Retirement Lifestyle

Mean Girls in the Retirement Home

Here’s a sad story indeed. Jennifer Weiner writes about her 97-year-old grandmother’s entry into an independent living facility. The mean girls at the facility wouldn’t let Weiner’s grandmother sit at their table in the dining room. They talked about playing bridge but told Weiner’s grandmother that they didn’t need any new players.

Weiner uses her grandmother’s experience to ponder the question of how typical or atypical this treatment is among residents of independent living centers. She cites a recent study by Karl Pillemer of Cornell University that found aggression among residents in nursing homes to be widespread:

According to the study’s news release, one in five residents was involved in at least one “negative and aggressive encounter” with another resident during a four-week period. Sixteen percent were cursed or yelled at; 6 percent were hit, kicked or bitten; 1 percent were victims of “sexual incidents, such as exposing one’s genitals, touching other residents, or attempting to gain sexual favors;” and 10.5 percent dealt with other residents’ entering their rooms uninvited, or rummaging through their belongings.

Weiner also points out that age discrimination is rampant: “Even in a residence for the elderly, the 80-somethings will still be cold to the 95-year-olds.” This discrimination leaves people like her grandmother, now 99 and without cognitive impairment, with no one to talk to. Such is the pain of having outlived almost all of one’s contemporaries.

An Unexpected Bingo Call: You Can’t Play

Here’s another story that even goes beyond the experiences of Jennifer Weiner’s grandmother. Paula Span describes what happened to Ann Clinton, who is 80 and has Parkinson’s disease, at Redstone Village in Huntsville, AL. Redstone is a type of facility known as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). Such communities offer a full range of care, from independent living through assisted living and then skilled nursing care. Many CCRCs promote their range of care as a benefit for potential residents.

Ann Clinton and her husband began their retirement life in an independent living apartment at Redstone. Her husband moved through the assisted living and skilled nursing continuum and died last fall. Throughout her husband’s decline Ann Clinton found companionship and support at the weekly bingo game held in the independent living area of the building. But when she entered the Redstone nursing wing after back surgery, she was told she could no longer participate in the Monday night bingo game, even though she could easily ride her motorized scooter to the game.

And thus began the bingo wars at Redstone. My heart sank as I read how the conflict has escalated. Both Redstone administration and some independent-living residents want to keep Mrs. Clinton out.

Read how lawyers from AARP and the National Senior Citizens Law Center are attempting to fight such discrimination as a violation of both the federal Fair Housing Act and and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Retirees Find Meaning Serving the Needs of Their Communities

Not all the news about retirement life is bad, though. This New York Times article describes how retired folks are volunteering to do “difficult and meaningful work” to give back to their communities:

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a government agency that runs the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs, some 24 percent of older adults volunteered in 2013, providing nearly 190 million hours of service. Despite the disruption of a recession six years ago, that rate has held fairly steady over the past decade.

Read here about three people who

personify what Mitch Anthony, a consultant, speaker and author of “The New Retirementality,” calls the “legacy or mission phase” of life. At this point, people may be less concerned with paying bills and more interested in paying back.

Over 50 and Back in College, Preparing for a New Career

And there’s more good news in another New York Times article:

For many, a retirement of babysitting grandchildren, golfing and relaxing on the beach is passé. Older people today approach work as a pillar of a retirement lifestyle, planning ahead and adding skills even before leaving their current jobs.

Colleges and universities are trying to figure out how to tap into this growing population of potential students. According to the United States Census Bureau, by 2030 the number of Americans age 65 and older will reach 72 million, up from 40.2 million in 2010.

A Merrill Lynch study conducted in partnership with Age Wave, a research firm that focuses on aging, found that nearly three of every five working retirees said retirement was an opportunity to shift to a different line of work.

For some of those seeking to change careers, retirement offers an opportunity to pursue a calling that wasn’t economically feasible earlier. Still others, forced into earlier-than-expected retirement by health concerns or layoffs, need to keep working for financial reasons.

Read here how many colleges and universities, including community colleges, are working to develop both degree and non-degree programs for older adult students. Especially encouraging is the news that state universities in California, Texas, and Pennsylvania offer tuition-free enrollment for older adultls.

Retirement Lifestyle

It’s not necessarily your parents’ retirement anymore.

On the Road with the ‘Workampers,’ Amazon’s Retirement-Age Mobile Workforce

Last fall writer Spencer Woodman visited a campground called Buckeye Mobile/RV Estates outside of Coffeyville, Kansas, where a number of migratory workers were waiting to start temporary work at Amazon’s nearby warehouse. Called workampers, they are “mostly retirement-age migrant workers who have taken to the road in RVs and camper vans in pursuit of temporary jobs to make ends meet.”

But the workamper lifestyle isn’t just about finding temporary work:

Although workampers’ schedules can be grueling, they are quick to express appreciation for the community and sense of belonging that their migratory life offers them. The workers at Buckeye not only lived and worked together but formed close bonds and shared a fierce camaraderie.

One workamper told Woodman, “You need to just get in the RV and explore. You won’t get rich doing it, but you get a lot of experiences and you meet the greatest people.”

Woodman wondered if such enthusiasm for the migratory lifestyle might be rationalization, a means of glossing over the harsh economic realities that force people to keep moving in a search for one temporary job after another. But, he writes, many workampers talk about the lifestyle with a zeal that “can become almost evangelical.” Most of them see this life as a way to throw off the shackles of a stationary, materialistic view of life, to abandon “the entire orders of value that workampers have left behind.”

Several comments posted under the article reinforce this view. Len Randol wrote:

At the age of 36 I went fulltime and left our sticks and bricks life behind. I had a job in corporate management and took my family to live a life full of adventure, a life building memories. Connecting with nature and community in a way that didn’t seem possible in in our wash/rinse/repeat lifestyle of before.

Cheryl Henry posted:

Thousands of us WILLINGLY gave up our sticks and bricks home and a life style that is stressful and/or boring! Sure there are those who struggle, but they probably did when they were anchored to one place… . Most of are NOT running around saying “oh poor me”! We are happy traveling to places of our choice, seeing places in this country we could not have afforded to go visit even for a few days. Now we not only get to go, but get to stay for months at a time if we so choose. If we don’t like the place or the neighbors, we move! We have been across the country east to west, north to south and met some wonderful people and made great friends.

Georgia Bissonette said that after the loss of her son:

I wanted to live again, I wanted to get out of bed and my overwhelming grief and fall in love with this world again! I live and love in a 28ft space with my husband,2 cats and our old dog! And I couldn’t be happier! We are leaving Tennessee this weekend, where are we heading? Where the wind blows us!

This lifestyle is obviously not for everyone, but both the article and the comments suggest that, for some, it is an appealing choice.

Retirees Turn to Virtual Villages for Mutual Support

I had not heard of “virtual retirement villages, whose members pay a yearly fee to gain access to resources and social connections that help them age in place”:

At the core of these villages is conciergelike service referrals for members, said Judy Willett, national director of the Village to Village Network. Members can find household repair services, and sometimes even personal trainers, chefs or practitioners of Reiki, the Japanese healing technique. Most important, the villages foster social connections through activities like potlucks, happy hours and group trips.

One major benefit of virtual retirement villages is that it counters the social isolation that aging adults often experience. Members keep in touch by telephone as well as on websites and by email and social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

virtual villages are popping up all over the country. Currently, there are 140 villages in 40 states, according to Village to Village Network, which helps establish and manage the villages. Another 120 virtual villages are on the drawing boards.

For more information, see Village to Village Network.