Monday, April 16, 2007

A Warning for Seniors: Have a "Plan B"

Dan Kadlec's article "Homeward Bound. Baby Boomers' parents who fled south at retirement are coming back to the family nest" (Time, April 23) reminded me again that nothing is forever. It also reassured me that realistic planning for the future makes sense.

Here are a few statistics Kadlec quotes: "Nearly 18% of people over 60 who moved across state lines say they are returning to their hometown, according to the Census Survey." "More than one third of the elderly who moved to Pittsburgh from 1995 to 2000 had relocated from Florida." "Most return because they've lost a spouse or are no longer mobile and need the support a family can provide."

As I've said before, planning for retirement is a personal issue; the "right" plan depends on the individual and upon unpredictable circumstances. I've seen two extremes among my fellow seniors, particularly the 65-75 age group. One group includes those who cling to homes and lives they're understandably reluctant to give up, even after stair-climbing, gardening, familiar routines, and/or driving become difficult or even dangerous. The other group includes those who cut all ties and flee to a warmer climate to play golf or lounge on the beach, often living great lives for a while, but with no thought of the future. I see dangers in both extremes.

Kadlec mentions four things to consider: retaining family ties, renting both new and old homes to allow for an easy return if you change your mind, thinking about future mobility and availability of public transit when it's needed, and keeping return channels from that isolated, multi-story house in a remote area open. "On average, women outlive their driving ability by 10 years, men by 8." Sobering thoughts, indeed!

None of us can foresee the future, but we all know that death is inevitable, even in these days of healthy aging and longer lives. To me, the answer is balance and planning ahead. Assuming that we have choices (some don't), we need to avoid both the danger of clinging to any lifestyle long after it makes sense and the danger of cutting all ties and assuming we'll live in an earthly, climate-friendly Utopia almost forver. Sure--go after the retirement lifestyle that suits you, but always have a "Plan B."

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

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