Taking Away the Keys…

The good news is that we are living longer and enjoying our families and hobbies longer. The bad news is that, well, not entirely… as we age, our bodies start to fail us in ever more serious ways. We’re not able to do all that we once were, and this can be aggravating.

A degradation in eyesight and/or hearing can create a situation where one is unable to safely drive a car. Yet we have been driving safely for decades, and we’re dependent on the car for getting around! We don’t want to give up our independence!

Recently Freddy (a friend whose parents both turned ninety this year) and his siblings had to confront this unpleasant aspect of parental aging. The father (Roland) has observed the deterioration of his eyesight over the past several years and had mentally prepared himself for the day when he could not drive. The mother (Clarice) was not prepared; her own mental faculties had been deteriorating yet she had not been able to acknowledge what others riding with her had noticed- she was becoming dangerous by not being aware of all that was happening on the road.

Clarice was adamant that she was a safe driver while it was evident to family that she was not. They felt that if anything happened to her- or others!- they would be partially culpable for not acting in time.

Freddy’s siblings gathered and discussed the situation several times; they sought advice and researched the situation. It was obvious that they needed to take the keys to the car away, yet to have plans in place so that neither parents’ lifestyle would be impinged. It was important that the parents maintain their outside activities- it kept them vital.

The siblings found that:

  • pre-scheduled point-to-point bus service for the disabled elderly is available for a reasonable cost
  • car services are available where bus services are not available
  • when going to social activities, the parent can ‘carpool’ with another participant with whom s/he has made a friend
  • siblings living close to the parents can pick them up to make combined shopping / market trips

Knowing that there would be heavy resistance on the part of Clarice, Freddy and his siblings brought in two of her best friends who would be sympathetic to the situation and help with communication. Two siblings and the two friends met with Clarice at the same time that two other siblings met with Roland separately. They explained the situation while lovingly highlighting the benefits, especially the parents would not give up their independence.

Freddy’s brother took the keys to the car, drove it away that day and had it sold in a week. The alternate transportation plans were implemented immediately. The siblings and their families were in daily contact to make sure everything was working to the satisfaction of the parents. Drug prescriptions were converted to mail-order fulfillment.

While Clarice was extremely resistant for several weeks, the parents found that:

  • by selling the family car, the savings in car expense can more than pay for the new transportation costs
  • by riding rather than driving, they are more relaxed and enjoy the trip better
  • they did not give up any activities; their independence was maintained

The moral of the story: don’t be afraid to address uncomfortable situations that will arise as a result of aging; always treat people with dignity; always make sure of a win-win outcome.

Job Satisfaction in Retirement?

What did she just say – job satisfaction in retirement? Why would I have a job in retirement – I want to get away from the work grind!

Our parents may have retired somewhere between 55 and 65, but today it can be quite different. There’s a significant trend to semi-retire, to continue to work longer because we simply feel like it. Deb Silverberg, in her AARP blog, “Trading Higher Pay for Higher Job Satisfaction on the Road to Retirement”, gives examples of Americans in their 50s and 60s who are opting to transition from their higher-paying corporate career to a higher-satisfaction career in which they, not a boss, determine their responsibilities and involvement. semi-retirementIt can take the form of entrepreneurship running your own creation, or working in a less demanding but intrinsically more enjoyable situation.

There are two motivators driving this pattern: a need for a continuing income stream, yet not as much as was needed while raising a family and paying a mortgage, and secondly the “I’m not gonna take it!” attitude earned through life experience.

The benefits of a semi-retirement career change are many:

  1. People now still want – and need – to be active into later decades; those who are regularly engaged in pleasant activity with responsibility tend to stay healthier and more vital longer.
  2. You can prolong the age at which you claim Social Security, thereby increasing income when you do start to draw Social Security.
  3. Because the need is not to maximize income, you can engage in activities that may have been a hobby, or interests that you’ve always wanted to pursue yet never had the time, or that simply allow you to dictate your own lifestyle, hours, or level of commitment.
  4. Setting your own rules of engagement gives you the sense of more control over your life, which also leads to greater satisfaction and health.
  5. Semi-retirement can also be good for familial relations. A dramatic shift in the hours that you or your spouse are around each other can create crises of identity or a lack of ‘space’. Easing into it through semi-retirement can help this unpleasant yet too real situation!

In all, semi-retirement may be a good choice. What do you think?