Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 133 Retirement and Needs                                       

           Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs. At the base of his Needs Pyramid were food, water, clothing and shelter. Without these we cannot survive. Four other levels rise above these basic needs. Second level is Safety, Order and Structure. Third is Love and Belonging. Fourth is Recognition, Ego, Esteem and Freedom. At the top is Self-Actualization.

          Think of some couples that have financed their homes with a sub-prime mortgage and now may lose it as interest rises and values fall. Loss of their home may throw them into a panic where nothing else matters. In the same way divorce or death of a spouse undercuts the base of our lives. How will we survive?

          Retirement can be an enjoyable period of our life if we have an income sufficient for our basic needs- Food, shelter and clothing. We may have social security, a pension, a mortgage-free home and savings. Some retirees return to part-time work or shop at thrift stores to eke out an existence. Health care costs threaten even the best-planned retirement. Complex treatment and nursing home care quickly eat up our resources and may impose a burden on our children.

          In retirement we have time to inform ourselves and solve some of these complex problems. Health care reform is a major issue in the 2008 elections and retirees will be affected in important ways. We should inform ourselves about these proposals and support effective solutions.

          When our immediate needs are assured, we want to feel safe in our home, our community and our country. We need to recognize that we are part of society and take part in shaping the world we live in. We can help create a safe and satisfying environment where we can all enjoy life as we care for one another.

          Families are important. American Indians were concerned with “family values”. When their old way of life was threatened, they sometimes turned to terrorism when they were cheated out of their land as the pioneers moved westward. If food was scarce, they shared it. They respected nature in a way we do not.

          Many families have been scattered far and wide but we can seek out substitutes in churches, service clubs, political action groups or the senior centers. Old friends and family members begin to disappear as we all age. To retain a circle of friends, we must recruit others to take their place

Discussion of our deepest concerns with good friends can be very rewarding. Sharing our hopes and fears helps others to respond with their own ideas. My neighbor’s wife has Alzheimer’s disease. We talk about other cases we have known and some of the decisions that may await him.

When we have our survival needs met and we feel secure in our community and have the love and affection of our family and friends, we can move on to what Maslow calls self-actualization. We are free to follow our bliss wherever it may lead with the assurance that our support system is firmly in place. We are also free to eliminate those activities that do not contribute to our happiness. I sang in many church and community choirs when I was younger. As my hearing deteriorated I dropped out but I still sing for my own amusement.

I have become a dedicated letter to the editor writer. It takes me all month to create and polish my letter. That helps me to know what is important to me and who I am.

Once a week, I meet with old friends for coffee. As each of us confronts the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, we talk about it and encourage one another. We also immortalize former members who have passed away in the hope that we too will be remembered.




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