The Experts….

Posted on October 24, 2010


The Experts…

What do the experts have to say about retirement? A lot. Most of it focuses on financial planning. Question: “How much money will you need to live comfortably?”  Answer: “ It all depends, but usually somewhere between 50 and 75% of pre-retirement income so start saving early.”

However the experts don’t have much to say about what it’s like when a senior gives up most of her independence and actually moves – or is deposited – into a retirement facility.

Simply put life is one long battle against gravity. Infants fight to stand up while seniors fight a losing battle to stay standing while being constantly reminded by those around them that gravity always wins, being constantly reminded what their future holds. Lacking such reminders the rest of us can create positive futures in our imagination – life is good, or pretty good, or will get better. Ignorance is bliss?  But the healthiest retirement home residents, immersed as they are in the infinite array of disabilities surrounding them see their diminishing future shrinking before them: “Hey Ho I’m on death row but there’s no appeals to the ‘Governor’ to commute my sentence.”

So the mental health of the senior is probably better served by delaying retirement home living as long as possible – by delaying exposure to the constant sight of others gradually succumbing to the insistent tugs of gravitation – urging them to give up and ‘lay me down.’  On the other hand the ‘burnout’ of their caregivers – mates and children – must also be factored into that equation. So you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  A profound problem with no simple solution, but one typically resolved by eventually moving mum or dad into a retirement home due to a crises: a fall, a minor stroke, a cancelled driver’s license, a small fire caused by punching the wrong buttons into the microwave, or the departure or burnout of the primary caregiver.

Old age ain’t for sissies. But we must acknowledge the quiet heroism of many – most – of retirement home residents. Typically they’re widows – some recent, many long-standing – who bear their aches, pains and loneliness with quiet grace and dignity. Periodically in response to some small kindness, the little girl or women buried inside emerges, and you glimpse her in her prime – playing on a swing, going on her first date, college graduation, wife, mother, teacher, lawyer…. Her eyes light up, she smiles, even laughs, reaching out she touches you, giving you a look that says “Ah, you know… there’s more here than meets the eye – thank you for reminding me.”





Posted in: Sciencing