Here in Maine the snow has mostly melted and people can reach parts of their house where the wreaths and other holiday decorations were marooned. Many people put wreaths over each of their windows, both upstairs and down. These require a ladder for putting them up and taking them down. The ground may have been bare when they were put up after Thanksgiving, but then the snows came. We often joke about the wreath’s becoming “St. Patrick’s Day wreaths” or even “Easter wreaths”. When winter releases its hold, however temporarily, home owners start raking gravel from their lawns where the plow drivers pushed the snow when clearing the driveway, and removing the vestiges of holiday decorating. Spring moves slowly here in Maine.
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
“You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
(Two Tramps in Mud Time by Robert Frost)
Meantime, inside the house, the effect of approaching spring is felt, as well. Rooms that were closed off in order to save heating them are once again left open. Windows get opened for short periods of time when the sun is out. We cautiously dig out a few pieces of warm weather clothing, but when we wear them we dress in layers such as an over-shirt to peel off and put back on as the day progresses. We look for garden tools we set aside without much thought back in the fall. We try to look optimistically at the dismal flower beds and vegetable garden which don’t yet show any promise. But then, on our village street, neighbors re-appear, kids are bicycling and the song birds are returning and gathering nest materials. Spring may be slow getting here but we get to appreciate in increments as it progresses.
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.
It happened again in my small town. Another elderly person who lived alone fell in his home and was not discovered for two days, after a neighbor noticed there were no lights on at his home. After his hospitalization he must now remain in a rehab facility indefinitely while social services determine whether his home is a safe place to live on his own. Almost all Seniors want to maintain their independence and stay in control of their circumstances, and you can do that if you use your imagination to picture how you would maneuver in your home with a walker or even a wheelchair. You can determine which items are apt to cause a fall and which furniture could be moved or removed to provide better access to hallways and for doors to open. Maybe just conceding to wear some sort of medical alert system will put relatives at ease and let them give you your independence. Be proactive and maintain control.