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A STATE OF MIND: The Golden or Gilded Years


By Larry Floersch

When my mother in law retired in her mid 60s, she sent my wife a letter (yes, she was that old-fashioned) in which she proclaimed it was the best time of her life. About 10 years later she sent my wife another letter that began, “Remember when I sent you that letter about the retirement years being a golden time? Well, let me revise that statement.”

Now that I, too, am retired, I feel it is my duty as a journalist to back up my mother-in-law’s observations and warn you about some myths surrounding retirement. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But Lare, retirement sounds so attractive. Endless hours to do what I want to do: fishing, boating, travel, cruises, books, parties, naps! Right?”

First, your time is not your own. If you have a significant other and that significant other is still employed, after you sleep in that first day of your retirement, you will awaken to find conveniently stapled to your chest, so you will not lose it, what is called a “honey do” list. This list will “suggest” tasks around the house that urgently need to be accomplished now that you are no longer employed. These tasks will be more involved than just, “Take out the garbage,” which will not be on the list, but you had better do it anyway if you know what’s good for you. In my own experience, I was actually expected to complete projects I had successfully put off since the Eisenhower administration.

Next you will learn that technology is not your friend. Television, for example, is not a solace in retirement. Watching TV for any length of time will convince you that you have symptoms of psoriasis, shingles, atrial fibrillation, hepatitis B, acid reflux disease, constipation, overactive bladder, clinical depression, Type II diabetes, low back pain, bipolar disorder, erectile dysfunction, and…  that other thing, …what is it? Uhh …oh yeah, Oldtimer’s Disease or something like that.

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And you will have to sit through 287 commercials per day of the “My Pillow Guy” talking to a sleepless couple through a medicine cabinet. Two hundred of those “My Pillow Guy” commercials will air during the local evening news hour. And in the middle of the night you will awaken, regardless of what pillow you use, and wonder why it doesn’t seem to bother the sleepless couple that their medicine cabinet has no back.

If you were computer literate while you were still employed, changes in software and technology will begin to accelerate the day you walk away from your job, and within a few weeks you will be completely at a loss to understand what is going on. Even the most simple of websites will confound you. You will have difficulty locating “OK,” “Next,” and “Log Off” buttons. You will forget passwords. A subscription to WIRED magazine will only compound the situation by making you feel really ignorant.

You will discover that people younger than you, such as your children and grandchildren, use text messages instead of email or actually talking into a phone (which apparently is considered too 20th century). You will try to compensate for this by getting a smart phone so you can keep in touch, but you will discover your thumbs are too large, and you will not be able to operate the keypad. This will unleash the “autocomplete” feature on your smartphone, which will be a source of mirth for those with whom you communicate. I once texted some friends, “Stopping at Walmart to pick up a couple of things.” I did not notice my phone replaced the “i” in “things” with an “o” before I hit the “send” button.

And if all this evidence isn’t enough, consider this chilling government statistic. Of all the people who retire between the ages of 62 and 70, very few live more than 30 years after their retirement date.

Why risk it? Keep working.