Tag Archives: Retirement

A Retiring Mind

Amoke Kubat

I first met Amoke Awele Kubat at the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference in Asheville several years ago where she lead a heartfelt and authentic storytelling workshop for women.  I’ve been asking her for years to write something for Oops50.com, and now that she has retired, we are happy to have her blog with us.

Amoke is also a published author of Missing Mama: My Story of Loss, Sorrow and Healing , a deeply personal and universal story of mother loss.  She feels that internalized grief, due to loss and trauma, has become as intrinsic as any other internalized oppression.  

Annice

Missing Mamma

 

When I turned 60, I told my daughter that I was having a mid-life crisis.  She said that was good.  I was going to live to be 120.  I replied that I was done.  I was done being a teacher, a parent, friend, and associate to a whole lot of emotional entanglements.  I no longer wanted to wake up exhausted, give up 15 hours of my day, then come home foraging for energy by over-eating.  I started to ponder the possibility of retiring – early.

I started asking women who were retired what life was like after working? Their responses differed. One told me she didn’t like it.  Her husband was dead and she was estranged from her adult children.  She didn’t have access to her grandchildren.  The people at Bingo were her family.  Another woman told me that she had “deep cleaned” her house, read one book a week and now was enjoying her first grandchild.

Then I was alarmed by my best friend’s response.  She felt guilty.  We met when I was 14, almost 50 years ago.  She was struggling with being retired.  She felt like she was mooching off the government.  I hardly contained my tongue. “You are not a slave!”  I yelled. “Why do you feel this way?” I asked.

She felt this way because she had not waited until she was 70 to quit working!  We both had started working in our early teens.

I asked Spirit to send me a sign.  If statistics were true, I had 12.2 more good years.  If I was on my dirty dozen years left journey, I needed to get busy.  I began to write my “Bucket List”.  

This list changes frequently.

The sign came.  As I checked in for my eye surgery to remove cataracts, the receptionist reviewed my intake information.  She noticed my age.  She was bubbly.  “I’m 62 too,” she said.  She also told me that she was retiring in 4 months.  I asked what lead her to this decision.  She said, “Most of my friends that retired at 66 and older and were dead in 1-2 years.  Not me.  I want to enjoy my life!”  I retired in February 1, 2013.

A “Retiring Mind ” is a danger to itself and others.  On the first day I retired, I woke up and shot out of bed as was my normal morning routine.  I raced through the house to look outside.  I live in Minnesota.  Last year this time, it was in the high 70’s.  This year we had ice, snow, and single digit wind chills.  Then I looked at my Bose.  I had a startling revelation.  I was not giving “stink eye” to the clock!  Time was no longer my adversary!  I went skipping through the house.  I sat in my rocker naked!  I grinned until my face hurt!  I began to sing and made up my new life theme songs.  “I don’t have to do that”.  “I have all the time in the world”.  “For the rest of my life”.  “I feel like a newly freed slave.”  I was giddy with excitement.  My mind raced with possibilities.

I have no map for this road trip called retirement.  The IRS defines retirement as “willful termination of employment with no intent to seek a new job after age 55”.  (Hell yeah!!)  I have had to wrestle down the “I gotta do demons”.   I have had to harshly counsel myself when my “internal overseer” wants me to “occupy” and “account for” every minute of my time.

I have seen more TV and DVD’s than ever.  I am reading until 3 and 4 a.m.  I am writing, writing, writing.  I am slowly de-cluttering my house of work related stuff.  I am telling well-meaning people that I don’t want any more jobs.  I don’t want to join them in their projects.  I have learned to say no.

I am reacquainting myself with me and the things I love, like music.  I played an old favorite, “It’s Raining Men” loudly, repeatedly while singing and dancing with abandon!  I am calling one friend a week and having deeper more meaningful conversations.

I have made tender discoveries.  Finding a frosted crystal necklace in an old velvet box, I realized I had been saving it to wear on a special occasion.  I realized I had never worn it.  It shook me to acknowledge that in 25 years, I had not had a special occasion or special day?  I wore it all that day.

What I love most about being retired is – simply, being.

BIO:  

Amoke Awele Kubat(M.Ed) is a north side Minneapolis resident who has been involved in empowering families since 1987.  She is a teacher, artist and writer who partners with community artists, activists and organizations to bridge African/American culture and cultural legacies for healing and building sustainable families and communities.  Amoke uses art making, storytelling and education to women, as mothers and first teachers of their children for mapping memory to generational trauma (personal and systemic) and facilitating healing through individualized action steps for recovery.  She has used her skills to work with international youth 12- 25 who participated in The Children of War.  She has worked with bi-racial adoptees, Native American, Korean, and African American, to reconnect them to their mother culture and assist them on their journeys to a holistic self- identity and actualization.

 

Senior Cohousing for Baby Boomers!

Sue Counts

My friend, Sue Counts, retired three years ago as the Director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Watauga County after more than 40 years in government.  During her tenure, Sue initiated educational programs in the areas of sustainable tourism, sustainable energy, Hispanic outreach, and women in agriculture.  Sue says, “At this point in my life, I’m seeking a better life for the Baby Boomers who are entering that stage of their lives known as ‘the senior years’.”  So, when Dene Peterson, the founder of ElderSpirit Community came to Boone a few weeks ago to talk about her life’s work, Sue was there attending meetings about the possibility of creating such a community in Watauga County, NC.  She graciously shares important information on “Retirement Housing.”

 

IT’S OFFICIAL!  We are now in the “ERA OF THE GOLDEN BOOMERS!”.  On January 1, 2011 the very first Baby Boomer turned 65, and 10,000 boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years.  This gigantic generation has transformed America as they have passed through every stage of life…..and housing for the elderly will not be any exception.

It's Official

Co-housing communities if you will!  These communities bring together the value of private homes with the benefits of more sustainable living.  That means common facilities and good connections with neighbors.  All in all, they stand as innovative answers to today’s environmental and social problems.

According to Charles Durrett, author of Senior Cohousing Handbook — 2nd Edition, A Community Approach to Independent Living, “No matter how rich life is in youth and middle age, the elder years can bring on increasing isolation and loneliness as social connections lessen, especially if friends and family members move away.  Senior co-housing fills a niche for this demographic — the healthy, educated and proactive adults who want to live in a social and environmentally vibrant community.  These seniors are already wanting to ward off the aging process, so they are unlikely to want to live in assisted housing.  Senior co-housing revolves around custom-built neighborhoods organized by the seniors themselves in order to fit in with their real needs, wants, and aspirations for health, longevity and quality of life.”

Elderspirit Community

The ElderSpirit Community at Trailview in Abingdon, Virginia is the living example of a community of mutual support and late life spirituality.  It is the first mixed-income, mixed ownership Elder Co-Housing Community in the United States and in this capacity it is making its way as it “walks the talk.”  The founder of ElderSpirit Community is Geraldine “Dene” Peterson, a “spry” woman in her 80’s who recently received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 2011 National Cohousing Conference in Washington, DC.

Dene Peterson

At eighteen, Dene  Peterson left her parents and ten siblings to join a convent. She ultimately chose to leave the religious order, but her spirituality remained deeply rooted. In 1995, at age 65, she created the ElderSpirit Community in Abingdon, Virginia. Inspired by a Danish model, Peterson wanted to form a co-housing retirement community that would allow friends to live together in a collaborative and supportive setting while also offering some of the autonomy of private dwellings.  Peterson also envisioned an alternative to institutional long-term care, a place where community members would have the emotional support of their peers as well as the necessary medical assistance to live out their lives at home.  Using a creative patchwork of funding from public and private resources, Peterson raised $3.5 million, and her vision materialized.  Construction of the 29 residences, common community building, and a prayer room was completed in late spring of 2006 and houses both the moderate and low-income.  The model has gained national attention, and an ElderSpirit outreach extension program in now helping to plan similar communities in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Kansas, and Virginia.

The ElderSpirit Community is dedicated to making possible new opportunities for Elders in the 21st Century.  The ElderSpirit Community values are: To live in a community of diverse spiritual paths; To give and receive support in relationship with neighbors in community; To belong to a community who make the decisions on how they will live together; and To encourage each other to live simply and care for the earth.

Paying for a College Education in this Country

JANE
Allow me to rant.  I don’t know how many of you out there are in my same boat:  approaching 60 years old but nowhere near retirement, due, in large part, to student loan debt!  When I was younger, in my early days of working, I always imagined that when I was approaching 60, I’d  be winding down, getting ready to do projects like putting old pictures into albums or organizing my closet. But here I am, 57 years old, and, instead of picking out a retirement village or planning a cruise down the Nile, I’m putting in my 40 hours a week and, even with that, trying to figure out how we’re going to pay tuition for another 9 years—at a minimum—for our 3 kids who are still in college!

Here’s our story, but all you have to do is change the small details and you’re hearing the story of lots of so-called “middle class” people in America: my husband and I both attended graduate school using student loans.  Since we married fairly late—and, as a result, had kids fairly quickly—and therefore couldn’t earn as much as we might have if we’d gotten an earlier start on things—we  couldn’t pay off those student loans until we were well into our forties.  So, about the time we got completely free of our own student loan debt, we had only a few years before we had to take on new debt to help our kids go to college.  And why did we have to take on that new debt?  Because we made enough income at that point to not qualify for the kind of financial aid that could have made it possible for us to do it without loans.  In fact, we would have had to live at or near the poverty level to qualify for that kind of financial aid!

THE COLLEGE DILEMMA

And, in case you’re wondering: the debt is pretty much the same, no matter where your kids go to school—unless he/she qualifies for a few amazing scholarships that are out there for the straight-A kids who play six instruments and five sports and started their own non-profit while in the 9th grade!  The fancy private schools offer great financial aid, if they have good endowments—but that only brings down their massive tuition to the same level as the public schools—and the public schools offer only minimal financial aid.  We’ve had kids at a big public university and at two small, liberal arts colleges—and the bill has, in each case, been about the same.

 

I have to say: it’s not hard to envision a time when our colleges, especially fancy private ones like Yale or Princeton or Duke or Davidson, will have as their student body a mix of only extremely wealthy kids, whose parents can pay their way, and extremely poor kids on scholarship. It’s happening!

 

Continue reading Paying for a College Education in this Country

Time Really Does Go Faster As We Age

Diane Puckett

Time really does go faster as we age. It has been a year since we moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina, but it seems like we just got here. The year has been quite a whirlwind of change.

Full Moon in DC

The biggest change – leaving the Washington, DC area, a place I had lived over half a century, (did I really say that?).  It’s my entire life. Though we had planned to move to Asheville for years, it was still a big deal, and happened far more quickly than anticipated. With a beautiful full moon and all the planets apparently in alignment, our house sold in two days.

Thus began the whirlwind. Three full moons later, we would move to the mountains, and there was much to do.

There were many people to say goodbye to, knowing I would never see most of them again. I closed the psychotherapy practice I had worked years to establish, bidding farewell to clients and colleagues. The local pottery studio, my hangout of kindred spirits was toughest to leave. Well, other than my sister, but that’s too tender to write about now.

We headed South on a cold December day, cars crammed full of stuff and our two beagles along for the ride. Not long after we arrived, a snowstorm followed, leaving us with no electricity and lots of tree damage. It was a tough winter, especially since we knew almost no one. Our holidays were non-existent, as we were busy moving.  The day I found myself strolling through Walmart for entertainment, I knew something had to change. Facebook provides an illusion of a social life, but it’s not reality. The North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement at UNCA was my lifeline during that long winter, feeding my brain and giving me a connection with other people.

Molly

Molly Beagle, my best bud for thirteen years, slowly wound down and passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. Our last day together was a sacred time – we cuddled up, and I talked to her about the good times we shared together.  At the end, I sang the Golden Girls theme song to her. I’m grateful Molly had some time here in our beautiful new place. We buried her next to my studio where she will have her own garden of the flowers she loved.

Diane's studio

Living here feels like I’ve finally come home. I love the spirit of this place, the creativity, the energy.  It’s been a year now, and I feel like I’m finding my niche. I’ve made good friends and know many of our neighbors.  I have an almost-finished pottery studio, a dream-come-true.

I’ve given in to my craving for a hammered dulcimer and have begun music lessons again after a 45-year hiatus. Maybe this time around I’ll practice.

Most of all, I love the magnificent mountains. I cannot even think of adequate words to describe them. May I never take them for granted or stop seeing them.

Social Security at Risk: Sign the AARP Petition!

 

Jane

Folks, please take a moment to forward the message below to your friends and family, and, after you forward the message, please help spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Dear friend,
Did you know that Washington is considering unfairly targeting Social Security benefits for cuts?  Social Security didn’t cause the budget deficit, so our retirement shouldn’t be put at risk to fix it!  I just signed AARP’s petition to protect Social Security and keep it strong for generations to come. Please click on the link below to join me – it will only take a minute.

http://action.aarp.org/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&id=779
 
Thanks for standing with me to keep Social Security strong.
Sincerely,
Jane