These days I am long past any interest in being “youthful”. I am what I am and what you see is what you get. Instead, my concerns are about managing my energy and my short-term memory. I am also concerned about my ability to continue to live in my own house as I age and what to do when that is no longer possible. When my friends and I get together I find we have the same concerns. So, I offer myself as an aging coach and a coach who is aging.
Eric is not feeling fond of his father right now. Ike refused to deal with things when he was healthy, but now he needs to be in an assisted care facility and his assets need to be liquidated to pay for his care. In his prime, Ike was sure he could do anything. His house is one he built by himself in the 1970’s. The problem is, he never quite finished it. He never quite finished a lot of other projects as well. His yard reflects this. He lives on a back road in a rural area so there is no home-owners’ association to hold him accountable. So now his son, wanting to be kind, is faced with emptying a house and out-buildings, doing what repairs seem feasible, and making the property appeal to a potential buyer.
Ike never liked to make decisions but now that his son is dealing with his property he wants to have a say about everything in order to have a sense of control.
In order to get his father to deal with reality, Eric is asking him how likely he is to want particular items with him in his new living arrangements. Ike has a small apartment unit within a larger building so space is severely limited. He is likely to want some items from his home with him but now the time has come when he must really make decisions. Items from inside the home are more likely to fit into his apartment. These include furniture, clothing, personal care items, and sentimental items such a photos. Ike gets hung up on the things he can’t take. There are so many of them. The problem it brings up for him is the sense of regret and loss that he is not now and never will be the guy who could do everything and would get around to it all eventually.
Situations like this are cropping up all over Maine and other rural areas as the Baby Boomers of the back-to-the-land movement are moving into old age and the generation that would never grow old has done exactly that.
Would it surprise you to learn that my husband and I do not give each other gifts at Christmas? Or birthdays? Instead, we give ourselves the gift of living debt-free. We made this decision when we semi retired. We give gifts to family members and donate generously to charities. We decorate and bake Christmas goodies and swap them with neighbors. Some years we buy something for the house that we both would enjoy such as a small appliance or furniture, but in general we are content with what we have. The important thing for us is that we pay as we go.
Many seniors will never have a comfortable retirement because they carry more debt than they can handle. While the media drives everyone’s attention to what we should be outraged about, I pay attention to financial newsletters. The pensions promised to retirees are in a precarious situation. This is the time for wise seniors to reduce their debt-load or get out of debt completely. A good way to start is to reduce the family’s expectations around Christmas. No more striving for “the Wow! factor” in gift-giving or at least limit the number of them. Almost every senior I know is nostalgic for the Christmases of their childhood when times were tougher and gifts were more meaningful.
Today is a refrigerator triage day. Everything must come out and justify its existence to me or out it goes. This is the only area where I seem to manifest a hoarding behavior. I tend to see left-overs as a potential soup, quiche, or casserole ingredient and thus I have congestion in the fridge. I know a lot of people these days throw out leftovers, but I come from a time and a place where frugality was necessary. It is also the sign of a creative cook to know how to incorporate these ingredients into a delicious second life.
I have stuff in the fridge that I have kept for the same reasons other people keep non-food stuff. For instance, I have two quart jars of homemade pickles given by a friend who preserves garden produce. I need that space and I know it would take my husband and me three years to use up those two quarts, so out they go. But maybe first I’ll save some of it in smaller jars. My thrift sense kicks in along with an appreciation of the friendship.
Another reason I have kept some of the items is I paid good money for them. I sometimes see an interesting recipe online and bookmark it, but I lack an ingredient or two so I add them to my shopping list and purchase them. The trouble is, my memory doesn’t retain the purpose of the product so I end up with mystery ingredients. I need a system to link food purchases with the recipe they are intended for.