This one is all about the S’s. Serendipity, Success, Succor, Synthesis, Senior Affairs, Seniority, Surrender, Special, all of these are teaming and crashing and banging around in my head and I’ve just got to get these thoughts out and about to make room for more.
I’ve been waiting for my thoughts to jell around these words but they refuse to stand still. Jostling, nudging each other out of line at the jump gate until my stomach is aflutter and that wild Muse who bursts in and out of my top story marches my butt to the computer, puts my hands on the keyboard and shouts at the top of her or his lungs: “SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN AND START WRITING, HUNTIE!“
An old boss of mine once said, “Hunt, you’ve got the knack of seeing the big picture. Few people do.” A friend of mine gave me what I consider to be one of the finest compliments I’ve ever received “You come at problems with a 360 degree focus and perspective, Hunt. Most people, even our best and brightest, achieve a 180 degree, maybe being able to meet someone halfway when they’ve got a problem.” Something like that. All this to preface this will not be neat and tidy and will be all over the map.
I start with the premise that everything happens for your Higher Good. Or, if you like, our higher good. Put simply, good can come from bad.
When the markets crashed in September 2008, banks went belly-up, the house market crashed, retirement funds disappeared and everybody started screaming and looking for payback, I was trying to figure out how it could be a good thing. Unemployment skyrocketed and I was one of ’em. And the past six years have shown very little improvement. Where’s the good?
Did you know that 10,000 people per day are retiring in the United States? That is 10,000 x 365 days = 3,650,000 per year. And have been since January 1, 2011. They will continue to do so until the year 2030. Source: The Pew Research Center’s report of December 29, 2010, “Roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 today, and about 10,000 more will cross that threshold every day for the next 19 years.” For the contrarians in the audience who want to argue numbers, another report here and one that opposes here. Life expectancy:
“According to data compiled by the Social Security Administration:
A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3.
A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.6.
And those are just averages. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95.”
Source: Social Security Administration This link, by the way, allows you to calculate your life expectancy. In case you think this won’t affect you, sit your butt down and think about this. (Oh, for my international friends, these figures are the U.S. figures – and we rank 26 for life expectancy! You may live to be 120 for all I know….)
Mind, that’s not taking into account scientific breakthroughs or a sudden worldwide outbreak of one disease or another. Okay, at this point, I could recite a whole bunch of facts re the economics, the demographics, the bonanza of tapping into this swelling age group and how that is going to transform every aspect of our lives…. OH, yes, yes, it will, no matter your age. Those commercials for Viagra and Depends and the bombardment of new prescriptions and their side effects are just going to grow in volume and intensity. Plus, they are one of our poorest and richest of age groups. Mmmm….
So what, Huntie?
Age is a fact. Mindset is another. This particular swath of people were the most productive, wealth producing age group the United States has ever seen. They were visionaries, many becoming millionaires before their 30’s. One of the, if not, the most life changing, world changing inventions of the sixties – a mere 50 or so years out of thousands of years history, was a tiny, tiny, smaller-than-a-fingernail pill. So famous, it became known as The Pill. People talk about the atom bomb changing the world as we know it. Doesn’t hold a candle to The Pill. We went from women staying in the home, men supporting their families, having large families, and in 20 years, their daughters were studying to become brain surgeons. Worth a post in and of itself.
You cannot stop trajectory on a dime. If even 100 of those retirees per day decide they need purpose and are looking to see where they can serve, that is a cumulative annual total of 36,500 brainiacs turned loose upon our challenges with absolutely nothing but time on their hands… That’s a blip – 1%. Let’s go wild and crazy, say 10% of 10,000 per day = 1,000 x 365 = 365,000 minds experienced in hitherto untapped skills gathered into one group whose sole dynamic is share the data, solve the problem…
That same group reaches into every aspect of life through their children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, community and state. Thanks to communications, they are more connected than any other group hands down whether in or out of Facebook and social media. Many are now single, will become single, or chose to remain single, which brings us back to the good coming out of bad times. Whether it is due to a shortage of jobs, children returning home, illness striking a mother or father, a divorce, a sudden death, families are coming back together. Grandparents are raising grandchildren. Generations are beginning to live either together or in close proximity to one another again. This is a good thing, though it might stretch on the nerves a bit.
That’s the macro. Here’s the micro: Last Saturday, I attended a seminar put on by Rajev Nagaich of Aging Options, a truly innovative way of looking at retirement and estate planning. Here’s the key difference, it is a Life Planning Seminar, not just a plan for what to do when you die, which are what most of our retirement planning documents focus around – Last Will & Testament (who gets what when you die), Durable Power of Attorney (who makes decisions if and when you can’t), and a Health Directive to Physicians (should they keep using those paddles on you, just how many times do you want to keep being revived and what quality of life do you want while living?), with some financial planning thrown in for good measure, subject to the winds of the market, see 2008 again.
There are two big fears retirees have: running out of money and dying in institutional care. Rajev, who came here from India, points out that in his third world country, there is no doubt where your last years will be and that you will die at home, in your bed, surrounded by family. Further, the single greatest threat to a retiree’s financial plan (if any) is an unexpected medical event. We, as a society, do not like to talk about death or dying, whether it is our own or someone we love or just know in passing. Look at those numbers, kids. 18% of the U.S. population will be over 65 in 15 years – that’s one in five people. And because we don’t like to think about it, much less talk about it (!), there comes a day when the giant is in the room and suddenly, decisions have to be made – what to do for Mom or Dad or me? Who will care enough to fight my battles for me if I cannot? Will Mom or Dad listen to me when I have to say, “You cannot live alone anymore?” What if they need hip, back, knee, heart surgery? What if we’re in different states, we don’t get along, we ourselves have special needs?
More than any other point, Rajev Nagaich brings home with such clarity and focus: Do you want to do decisions in crisis or have systems and people in place and time that will understand your needs and wants and work to make sure your wishes are honored? Crisis decisions are rarely well thought out, planned for or executed well. (says the woman who spent 10 years in emergency planning and response)
I am 59 years old. In 2010 or 2011, I was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD – now famous as an elephant sitting on your chest and walking right behind you). For the first year, due to a miscommunication, I thought my life expectancy was about two to three years…. 401ks, retirement plans, unemployment meant nothing to me. Breathing, breathing meant something, but not as much as you’d think.
The first question a healthcare professional asked me today was “How many hospitalizations this year?” “How often do you use your emergency inhaler a day?” “Does this impact your social life?” “Does this impact your daily life?” Why yes, yes, it does. No matter how well I am today, I am one 9-1-1 call away from hospitalization on the fly. Up until recently, April 14, to be exact, it was out of my hands. I didn’t have insurance, I didn’t have a primary physician or a pulmonologist. It was up to God and me to keep me healthy, and I’ll be the first to admit that God did a much better job taking care of me than I did.
I am not writing this to garner sympathy or concern. This is it. This is the real deal. It came clear the day I went for a walk around the lake with a group of greyhounds and their people. Less than 1/4 of the way around, I realized I wasn’t going to make it. That I had to sit down NOW. Not only did they walk around the lake, but they had to wait a long time for me to make it back to the car. Haven’t done it since (and oh do I want to). I plan my day in chunks of time – doubling and tripling whatever it used to take. A walk around the lake – whew, that’s a plan of four hours just to be on the safe side. I am just fine provided I can stop and rest, but that is hard on other people’s schedule. I am almost done preparing my GO TO BOOK (I need a better title) for my dear friend who has agreed to act as my back up, for emergencies and in case I’m out of the running. It has every thing she might need all in one book – documents, phone numbers, passwords, credit info, and most important, Elby, That Cat! and Ella, the Greythound’s pet sitter, who will come instantly to feed, walk, love and care for them in my absence with a credit card reserved just for that eventuality.
Well, I’m getting long here. This past week or two, world events have been horrifying with things seeming to slip and slide out of control and grim news everywhere you look. But, I find myself profoundly grateful to be born in this time and place, knowing each and every day, another 100-1,000 brainiacs are being turned loose to channel their drive, energy, experience and creativity and passions outwards.
Coming up – salutes to friends of mine contributing to the brainiac fund.