Creative Aging Expert

May 2008

In This Issue


Sorry No March Newsletter

My apologies for skipping my March Newsletter issue; there was just too much going on! I've just returned from riding Bike Florida from Clearwater to Fanning Springs, mostly on lovely rail trails. We rode for seven days, covering 300 miles of gorgeous countryside. I then joined my son Josh to ride Bike Safari out of Live Oak, Florida, with routes taking us into southern Georgia. Safari had great food and snacks and on three of the six nights we camped on a beautiful lake with free canoes and kayaks. On my way down to Florida, I spent two days in the Okefenokee swamp at Steven Foster State Park. I had a lovely campsite at Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina on the journey home.

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Pennsylvania Ombudsmen

I recently keynoted the Pennsylvania Department of Aging Ombudsman Enrichment Conference. Pennsylvania has a very complete and forward looking ombudsman program. Funded with Federal money, and working through local Area Agencies on Aging, ombudsmen work with Long Term Care (LTC) facilities and have legal authority to go into any LTC facility, personal care homes, assisted living facility or nursing home. There they work with resident councils, adjudicate resident complaints, and help in any way they can to make the facilities run smoothly with optimal benefits to the residents and their families.

Both staff and volunteer ombudsmen receive training provided by the Department of Aging. In addition they train residents in five two hour sessions to become PEERs (Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents), residents in these facilities who help to orient new residents, resolve complaints, and make suggestions for improved care and activities. I attended a panel of trained PEERs from several facilities and heard first hand what they were doing to make life easier and more friendly for residents - welcoming baskets for newcomers, meeting with new residents to go over their resident rights, letting everyone know the names and hall numbers of their nearest PEER, and encouraging people to contact them if they had questions.

What especially impressed me was the enthusiasm of the PEERs for their roles; they expressed great satisfaction in helping other residents. Really a wonderful program that I hope will be duplicated in many more facilities across the country. For more information on this program contact Laurie Sisak at lsisak@state.pa.us.

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Seniors Handling Retirement

I am always big on quizzing seniors I meet about how they're handling their free time in retirement. I got some cool answers in Florida from senior cyclists.

Dick: Near the end of his career in electrical engineering, Dick and his wife got into biking and went on several tours. His wife found that her neck and shoulders would ache after a long ride, and she asked Dick for a massage. He discovered he was pretty good at it, and soon his wife's friends were lining up! Two years after retiring, Dick became a certified massage therapist. But the best part is he gives massages only on Tuesdays, allowing for lots of free time for all of his other interests and activities.

Judy: I kept bumping into Judy, a vivacious older woman who had one terrific tan. We biked at about the same speed so were often on the road together. One day I asked her how she was spending her retirement years; and also how she got so brown. "Well," she explained, "I worked as a teacher and then for 20 years in Social Welfare, often having to take children away from abusive homes. I decided that I had earned the right to relax in retirement and just enjoy myself. So I ride my bicycle every morning, and then come home and swim in my backyard pool and sit in the sun and read. I figure I deserve it!"

Carol: One of the most amazing retirees I met was Carol Deland of York, Pennsylvania. A former physical education teacher, she discovered running when first entering a 3-mile husband-and-wife race in her hometown many years ago. It soon became a passion, and over the years she worked her way up to running marathons - about three a year. When her kids were grown, she joined some of her friends and signed up with Marathon Tours to run on different continents and then spend time touring there. Her first foreign marathon was in South Africa where they started out before dawn and ran 26 miles in the countryside. Then she went to New Zealand and participated in the New Millennium Run to celebrate the first day of the 21st century. It was positively exhilarating, and Carol set a goal of completing a marathon on every continent. Yes, even in Antarctica where she ran up a glacier! Now at age 66 she has accomplished that goal. In 2003 a worrisome Achilles heel interfered with her running, and she took up biking, even signing up for an across America bike ride! It doesn't give her the same high as running, but it allows her good physical exercise in the out doors which she loves. Carol is now recovering from a shoulder injury from a serious automobile accident which has put a crimp in her biking, but she's in physical therapy, and riding the shorter rides until she fully recovers. Right on Carol. I admire you for what you've been able to do in retirement.

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Commentary: The Creative Age

This piece is written by Mary and Ken Gergen in their March/April Positive Aging Newsletter www.healthandage.com.

To us, the concept of the "third age" is a chronological term, without specific qualities. We propose to define it as "the creative age." This conclusion was prompted this last month by a provocative critique of "retirement" published in the Baltimore Sun on March 26. As Andrew L. Yarrow, a professor of history at American University, wrote, "Retiring when you're still in good health isn't just wrong, it's profoundly selfish and unpatriotic...Dropping out of the workforce while still in one's prime means ending one's contributions to America's strength, mortgaging our children's and grandchildren's future, and leeching trillions of taxpayer dollars from the economy... If millions of Americans worked until age 67 instead of 62...[they] would increase national output and personal wealth and keep the labor force at a healthy level."

These were strong words, but they were met with some fierce rebuttals from contributors to Encore.com, where they had been highlighted. As one reader wrote, "How times change! It used to be that people were encouraged to retire as soon as they reached the statutory age so as to 'get out of the way' of younger workers... Now we're 'unpatriotic' if, after slogging away in the work force for 40 or 50 years, we want to devote our remaining years of good health to traveling or pursuing our hobbies ... give me a break!!" Another was more indignant," "I had to laugh after reading Andy Yarrow's plea to keep the shoulder to the wheel until age 65 or longer. He's got a cushy University job while the rest of us blue collar types work in physically punishing jobs. He is the classic case of an egghead who doesn't even know where eggs come from...an older person who wants to get the hell out of the rat-race should be able to do so when they want to." However, one further comment seemed most compelling," Seniors can become extremely productive without having to associate with the corporate lifestyle. We need to see a paradigm shift for seniors from basically consumption efforts to more creative and productive projects. This new direction can always be combined with family, leisure or any 'other' pleasurable retirement activities. "

With this comment, the image of the creative age becomes clearer. Provided one has the financial security, the years following a full-blown career offer an unprecedented period in which one can envision, explore, and create a richly fulfilling lifestyle. As survey research indicates, the majority of those working in the private sector would prefer work that more directly benefits society. The creative age offers just such possibilities. As it now stands, those in the creative age already contribute enormously to the well-being of their children, grand-children, and their communities. And, as we see it, exploring the world, developing new skills, meeting new challenges, savoring these joys, and sharing our enthusiasm with those around us, is the ideal scenario for the "creative age".

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Hot Books on Retirement

I am currently reading Changing Course, Navigating Life After 50 by William A. Sadler and James H. Krefft. As the cover states, the book helps readers "learn how to create the life you want." This work puts solid research behind the different lifestyles seniors are developing in retirement. It is a joy to read and very helpful in encouraging people to make a new life for themselves in the extended years of living after work.

Bernice Bratter and Helen Dennis's long awaited book, Project Renewment: the First Retirement model for Career Women, was published in March of this year. Ads for it ask us to "Lose your title and find your life. Exchange business for challenge, growth and joy. Create emotional health and physical well being. Contemplate a sunset or help change the world." More at ProjectRenewment.com

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Interesting Travel Options

When I was looking for a reasonable trip to Costa Rica, a friend who retired from the travel business suggested I look up www.budgettravel.com. The web site features many interesting options, several that include volunteer opportunities. On one tour you volunteer at a sea turtle farm, go horseback riding to LaFortuna, and explore the Monte Verde Cloud Forest. They offer tours to many interesting places.

If you are a nurse and looking for adventure google "Travel Nurses." Lots of neat opportunities to travel and work in places you've always wanted to explore, both in the U.S. and overseas.

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Upcoming Presentations

I will be journeying to the Rolling Hill Retirement Community in Greenville, South Carolina, to keynote a banquet for their Senior Olympics, my topic is "Make Your Life an Adventure Not a Chore." Then to Morgantown, West Virginia, to address the opening session of the Summer Institute on Aging, whose theme is Reflections on Aging: Visions for the Future - my topic for this exciting conference is "Redefining Aging for the 21st Century."

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Emily Kimball
3220A West Grace Street
Richmond, VA 23221-1306
(804) 358-5536
Fax (804) 358-2415

web: TheAgingAdventurer.com
email: etkimball@aol.com