Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Retirement Facts




Dear George,
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be celebrating the six-year anniversary of my retirement from the university.  That certainly whizzed by quickly.  I do feel I’ve settled into a reasonable new life path, though retirement is a huge transition, probably equivalent to marriage or the birth of one’s first child.  After 43 years in my workplace, I’m aware of big losses as well as opportunities to remake a life of my own choosing.  For years beforehand I quizzed older colleagues and acquaintances about their retirements, and, with few exceptions, they were enthusiastic, even exuberant.  One knowledgeable female friend, though, warned me that retirement for strongly career-oriented people can be devastating, a precursor to depression, illness, and death.  I wondered if she were being the most realistic.  There is quite a bit of social science research on the correlates and consequences of retirement.  Here are some of the things that I ran across on the Internet:

NUMBERS OF RETIREES: According to the Social Security Administration, there are currently about 38 million retired workers in the U.S.  (12)  [note: numbers in parentheses refer to sources listed at end] 
-Over 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire every day for the next two decades.  (4)

TIMING OF RETIREMENT: In 1991 half of American workers planned to retire before age 60; today that number has dropped to 23%.  (4)
-The typical American worker now retires at age 62.  (13) 
-On average, individuals who retire at age 65 can expect to live for 18 to 20 years in retirement.  (7)

RETIREMENT AND FINANCES: Investment firms typically recommend that retirees have assets of 8 to 11 times their annual wages to prepare adequately for old age.  (19)
-88% of Americans are worried about "maintaining a comfortable standard of living in retirement," and 40% plan to work "until they drop."  (4)
-According to the Social Security Administration, 20% of retirees' incomes come from pensions; 15%, asset income; 36%, Social Security, and 29%, part-time work.  (10)
-One in six older Americans lives below the poverty line ($22,350 for a family of four).  (17)

SATISFACTION WITH RETIREMENT:  Numerous studies indicate that most adults look forward to retirement and, once retired, are happy with retirement.  (9) 
-For example, one large-scale national survey study found that 61.5% of retirees reported high levels of satisfaction with retirement, 32.9% said they were somewhat satisfied, and 5.6% expressed dissatisfaction.  (16)
-Satisfaction with retirement is positively correlated with good health, satisfaction with one's previous job, engagement in productive activities (e.g., paid work, formal or informal volunteering, care-giving), self-esteem, and a sense of personal control over one's life outcomes.  Having been forced to leave work is associated with retirement dissatisfaction.  (11, 16)

RETIREMENT AND PHYSICAL HEALTH:  Gerontologists have not found any major long-term effects of retirement (independent of age) on physical health. (3)
-When retirees do experience negative health outcomes, these are more likely if individuals are unmarried, lack social support, don’t engage in physical activity, don’t work part-time, and have retired at an earlier age.  (1)

RETIREMENT AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING: Retirement per se has little impact, positive or negative, on mental health.  Researchers find that the most positive psychological effects of retirement are found for people with solid social supports who are engaged in their communities and spend more time with family and friends.  (15)
-In a review of twenty years of retirement research, social scientists Mo Wang and Beryl Hesketh conclude that psychological well-being in retirement varies as a function of five factors: 
  • (1) Individual attributes (financial status, physical health); 
  • (2) Pre-retirement job-related factors (e.g., lower well-being connected to work stress, job dissatisfaction, unemployment before retirement, stronger work identity);  
  • (3) Family factors (greater well-being for married vs. single persons, higher marital quality; less well-being with a working spouse, more dependents, losing a partner); 
  • (4) Retirement transition factors (e.g., greater well-being with voluntary retirement, retirement planning; less when retiring earlier than expected, retiring for health reasons); 
  • (5) Post-retirement activities (greater well-being with bridge employment, volunteer work, leisure activities; less with anxiety associated with social activities).  (18)
- One health website suggests that depression following retirement is likely to be most common for people: (a) who have invested a lot in their careers and neglected other areas of their lives; (b) whose sense of self-worth is dependent on their work; (c) who are frequently in the spotlight and don’t realize the impact of attention and admiration on their sense of self-esteem.  (5) 
- A recent retirement survey describes over two-thirds of retirees as active and enjoying a vigorous part of their life.  95% of retirees consider themselves open-minded; 94% peaceful; and 94% independent.  (14)

SIX PHASES OF RETIREMENT: Gerontologist Robert Atchley theorizes that there are six phases of retirement that individuals go through with retirement:
  • (1) Pre-retirement (disengagement from the workplace; planning);
  • (2) Retirement, including three alternative possible paths:
·       [a] the "Honeymoon", as if on indefinite vacation;
·       [b] the "immediate retirement routine", busy and comfortable;
·       [c] "Rest and relaxation", very low activity;
  • (3) Disenchantment (disappointment, uncertainty, felt lack of productivity);
  • (4) Reorientation ("taking inventory", finding a satisfying lifestyle);
  • (5) Retirement Routine (mastering a rewarding routine);
  • (6) Termination of Retirement (retirement role replaced by the subsequent role of disabled elder).  (8)

By and large, these data offer an encouraging picture.  I would sum it up by saying that people’s quality of lives in retirement vary as a function of physical health, income, social ties, and engagement in meaningful activities.  I’d say Katja and I are doing o.k. in these different domains.  Perhaps the most challenging is seeking out productive activities.  Our workplaces provided us with a host of goals and tasks that took up much of our daily lives.  Now there’s much less external structure and external pressure, and our daily rounds of activities are much more up to ourselves.  There’s more room for personal choice, but also more possibility for ennui.  Today my next steps will be to take a half-mile walk with the sheepdogs, eat a Lean Cuisine (Swedish Meatballs), work on my blog, and go off to my line dancing class.  Sounds good to me.
Love,
Dave

SOURCES:  (1): www.aysps.gsu.edu, “The effects of retirement on physical and mental health outcomes”; (2): www.money.cnn.com, “Be ready for the 3 stages of retirement”; (3): www.collegestudy.org, “Chapter 2: The effects of retirement”; (4): www.theeconomiccollapse.blog, "25 bitter and painful facts about the coming baby boomer retirement crisis"; (5): www.health24.com, “Beating depression after retirement”; (6): www.merckmanuals, "Effects of Life Transitions on Older People"; (7): www.ohioline.osu.edu, "Facts about retirement"; (8): www.ohioline.osu.edu, "Stages of retirement"; (9): www.psychsocgerontology.oxfordjournals,org, "Gender and Life Satisfacton in Retirement"; (10): www.thequarterroll.com, "Retirement trivia"; (11): www.jstor.org, "Retirement and Life Satisfaction; (12): www.ssa.gov, "Social Security Basic Facts"; (13): www.statisticbrain.com, "Retirement statistics"; (14): www.squidoo.com, "Retirement facts"; (15): www.theconversation.com, “Retirement: a trigger for distress or welcome relief from the rat race?”; (16):  www.urban.org, "Satisfaction and Engagement in Retirement"; (17): www.money.usnews.com, "8 scary retirement facts"; (18): www.shrm.org, “Achieving well-being in retirement”; (19) www.washingtonpost.com, “Many blacks, Latinos have no retirement savings, report finds” 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

First Annual Grandchildren Interviews


Dear George,
Because our grandchildren, V and L, live pretty far away, we only get together three or four times a year.  With several months between each trip, it’s always exciting because the children have changed in noticeable ways.  They’re six years old now and in first grade in their Spanish immersion school, and they’re still more verbal, knowledgeable, and socially skilled than they were just six months ago.  During their recent Thanksgiving visit, J and I took the kids to nearby Mason on a snow sledding expedition.  L didn’t feel like sledding, so he and I spent some time in the car.  I suggested that we pretend that I was a newspaper reporter doing an interview with him, and L went along with the game.  He answered my questions while I took notes.  Then, later in the day, I did the same with V.  That proved to be fun and interesting for everybody.  Here are some of the children’s responses to interview questions, starting with L.      




Interview with L
How old are you this year?  Six. 
What grade are you in?  First grade.
Who is your teacher?  Miss A***.
What do you like about her?  She teaches us.
What is the hardest thing in school?  Vocabulary tests.   
Do you have a pet at home?  A dog.
What’s his name?  Iko.
What does Iko like?  Dog food.  Playing with V.  
What do you and V like to do?  Hide and seek.
Who is your favorite superhero?  Batman. 
Why is Batman your favorite?  He’s cool.  I have a Lego Batman set.
Do you have any hobbies?  Art.
What kind of art?  Clay.  Making pinch pots.
What is your favorite vacation?  Going to California to see Grandma.
Who is the president of the United States?  I don’t know.   
Who would make the best president – you or your sister?  Me.  
What do you like about New Orleans?  Everything.     
If you were older than you are now, how old would you want to be?  Ten.
Why is that?  Being big.
How old are old people?  About 80.
How old are your mom and dad?  45 and 46.  Not so old.
What do you dream about most often?  Vacations. 
What are you good at?  Playing with V.  I’m a good eater. 
Are you good at learning Spanish?  Yes.
What do you want to be when you grow up?  I don’t know. 
How do you like your robot foot?  Good.  It’s cool. 
What is scary to you?  Going into the forest. 
Who do you like best at school?  B***.  He is six and a half.  He is taller than me and funny. 
Is there anybody who don’t like?  I don’t like Z***.  He’s mean.
Is he mean to you?  Mmm hmm.
Do you stand up for yourself?  Yup. 
What is your favorite: animal?  Lion.
Are you serious or funny?  Funny.
Are you selfish or generous?  Generous.
Good-looking or strong?  Strong. 
Do you ever get mad at your sister?  Yes, when she does really mean things on purpose. 
What do you think is the best time of life – like babies or kids or teenagers or adults?  Babies.
Do you think adults work more or have fun more?  Work more.  They have to work to get money.
What is the worst thing that human beings can do?  Smoke.
What is your biggest fear?  Rattlesnakes. 
If you got a weekly allowance, what would you like it to be?  Eighty dollars. 
What is the most fun that your family has together?  Family fun night at any park.  
Which would you like most: to have lots of friends; or to make lots of money; or to be smart?  To be smart.
Which would you want to be: a writer; a musician; an athlete?  An athlete.
Which would you want to be: an astronaut; a policeman; a soldier?  An astronaut.
What animal are you most like?  A lion.        





Interview with V
How old are you now?  Six.
What grade are you in?  First.
Who is your favorite teacher?  Miss T*** and Miss O***. 
What is your favorite subject?  Arts and crafts
What is the hardest thing in school?  Reading.
Do you have a favorite hobby?  Arts and crafts.
Do you have a pet?  Iko.
What kind of dog is he?  A Schnauzer.
What is Iko like?  He really barks.
Who does he bark at?  Dogs and cats.
Do you know who the president is?  Obama.
Do you like him?  Yes.
Why?  He’s nice.
Does President Obama have any kids.  I don’t know.
Who would be the best president – you or your brother?  Me. 
What do you want to be when you grow up?  A vet.
Would you want to take care of large animals or small animals?  Small animals -- cats and dogs.
Which of the following would you want to do the most: End war; end hunger; end poverty?  End war. 
Who is your favorite superhero?  Wonder Woman.
Why do you like Wonder Woman?  She’s cool.
Which would you like to be the most – a politician, a movie star, or a detective?  Detective. 
What would you like most: to have a lot of friends, or make a lot of money, or be smart?  Be smart.
What do you think you are good at?  Taking care of animals.  Playing with L. 
If you could change something about the world what would it be?  No more wars.
What could you change to improve yourself?  Following directions.
What would you like to change about your parents?  Every day -- ten TV shows.
Would you say you are more serious or more funny?  More serious.
Are you selfish or generous?  Generous.
Good-looking or strong?  Good-looking. 
What is your favorite sport?  Soccer.
Your favorite food?  Chicken skin. 
What do you dream about most often?  Flying. 
What do you think is scary?  Sledding. 
How do you like L’s robot foot?  It’s beautiful.
What do you like about New Orleans?  Everything.
What do you think is the best time in life – for example, babies, kids, teenagers, adults?  Babies. 
Which is better childhood or adulthood?  Childhood.  Because adults have to do chores, like cleaning diapers. 
Do you think adults work more or have fun more?  Have fun more.
What are the worst things humans can do?  Suffer for death.
What makes you happy?  My parents.
When do you get mad at your brother?  I never get mad at my brother.
If you got a weekly allowance, what do you think it should be?  Ten million dollars.
No…what would you like for an allowance realistically?  Infinity. 
What is the most fun your family has together?  Going to the movies.
What is your earliest memory as a little child?  Swallowing a dime.  
What animal are you like?  A chicken.

I realized I’m biased, but I think the children are such delights.  They are thoughtful, funny, and smart.  They responded to this task with such openness.  Most of all, I’m impressed to the degree to which they can readily verbalize things about themselves, their loved ones, and the world about them.  I’m also impressed that both children have positive attitudes toward most aspects of their lives.  I think this is a product having very loving parents.  Now I’m looking forward to see what the children have to say when they reach age seven.
Love,
Dave




Friday, December 5, 2014

Menominee River Pantoums



Dear George,
In our poetry writing class we learned about a type of poem called a pantoum.  Pantoums are based on a Malayan form that goes back to the fifteenth century.  They’re composed in a series of four-line stanzas.  Lines 2 and 4 of the first stanza become lines 1 and 3 in the second stanza, and so on.  At the end of the poem lines 1 and 3 are repeated in the final stanza.  The lines may or may not rhyme.  The format for a five-stanza pantoum would look like this: ABCD BEDF EGFH GIHJ IAJC.  Baudelaire and Victor Hugo were among writers who popularized the pantoum in the nineteenth century, and Anne Waldman and Donald Justice are among contemporary American poets who have written pantoums.  Pantoums move along slowly, and, because of their interlocking pattern, the lines seem to fill the poem with echoes.

I tried writing a couple of pantoums, and it’s not easy.  Lines not only need to rhyme and connect with one another within a stanza, but they also have to then fit with new lines in the next stanza, and finally come together at the end.  For pantoum topics, I picked my childhood experiences growing up on the Menominee River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  I’ve written various stories about my Menominee childhood before, but putting these experiences in pantoum form gives them a distinct flavor.  Here’s how my Menominee River pantoums are coming along.  (As far as I can tell, one never actually finishes a pantoum.)
Love,
Dave  




1.  River House

We moved to the river in forty-six
There were no other children nearby
The field was home to horseflies and ticks
At dusk we could hear the loon cry

There were no other children nearby
We lived on a long gravel road           
At dusk we could hear the loon cry
My grandfather built our abode

We lived on a long gravel road
The oaks were sixty feet high
My grandfather built our abode 
It opened to the river and the sky

The oaks were sixty feet high
Our house was of Norway pine
It opened to the river and the sky
Close friends came to talk and to dine

Our house was of Norway pine
My mother cooked whitefish and liver
Close friends came to talk and to dine
Mallard ducks flew in on the river

My mother cooked whitefish and liver
We had no locks on our doors
Mallard ducks flew in on the river
Four foot snakes lived under our floors

We had no locks on our doors
We climbed on the willow tree
Four foot snakes lived under our floors
My sister got stung by a bee

We climbed on the willow tree
We played on our basketball court
My sister got stung by a bee
In the woods we built our own fort

We played on our basketball court
We had acorn fights in the yard
In the woods we built our own fort
Swimming the river was hard

We had acorn fights in the yard
We shot cans with the twenty-two
Swimming the river was hard
The dogs got raw bones to chew

We shot cans with the twenty-two
My mother grew violets and lilies
The dogs got raw bones to chew
We children fell prey to the willies

My mother grew violets and lilies
The trillium bloomed in the spring
We children fell prey to the willies
My dad built my sister a swing

The trillium bloomed in the spring
The field was home to horseflies and ticks
My dad built my sister a swing
We moved to the river in forty-six





2.  The River

We lived far out on the River Road
Pig Island was across the way
Down the river the flotsam flowed
We swam from our yard every day

Pig Island was across the way
We took like fish to the water
We swam from our yard every day
My brother trapped muskrats and otter

We took like fish to the water
Our mother watched from the lawn
My brother trapped muskrats and otter
We might spot a doe or a fawn

Our mother watched from the lawn
Fishermen passed by the shore
We might spot a doe or a fawn
At sundown the herons would soar

Fishermen passed by the shore
The bloodsuckers stuck to our toes
At sundown the herons would soar
I sprayed my brother with the hose

The bloodsuckers stuck to our toes
We'd wade near the bank with our dogs
I sprayed my brother with the hose
We built a crude raft from dry logs

We'd wade near the bank with our dogs
Indian Island was our family trip
We built a crude raft from dry logs
We sailed forth in our pirate ship

Indian Island was our family trip
Dragonflies rode on our boat
We sailed forth in our pirate ship
We'd jump into the water and float

Dragonflies rode on our boat
The snapping turtles made us wary
We'd jump into the water and float
The river was thrilling but scary

The snapping turtles made us wary
Great hawks swooped down from the sky
The river was thrilling but scary
We feared there was quicksand nearby

Great hawks swooped down from the sky
Down the river the flotsam flowed
We feared there was quicksand nearby
We lived far out on the River Road





3.  Winter

Chipmunks gathered nuts from the cedar
The north winds blew in with a squall
My mother fed birds at her feeder
The snowdrifts grew massive and tall

The north winds blew in with a squall
The deer came to munch the dried weeds
The snowdrifts grew massive and tall
Tiny chickadees searched for their seeds

The deer came to munch the dried weeds
The whole of the forest seemed dead
Tiny chickadees searched for their seeds
I tramped through the woods with my sled

The whole of the forest seemed dead
We fished through the ice on the river
I tramped through the woods with my sled
The wind from the bay made us shiver

We fished through the ice on the river
The icicles stretched to the ground
The wind from the bay made us shiver
The night sky was black with no sound

The icicles stretched to the ground
Dad cut down a tall Christmas spruce
The night sky was black with no sound
My mother made ham and a goose

Dad cut down a tall Christmas spruce
Our cousins arrived Christmas eve
My mother made ham and a goose
I played checkers with Peter and Steve

Our cousins arrived Christmas eve
We followed deer tracks in the snow
I played checkers with Peter and Steve
The fireplace gave off its glow

We followed deer tracks in the snow
By March the ice started to melt
The fireplace gave off its glow
The river was teeming with smelt

By March the ice started to melt
We called it Chinese Bells Day
The river was teeming with smelt
The skies were milky and gray

We called it Chinese Bells Day
A robin appeared on the lawn
The skies were milky and gray
Spring opened her eyes with a yawn

A robin appeared on the lawn
Chipmunks gathered nuts from the cedar
Spring opened her eyes with a yawn
My mother fed birds at her feeder





Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving


Dear George,
We have lots of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday season, but none moreso than our sweet NOLA family: our son J, our daughter-in-law K, and our granddaughter V and grandson L, both now six and first-graders in their Spanish immersion school.  This year K was out of the country over Thanksgiving, and J drove up with the kids for the holiday.  They were here from Sunday afternoon to Saturday morning, and we did lots of the kid/family stuff available in the city.  Here’s a photo montage.




We spent much of the day on Monday at the Children’s Museum at the Union Terminal Museum Center. The Children’s Museum is always astonishing to me.  Hundreds – maybe thousands – of three to seven-year-olds running about madly and  engaging in one pursuit after the next.  V and L have seemingly endless energy.  They climbed in caves, slid down slides, made simulated meals, shot balls up air pipes, scooped up plastic blocks, splashed in the water, built towers and arches, and did umpteen other enjoyable activities.  At the end of the day we saw an IMAX movie on Jerusalem before heading home for Katja’s dinner.  




On Tuesday morning Katja took V to the nail salon in Oakley where V had her nails done in shellac (so they’ll last a long time).  It was exciting for V and her grandma.  Meanwhile, J, L, and I went to the Goodwill and got L some winter clothes to counteract our thirty degree temperatures.




Tuesday afternoon we went to the zoo.  L liked the diamond-backed rattlesnake the best; V liked the fennec fox; J admired the alligators; I was partial to the fruit bats.  Everyone enjoyed the manatees, the insectarium, the black bear, and the elephants.    




On Wednesday we went back to the Museum Center for opening day of the Mummies of the World exhibition.  Billed as the world’s largest exhibit of mummies, it was absorbing.  They had mummies of cats, rabbits, ancient Egyptians, nineteenth century Hungarians, medical specimens, people who died in bogs or deserts or hot attics, and many others.  It was very unique and eerie, and the children were fearless.    




After lunch on Wednesday we went over to the Eden Park Overlook.  Lots of play on the playground, checking out the ducks and the statues, climbing on rocks and up the ruins of the reservoir.  The Romulous and Remus statue was J’s favorite in his childhood, and now it’s his kids’ too.  




I guess the children don’t have infinite energy.  After five or six hours of running and jumping around, exhaustion sets in.  That’s when good dads carry about a hundred and ten pounds of children across the field at the Eden Park reservoir.  




We stopped at Target on the way home where J treated each of the kids to their choice of a fancy Lego product.  Katja was fascinated with how focused and industrious the children were in working on their respective projects, and how they were able to do their complicated tasks with a minimum of adult assistance.  




Sam and Ellie Minkarah and Donna Durham and her daughter Rebekah joined us for Thanksgiving dinner.  Donna and Rebekah brought a beautiful poinsettia, and the Minkarahs brought a wonderful piano for the children that gets spread on the floor and plays notes when stepped upon.  The children were engrossed.   




I helped the children put on their annual three-act play about the first Thanksgiving.  V and L chose their own Indian names this year: Princess Bunny and Growling Lion.  As pilgrims they starred in their roles as Miles Standish and Priscilla Mullins.  The actors took a bow, and the audience was very appreciative.  




On Friday we took the children on a snow tubing expedition at the Beach Waterpark.  They’d used manufactured snow to create a 400-foot run.  V and her dad tubed down the hill for at least an hour while L and I retired to the car and talked about childhood and life.  




A product of his Cincinnati upbringing, J is still a Skyline Chili addict, and he is teaching his children about our local cuisine.  L prefers a three-way of chili, spaghetti, and beans, while V like the Skyline hot dog in a bun with grated cheese.  




Friday night we returned to the zoo for the annual Festival of Lights.  It’s a true extravaganza.  It must take a hundred thousand hours to set up the entire zoo with strings of lights.  The kids had pizza, followed by S’mores, and we were just in time for a truly remarkable holiday puppet show in the darkened amphitheater.  




Katja made Swedish pancakes and bacon on Saturday morning to give everyone strength for their two-day journey home.




The children held their last light saber duel as Star Wars battlers. 




Then it was time for a family photos and a teary-eyed departure. We talked about doing a new play next year and writing a story book together too.  The children are more grownup and more fun every time we see them.  Things are quieter at our house, but there’s a lump in my throat from a vacuum that won’t be filled again for some months.  Fortunately, we have lots of memories to enjoy.
Love,
Dave