out of the way. So we have the concept of a terrible living condition, loss of freedom, home and friends and rejection of family that builds up into a pretty horrible fear as you move into your golden years. This is not to say that even today there are not some pretty horrible nursing homes out there. And that occasional story about nursing home abuse that seems to get lots of space in the newspaper don't help our worries one little bit. The good news, though, is that today there are a lot more options available to senior citizens for finding a place to live after you leave your home where you can get some care but not have to endure the nightmare scenario of a nursing home. In the last ten to twenty years, the field of elder care has undergone what can only be described as a revolution. Now, instead of nursing homes as your only option, there are assisted care facilities, managed care and senior apartment communities where you can continue to live a life of freedom, creativity and independence but still have as much care as you need and only when you need it. An assisted care facility can work almost exactly like an apartment complex or condominium. Depending on what kind of care you need, the directors of assisted care facilities can custom design how much care you need and nothing more. But they can take a lot of the daily chores off of your mind so you can really enjoy your golden years. Typically an assisted care facility will do your laundry, provide for food and help with special diets if your doctor needs that and provide the security both for your safety and that you have people around to look in on you should a problem come up. This can be a tremendous relief to family and to you that you never have to worry about falling and not having help. The staff at your assisted care home are there to help you and support you as much as you need when you need it but when you don't need them around, they disappear into the woodwork so you can live a happy independent life until you need them again. There are medical people on call should you need them and the great thing about these facilities is that if you need more care over the years, they can gradually add those services on an as needed basis and you never have to move out or change your lifestyle. This truly is the best of both worlds because you can live as independently as you can but have help there on call when you need them to be there. Above all an assisted care is your home. It's a place of friendship and social interaction. But the one thing you can say about it with certainty is that it is NOT a nursing home.
More Funerals than Weddings It's a dark side of being a senior citizen that you are going to face a higher incidence of people dying than you may have seen in other eras of your life. While we all have the experience of someone we know passing away from time to time throughout life, because of the stage of life we are in as senior citizens, it is going to be more common as we move along in years. The first big adjustment is when you start to see friends, relatives or others in your apartment complex or assisted living center pass away with some regularity. When you are going to more funerals than weddings or baby showers, you need some coping skills for dealing it. How often have you heard another senior citizen complain, "My friends keep on passing away"? It's a fair question and one all senior citizens have to deal with at one time or another. The real reason why that question has a sense of alarm is that the passing of a friend reminds us of our mortality and because you are in the age group where this is the only step in life beyond where you are, death seems to be closing in around you all the time. So what coping mechanisms can you use to combat the depression and the sense that the end is near for you? First of all, when a friend or close relative dies, don't let the first thought be about your own grief and other emotional reactions. Think about the widow, and the children of your friend and what they are going through. Ask yourself, "What can I do to be a comfort to the family?" In that way you are focusing outside yourself and on others and that is an excellent therapy for not letting the grim reaper steal vital time away from you through fear. Secondly, don't try to rationalize the passing of someone else. It's really easy to explain it away by saying, "Well he didn't take care of himself like I do so that's why he was taken early." That kind of thinking is paranoid and attempting to assign significance that isn't there. You really have no idea why one person passes on earlier than another one. There aren't any rules for this kind of thing. Death doesn't take one because he isn't as worthy of more life than another. Giving in to speculative explanations for why your friend passed away is what mythology is made of. And it is really a form of selfishness because you are looking to show to yourself that you are not going to be the next one to go because you live right. When it comes right down to it, really only one thing will give you comfort about the passing of a friend and that trend of people your age passing away so often. That is to face your mortality and to come to grips with your eternal outcome. This isn't a sermon but many of us put off trying to understand the role of religion in our lives and whether there is any credibility to the concept of an afterlife. Better men and women than you and I have given these thoughts some serious consideration. The important thing is that you get to a place that you feel confident about your eternal outcome and that you feel you can go to the grave in peace because your spiritual "affairs are in order." And if you can get to that place, you will not be so alarmed at the passing of someone close to you. Letting It Go Resentment and unforgiveness can be destructive things to let stay in your heart. You no doubt taught that to your children and maybe you even give that advice to your grandchildren to help them get passed their childhood arguments and petty squabbles they have with their siblings. The amazing thing is that by the time you have reached the senior citizen stage of life as you have, you probably are carrying your own fair share of resentments and things you cannot forgive that is nothing more than left over baggage from life. And learning to forgive the offenses of the past and "let it go" can mean the difference between living a happy and peaceful retirement life or living in a nonstop treadmill of brooding about things that happened long ago. It is strange that we are able to give advice about forgiving others to our children and grandchildren but so often, it's us who have trouble letting things go. We rationalize holding on to resentment because the offense is much more grievous in adult life than the little things children pout about when they become resentful. But realistically, to the child that offense is just as serious as the one you are holding in your heart. And the skill of learning to forgive that offense and release the resentment from your heart is one that we need to learn as much as the children do. The truth is that resentment and unforgiveness doesn't accomplish anything. Sometimes we think of the moment of offense when a boss, a coworker, a friend or a relative offended us and we vow that we "will never forget what she did." That vow is more a death sentence for you than it is any punishment for the one who offended you. I have heard it said that resentment has a way of "growing legs and following you around". It's an apt image because long after the offense is over, that resentment can live on in your heart taunting you and making you miserable. Meanwhile the one that offended you no doubt has no idea you are angry at all and is going about his or her way happily. Your resentment accomplishes nothing except stealing your peace from you and making you bitter and obsessive which is not an attractive trait in Grandma or Grandpa or anyone for that matter. By isolating that feeling of resentment and simmering anger and seeing that it really has nothing at all to do with the original offense, your rational side takes over and steals the offense from the emotional side that continues to vow never to forgive. Forgiveness is not about saying what happened is ok. Forgiveness is about saying that negative event will no longer have power over you and you choose to say, "It doesn't matter any more." Resentment is a poison that can get inside you and debilitate you for life. In a way, by continuing to hold that resentment, you also continue to give that enemy power to hurt you day after day forever. So in a way, forgiveness is a way of stealing from your enemy or the one that hurt you any further power to hurt you more. So see it as an offensive weapon where you simply deny access to your precious emotional energy to any past offense. By learning to let it go, you are actually doing something good for you. You will be happier, less burdened and it will actually help your health. And you will no longer be a hypocrite when you sit down with your grandchildren and counsel them to "Live and let live and let it go." And when they see you modeling healthy forgiveness, you will empower them as well. And that makes it all worthwhile. Getting Up a Good Head of Steam When you were thinking about the life you would live as a senior citizen, you may have held that old idea of sitting on a rocking chair and watching the world go by. That silly idea for some reason seems like an ideal situation for people in their golden years. But what is ideal for you from a quality of life point of view is to be an active and energetic senior citizen and not to see retirement as your time to stop moving about completely. In fact, there are plenty of good reasons that you should get out and walk every day. If you make it as much a part of your daily routine as your morning coffee, there are tons of great benefits that you will reap. Of course, your kids and your doctor already been on you about the benefits of walking for your health. And those are valid to be sure. Walking will keep your blood flowing, improve your circulation, do your appetite a world of good and keep your joints and muscles limber and exercised. What that means is that the more you walk, the longer you will be able to walk. So if you see older seniors around your neighborhood or in your retirement apartment moving about in wheelchairs or walkers and you don't like that prospect for yourself, then get out of that chair and get out there and walk. But there are many benefits that making walking part of your lifestyle can bring your way that have nothing to do with health. That tired out old phrase of "getting some fresh air" has more wisdom to it than you know. As you continue to process your transition from a busy adult life to retirement life, there is a lot to think bout. For good solid decision making, there is nothing better than a brisk walk with all the oxygen it will give to your brain. You should make it policy never to make a decision late at night, after a few drinks or when you are upset if you have not gotten out of your home for a few days. Hold that major decision for the walking trail. If you have good blood flow and your breathing is up giving you good oxygen to your thinking apparatus, you will be at your mental peak to make good decisions. But let's not overlook the social benefits of walking. If you are a single senior citizen, to put it bluntly, walking is a great place to meet members of the opposite sex. And if you want to meet that senior gal that has the kind of spunk you have or that great guy who wants to live life to its fullest, you are going to meet those people out and about walking and staying active. It sounds strange to say so, but the walking trails where senior citizens go the most are great "pick up" spots simply because it is so easy to join someone interesting on a walk and get to know them in a non-threatening manner. Use some creativity in where you walk and when. You can work a good walk in with an errand or to see a part of the city you always wanted to explore. If you can still drive, get to know the many walking trails in town and become a regular there. The younger people will get around you and they will get a big kick out of seeing you out there as well. But more than that, you will get a big kick out of walking every day. The endorphins from this exercise are a better high than your evening cocktail. And that walk can be great fun and a time to meet new friends and have some interesting adventures as well. Getting Some Help One of the adjustments that is part of life once you end your working years is adjusting to living on a different kind of income. We get used t that regular paycheck over the life of our careers in the working world. And while we may be very happy to leave the stresses of the workaday life, that paycheck is one part of that world that we may miss when they finally stop. Of course, many senior citizens have some resources going into their senior years such as savings, investments, a retirement program and, of course, Social Security. But the thing that's hard to get used is that you are now drawing funds from a limited pool. Whether the amount of your retirement resources is big or small, outside of the income from interest and dividends, you are no longer replenishing those funds. It seems strange to say it but we have to think about how long we can live on those funds. While we would all like to live to 90 or older, from a practical point of view, we don't want to "outlive our savings" and then become a burden to our children to support as they are working hard to raise and support their young families. So the life of senior citizen means going on some form of budget. And anything we can do to stretch the use of those retirement funds means that they will last longer as we continue to do the right thing for our health with diet and exercise so we can live a long life of a senior citizen. One resource that is worth taking a look at are programs that are geared to helping senior citizens conserve on their limited funds. One such resource is the phenomenon of the "senior discount" which is often offered at restaurants and other retail institutions to help us out. While you may be working to look young and defeat the influence of age on your health and looks, when it comes to senior citizen discounts, its time to be honest about your age and take advantage of any help that is being offered to stretch your fixed income as much as you can. Public service companies such as your electric, gas or water companies also have programs that you can take advantage of to keep those bills under control. The one thing you want for the sake of the budget is that your bills will stay the same from month to month. But when your gas or electric bill changes a lot because of the influence of the hot summer temperatures or the cold winter months which use a lot of home heating fuel, those bills can get pretty erratic. So contact your utility companies and see what they can do for you. One program that is available to everyone is averaging your monthly utility bill. The gas or electric bill can do a quick calculation of your last year's usage and average that and then bill you that fixed amount each month. In this way, you will know each month exactly what to expect so you don't have any "surprises" in the mail when the bills come due. Keep your eyes open for ways that the public institutions you use the most work to help out senior citizens. They know that you are on a fixed income and nobody wants to see seniors struggle to make ends meet. Sometimes your local or state government may even have programs to reduce your sales taxes at the grocery store. Take advantage of these plans and don't let yourself feel bad about it at all. You have worked hard all your life to support others and to be a good citizen. So let society pay you back with whatever help can be offered. You certainly deserve it. Gardening in a New Way Gardening is a terrific hobby. If you have enjoyed gardening for most of your life, you know the joys it can bring to your life. It gives you the chance to work outside and to feel closer to nature by helping her make food, herbs or beautiful flowers where there was nothing but weeds before. For many people the joy of gardening is far more important than any cost savings they might get from growing their own food. In many cases, if you did the numbers on it, the food you grow at home is not that much less expensive than buying it at the local grocery supermarket. But to have a garden full of producing plants gave you fresh food. And there was something so gratifying about both growing your own food and in harvesting it as well. This may have made you nostalgic for gardening if you, like many senior citizens, can no longer garden the way you used to. Even if you are still living in your own home, the physical labor of tilling the soil for planting and then tending the garden may be more than you can do at this stage of life. While you dearly yearn to get out there and get your hands dirty in the good earth while planting your favorite flowers or crop producing plants, you must be mindful of your doctor's instructions and take it easy at this stage of life. For others in the later years, the time may have come for you to move out of that house you owned that had a yard where you could carve out a bit of land for a garden. Perhaps you needed to cut back on the amount of maintenance you were able to keep up with. So you let your kids work with you to sell the old place and get a condo or apartment that is much more manageable. Sometimes economy or health concerns play a factor in where you are living and the best place for you right now is an assisted care facility where you can have quality medical care available should you need it. You know this is a good idea and that your children love you and that is why you worked with them, or at least you tried to when they helped you make the transition. But giving up gardening may be one of the many transitions to a smaller living space that you grieved about losing and miss easy spring and summer when you want to be out there in nature enjoying the experience of growing things. If only there was a way that you could continue this delightful hobby and still be careful with the issues that made gardening at a large scale out of the question. As they say, where there's a will there's away. And there may be new ways you can continue to enjoy the fun of gardening within the constraints of your senior lifestyle. One way might be to look into getting some window boxes for your apartment. These long planting boxes are often used by people who want a small indoor flower garden or to nurture house planets. But you could get a few of these kind of growing spaces, solicit some help from the facility maintenance people or your kids to get them installed and filled with good earth and enjoy puttering in those small gardening space and see the little plants you picked sprout and grow. With the extra time you have due to retirement, you are sure to do an outstanding job of caring for that little garden. You can also help your kids learn to garden. By adopting the "sweet but helpful Grandma" attitude, you may find that your children and their spouses wish they knew your gardening secrets and with a bit of partnering, you could use their muscle and flexibility to set up a nice big garden at their house. Then you can just come over from time to time to tend it as much as you can and "supervise." Be sure you are there ready to go when its harvest day and everyone in the family can enjoy the fresh produce and herbs you grew in that garden. And you will get a sense of renewal that you found a new way to garden that lets you keep a treasured pastime and do so within the constraints that retired life brings. From Grief to Joy For some reason grief always sneaks up on us. But as senior citizens, we have more opportunities to deal with grief simply because the phenomenon of someone passing away is not that uncommon at your age. Nonetheless, when the passing of a loved one strikes close to home and particularly if it is your spouse or someone you were with every day, it still hits "like a ton of bricks" and we find ourselves at a loss for how to correctly grieve about the loss. It might seem odd that I used the phrase "correctly grieve". But that phrase points out that not only is grief a normal part of life, it's a healthy mechanism our minds and emotional systems have for processing loss. But there is a correct way to grieve and an incorrect way. When you first experience the loss, it hits hard. It's natural to feel a sense of disorientation and an inability to feel or think at all for a while. That is because you have to go from a condition of having that loved one to not having them in a matter of moments. Even if the loved one was ill and near passing, the final news that he or she did pass away still has that shock to it. There are a variety of reactions to grief that some have called the "stages of grief". But they really are not stages because everybody doesn't go through all of them every time they grieve. But the common reactions to grief are sadness, anger, denial, depression and acceptance. An incorrect way to process grief is to get stuck in any one condition. When you meet someone who has lost a loved one and you can tell there have been no tears and they seem unusually upbeat, that may be the denial phase in action. That person may be able to accept the facts of the loss but at an emotional level, they are treating it like it did not happen. But it is just as unhealthy to stall out in anger, sadness or depression as well and if that is where you find yourself because of the loss of a loved one, then its time to get some help. The only healthy phase of grief to stall out in is acceptance. Preparation for grief is a good way to give yourself a roadmap to recovery. If you are reading this article with the purpose of preparing yourself for the time when it will come, that's a good step because you are arming yourself with information which can be a life saver when it feels like grief is going to overwhelm you. But some other very healthy ways of giving yourself tools to get through this tough time are: * Pre-grieve. Talk to your loved one about the time when one of you will pass away. If your loved one is ill and will face that moment of passing soon, you can get some of the emotional processing out of the way early. * Give yourself permission to grieve. It's not unmanly to cry or immature to feel sad or lonely without the one that passed. You are allowed to be in a grieving period for some weeks and months to give yourself permission to come out of that state slowly and naturally. * Know the stages and reactions and when you feel sadness, depression, anger or denial, recognize what they are. That will help you not stall out. Grieving is important and you need to process it thoroughly so you can "get closure" about the loss. And once you can accept the loss and be at peace about it, you will move on to peace and acceptance. And when you are there, your grieving process has been a success. Cut Your Caregiver Some Slack Part of the organization system that is recommended for most senior citizens is the active presence of a close family member or friend who takes the role of "caregiver". The job description of a caregiver is pretty wide and can include anything from buying your groceries, to making sure your Medicare paperwork is all correct, to doing your taxes to cleaning your apartment. In fact, there really is no list of jobs that makes a resume of a good caregiver except for the one job of doing "anything you need her to do." But another quirk of the job of care giving is that it is an unpaid position. Your caregiver does what she does for one reason -- to take care of you. If you can step back and look at it objectively, that's a pretty amazing job especially because as old age advances, the demands on the caregiver can get more and more stressful. While it's not something we talk about openly, senior citizens have a bit of reputation of being demanding. Part of it are the many challenges we face just at a time when we are least able to handle them. Medical problems, fatigue and depression can be so debilitating that we are less able to tackle the issues of senior life just when they really need to be tackled. The most common caregiver is probably the one of your children who happens to live closest to you. And since this important person is also a family member, its easy to "unload" on them when you don't feel good, when you are confused, when you feel angry (which is a lot) or when you need something done. It's easy to get impatient with them when something needs attention and they are not there to attend to it. And it's easy to want that child to stay with you and never go home because you get lonely and if they were there all the time, then you wouldn't have to worry about something coming up that needs attention because your caregiver can be there all the time. We need to have a reality check with each other about who your caregiver can be to you and what they cannot be. Your caregiver is not (a) a live in maid, (b) your personal slave, (c) responsible for everything wrong in your life or (d) a person who lives only for your needs. If this wonderful person is one of your children, he or she may have a family and a job. You cannot expect them to drop those things to attend to you exclusively. By being a little realistic, you are on the right track to having the right relationship with your caregiver. If you looked at the role of caregiver through the eyes of that person who cares for you, they have a lot of stress in their lives. Your caregiver knows you want her to stay with you all the time. She knows you are angry about growing older and about your limited resources and about things that don't work the way they should. The weight of your impatience and anger weighs heavily on her. There is a genuine problem known as caregiver burn out. People who follow such things have documented many cases where a caregiver has a nervous breakdown trying to keep up with the demands of an aging parent and their own families and jobs. You don't want that to happen to your caregiver. So let this discussion be a word of good counsel that its time for you to cut your caregiver some slack. Jumping Jack Flash Back in the nineteen sixties when the rock and roll was just getting started, there was this little old rock and roll band out of England that got some attention. You may have heard of them. They were called the Rolling Stones. And this little old band had a pretty good hit with the kids called Jumping Jack Flash. It was a jumping little tune that was probably more popular because it was such good rock and roll than for its message. But if you listen to the words, the singer sings about bad things that happened to him as a child and a youth. The description of the difficulties this youngster went through are pretty graphic. But at the end of each lyric he declares that it's all right and that its fine and using the hipster language of the day, it's a gas. In a way, that song title became a call to arms to the youth that are now moving into their senior citizen years to embrace life, see difficulty as opportunity and not let hard times get you down. This mantra can be a wonderful outlook on life for us as we sort out what it means to be a senior citizen. To be sure, looking ahead to your senior years has some real issues that you will have to face. For many it will be the loss of a spouse. There is retirement which is hard if you love to work. There may come a time when you have to move from the home you raised your kids in and there almost certainly be physical decline and eventually the outcome of this part of our lives is our eternal reward. Many senior citizens face these daunting challenges and despair. They see that the resources to overcome some of these problems are simply not there. There are dire diseases that can put real dread into your heart. If you give into that despair, your senior years will be bleak to say the least. It's a strange formula but despite the situation ahead, if we can learn to not be intimidated by old age, the chances we will cope with it and live a happier senior life are much better than if we let depression and despair begin to take over. But we don't want to just cope with life do we? This generation that is taking up residence in the senior citizen ranks have never been ones to just cope. We are a generation of winners. We refuse to just cope! We insist that we can WIN. But how do you win against the onset of old age that is unforgiving and unrelenting as well? You win by not letting it steal your spirit. There is another option besides giving in to desire, losing hope and eventually letting that dark angel come along too soon. Instead, you can tell that dark angel to kiss your big toe (or something else). You are not going to go out gracefully, and you are going to live life to hilt to the very end! There is another option than denying that you are a senior citizen and trying to live like a man or woman 30 years your senior. That is nothing more than a midlife crisis except it is happening in old age. Its self-denial and, as your grandkids might say, "It's just creepy." The alternative is you are going to embrace life and embrace the stage of life you are in. Yes, you are going to celebrate old age, look it in the eye with an impish grin and not let it take away a bit of the spirit and the gusto that you have lived your life from childhood until now. That is the spirit of Jumping Jack Flash and that isn't just a song, it's a description of this generation of senior citizens. You will be the ones who jump all over old age and make it a party. And despite the other problems, it's not going to be "just ok" to grow old. It's all right. You might even say its fine. And we don't mind borrowing a phrase from ourselves 40 years ago to say -- It's a gas. How to Walk Away Life is full of transitions. And your transition from a busy adult life to the more relaxed lifestyle of retirement and senior citizen status has its fair share of adjustments too. From retirement from a full time job to learning how Medicare works to becoming a full-fledged member of AARP, your move to senior citizen status is another of life's big transitions. But probably one of the most difficult transitions you will face will be the decision to move out of your house to an apartment, a condo or an assisted living facility. Many times the initial idea of you moving out of your house comes from your caregiver or your children. The idea almost always is hard to hear because, even if you knew this day would one day come, you may have bonded with that home in a very deep way. If this is the house you have been in for a long time, perhaps even raised your children there, every room is filled with memories. If your spouse has passed on, the house is a shrine to his or her memory as well. So if it your own children that suggest that its finally time for you give the old place up, that can strike deep and hard and cause you to put up a lot of resistance to the idea. So we need some guidelines on how you can accept this transition and how to walk away from a place that you have loved so much. Perhaps the first step of dealing with the explosion of emotions you feel when the idea of moving out of your house is brought up is to recognize that what you are going through is genuine grief. To a large extent, that house is more than just a building you live in. Because it has been the stage that the drama of your life has played out on, it is more than a place. It may have become a member of the family by now. So in a way, letting the house go is like seeing a close member of the family pass away. So before you even try to "talk yourself into it", just recognize that you are going through grief just as you have when you experienced the passing of a dear friend, your spouse of a member of the family. And like those other times, grief will pass and when it does, the final stage of grief is acceptance of the new world you live in and peace. Next, sit down with a cup of coffee and talk some sense into yourself. The resistance you are feeling is almost entirely emotional. But its time to "debunk" some of the myths that your sentimental side has allowed to grow up around that house. The truth is, none of your memories are going to die out just because you move into a new building. Your memories will stay with you and be just as precious in a new home as they are now. Your kids will love you just as much. You will continue to go to the same church and keep the same friends. Start to see that home as what it really is, a building and one that has been good to you but its time to move on. Finally, begin to more time thinking about why this move is a good idea than looking at the negatives. Maybe the money that will come from the sale of the home will enable you to buy that cozy little retirement condo you have always wanted. Maybe that money will help with your medical expenses so you can stop worrying about the future. Furthermore, when you are living in an apartment or assisted living center, you don't have to fuss with mowing the lawn, keeping the place painted and maintained and all of the other stuff that goes with owning a home. Your life will be come simpler and more relaxed because you took the time to learn to walk away. You will be glad you found a way to learn to walk away from the old and embrace the new. Now get with the program and make this move yours so you can enjoy the adventure of a new stage of life. You will be glad you did. Growing into Your Rocking Chair When you want a child to be more mature, you commonly say, "Act your age." This phrase gets a lot of use even for adults, probably mostly for middle aged men who lapse into immature behavior from time to time. But there is a truth behind that little phrase. For each phase of our lives, there is an expectation of how we will behave. We can refuse to accept those expectations of adult behavior and insist that, "I refuse to grow up." This is called the Peter Pan syndrome and most people consider it more a sign of desperate clinging to youth than anything noble. So as you move into the era of your life that is called your golden years, you may realize at some point that you have to "act your age" and start to act like Grandma even if you don't want to. When that time comes that a senior citizen realizes that they have inherited the role of Grandma but so maybe its time to act like one comes at different times for everyone. But there comes that time to begin to become Grandma for the people who need this of you the most -- those sweet grandbabies who need a Grandma just you needed one when you were a little girl. Just because you are "growing into your rocking chair" doesn't mean you have taken on the affectations of feeble old woman. The key thing to ask yourself is, "what does it mean to be Grandma and how can I grow into that role for my children and grandkids?" You didn't do anything to become a Grandma. You just raised your son or daughter to be a responsible young adult and nature took its course. Before long you got the call that they had a baby. And sometime after that you realized that meant you were a Grandma. So to understand how you can best live up to that high calling, probably the best role model is your own Grandmother and what you needed from her when you were small. Taken in that light, the things those little ones need Grandma for are: * To spoil them. This is the fun part of being Grandma. You don't have to spoil them seriously but what's the fun of going to Grandma's house if there isn't always something fun to do and maybe candy and gum if you're good? * A place to go. "Going to Grandma's house" should mean something just this side of going to heaven to your grandkids. And as long as it stays that way, your grandchildren will be able to always come to you even in times of trouble. * Unconditional love. It's the parent's job to provide the discipline and rules. Grandma is the one with a ready hug, a loving smile and who always has time to give to her Grandkids * A ready ear. A Grandma is the one that your granddaughter can always pour her heart out to. The sweet face of Grandma and that patience that means you will wait for your grandchild to get out what is on her mind is what makes time with Grandma so precious. But this is only a starter list of the traits you can nurture in yourself to "become Grandma" to those adorable little ones who are, after all, your grandchildren. You want those little ones to love to come see you. You want them to look forward to playing with the toys you keep around at your house just for them. All this is what it means to become Grandma for them. Oh and just one more thing. Grandma always makes the best cookies. So warm up that oven and get some good recipes because you are that Grandma to them and you always will be. Conquering the Food Budget One of the things that takes some getting used to as a senior citizen is living on a fixed income. And even if you have a healthy retirement, investments, a 401K plan and Social Security benefits, when you stop working, your income comes out of that nest egg which is a diminishing bucket of funds. So anything you can do to protect your money and economize means your money will last longer, be there for you when you have an emergency or be available for fun things which is what retirement is all about. If you are able to continue to prepare your own food, you are already well ahead of the game because one big expense for any budget is the food budget. And if you are buying food for a spouse, older children still at home or you are helping to raise the grandkids, you can see a food budget that can get out of control. So it pays to come up with some tips for how to slash that food budget but do so in away that does not hurt the quality of food you eat or feed your family. Economy begins at home so you can do a lot before you even go to the grocery store by learning to use everything you buy. An investment in some quality storage units so you can keep leftovers fresh or keep fresh vegetables or fruits on hand will help you eat everything you buy and cut down on waste. In fact, if you like to garden, you can even take the organic waste such as coffee grounds and apple cores and make your own compost which can go into your garden to grow your own food next spring. But the key to saving money at the grocery store is to be a smart shopper. Remember that grocery stores stock lots of items that are made to appeal to people who want convenience over low prices. So you can save a lot of money by avoiding fast foods, frozen foods or "TV dinners" and buying the ingredients to make your own meals every day. Being a smart shopper also means knowing when and where to shop and how to find the good values in food and grocery supplies at the store. Some core principles of smart shopping are: * If you can buy in bulk -- do it. Most items are cheaper at the unit cost level if you buy larger quantities. So if you can buy and store more food at once, you can take advantage of those savings. * Avoid impulse purchases. Stores carefully place items that are appealing so you will buy higher priced items. Work from a list and stick to your list. * Slice your own cheese. Pre-sliced cheese comes at a higher price. Buy a good cheese knife and buy cheese in blocks and slice it yourself. * Buy fresh produce. Fresh foods are not only better for you, they are cheaper. * Know your town. Each grocery store has certain categories they do best at outselling the others. Know what stores are good with produce, with meat and with everyday savings and create your shopping lists accordingly. * Know your store. Each week, your store marks down certain items in preparation for the weekend. Routinely they will slash the prices of fresh meat to get rid of last week's supply in preparation for the higher priced specials for this week. If you know when that stuff hits the shelves, you can score big savings and freeze what you buy to use over the next few weeks. * Know your items. Learn your price points of what is a good price for each item on your list. Try to buy under those price points so your budget is controlled. * Buy store brands. * Use coupons. * Leave the grandkids home. Children will add dozens of items to your shopping cart and slow you down. Leave them out of the picture and you won't have to buy their impulse items and the trip will go faster too. By being a smart shopper, you can stretch your food budget and see an impressive savings on what you spend on groceries. And that helps you stretch your retirement savings which means a longer more prosperous retirement and one that is more worry free as well. And that is worth the extra effort.
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