By Cass Grange
June 27, 2020

In the first weeks of the shut down, I told my husband and friends that this is a good practice retirement. We are spending more time at home, alone or with our spouses. That is what retirement will be like and we need to think about if we are enjoying much of this.

My neighbor, who heard me say this in a mask, six feet apart said, “This is nothing like retirement! When I retire, I am going to go out to dinner! I am going to travel and see my kids!  I am going to listen to live music!  This is just staying home and going for walks. This is so boring I am crawling out of my skin!”

I thought about what she said, and I readjusted my statement. The pandemic is a good test drive of old age. Mary Pipher, who wrote, Another Country*, about aging in America, says that there is early old age, like what my neighbor described, and there is old, old age. My parents are in old, old age. They don’t go out to eat anymore because they can’t hear anything, and food doesn’t taste that good anyway. They no longer travel. They spend lots of time alone. They aren’t working. I thought I understood the challenges of their lives, until I test drove my own old, old age, with the shutdown. Here are my six takeaways for having a fulfilling life in old, old age.

1. We need to work on our personal relationships.
Tom and I haven’t spent this much time together since we backpacked through New Zealand in 1993. It took some adjusting, but we found we still enjoy each other. Don’t put marriage on hold for twenty years while you raise your kids, because if all goes as planned you will be spending another 40 years with your spouse.

2. We need to expand our networks.
Even though Tom is wonderful and easy to be with, I need more people. I am going to join a few more groups. We are starting a yoga class outside in our neighborhood. As human beings, we need people of different ages. One benefits of this pandemic, is that we have been home on our porch and have met some of the young people in our neighborhood with toddlers and babies. We need to connect to help them with this challenging time in their lives and enrich our own lives with younger people.

3. We need to work on our personal health.
I read that 85% of people over 50 fall into high risk for COVID-19 because of obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure. That is a big wakeup call for all of us. This time has helped us shop for food in a more strategic and planned way. We have planned meals, just like mom taught us to, and have saved money and calories. Millions of Americans have rediscovered their kitchens and the joy and creativity that cooking and baking brings to a family.

4. We need to have hobbies.
Binge watching Netflix works for a few months, but if you are retired for 25 years, you are going to run out of shows. Having a compelling hobby lowers stress and brings purpose to life. For me, painting puts me in a zen-like state. But I had to sign up for classes on-line to keep going. I didn’t enjoy them as much as in person, but I was surprised at how we could all connect on-line and still visit and paint. It is a lesson to me to open to new technology as I age. One 89-year-old woman in the class said that on-line is easier for her because she doesn’t like to drive at night. That is someone who is actively using technology to connect with people and her hobbies.

5. We need to rediscover nature.
Walking outside is now a national pastime and that is good news for all of us. I see more families walking and riding bikes than I ever have. I never understood bird watching, but now I am more interested. People of all ages are now enjoying this pastime. All the research says that walking is so good for the brain and the heart. We can connect with others in our neighborhoods. I have been walking each morning and find it helps me center my day and give me some purpose.

6. We need to have a sense of purpose.
The pandemic put into sharp focus our relationship with work. Millions of us were suddenly sent home. We tend to take for granted our work colleagues and relationships with clients through work. This time help me see clearly that I need and value my clients and the people I work with daily. I am not ready to retire, not that I ever thought I was! I am going to work purposefully on making my life richer and more interesting going forward, so that when that retirement comes many years from now, I am more prepared on multiple levels, including socially.

Several of our clients have used this time to decide they are ready to retire. Others have decided to postpone plans. We are ready and available to talk through any of the scenarios you may be pondering during your time away from work. Obviously, some of your decision-making is based on your financial situation, and we can help with that. We’re also here to talk about other aspects of retirement, including relationships and how you will spend your time. And we can help you plan for early retirement, with all the travel and fun, as well as the old, old age retirement, with its challenges along with its beauty and wisdom.

Finally, our younger team members can help you adapt and change to this new environment by using their unique strengths. They’re helping us! Call us if you would like their help and input about upgrading your technology, setting up virtual meetings, getting help with our secure portal, or developing new skills for navigating this strange new world. As always, we are available for a conversation with you or your friends or family, and we’d like to help. Be well.

*Mary Pipher, Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders
Her latest book is Women Rowing North, Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. Pipher is a clinical psychologist and author who wrote this book at age 70 about women navigating age past 65. I found the stories and interviews to be uplifting and positive, and above all realistic.

Cass Grange
Senior Advisor Associate & Director of Business Development