“If only my knees worked right, my retirement would be so much better”
|April 25, 2016||Posted by Marcia Mantell under Boomers in Action|
Walking around the block, through the grocery store, up and down stairs is something most of us take for granted. But, Clara, who is 69 and a beautiful woman with a gorgeous hairdo, ran into trouble with a hip and a knee early in her retirement. She has difficulty walking longer distances, and sometimes struggles walking through the grocery store.
Clearly a frustrating situation, Clara was more than happy to share what is going on in her retirement. A bit about her past: She got married at 20 to a wonderful man and they had two children. She was an at-home mom and loved raising her son and daughter. About 16 years ago, when she was in her early 50s, her husband suffered a brain injury. It was severe and he ended up in a nursing home for 12 years. Most of her assets were drained paying for his care. Even with some insurance, she had to sell her home. It became clear that she needed to find a way to make a living. She had design and decorating passion and skills, so she started her own interior decorating business. She loved helping people turn their houses into their unique homes.
The business was going well until she experienced serious pain in one of her hips about 5 years ago. Decorating is a physical job. As pain increased, her ability to work decreased. She had to scale back and then stop altogether to accommodate “an aging and uncooperative body”.
Four years ago, her husband passed away. While she has lived alone now for many years, the passing of her husband made her feel lonely. Both of her children have moved far from their native New England. One lives in Washington, DC, the other in California. Here she was, at age 65, the “traditional retirement age,” a new widow and with ailments that were more serious than simple aches and pains. This was not how Clara envisioned her early retirement years.
She is concerned about her financial picture: She receives her husband’s Social Security as a surviving spouse, and noted that her Medicare premiums are taken out of that check each month. She has supplemental insurance as well, but together those insurance plans are not covering her medical needs, which are mostly physical therapy. She is limited to 15 PT sessions a year, and that is not enough to manage the pain and improve her knee and hip.
What was most interesting about Clara is that despite a series of unfortunate events, she has a most positive disposition. Yes, she’s inconvenienced. Yes, she’s frustrated. Yes, it’s difficult to get around. Yet, she fills her days with many different activities. She goes to a water aerobics class a couple of days a week. She is a trustee at her condominium. A group of friends plays cards every week, plus she’s in a book group. Travel is a hassle, but she persevered and went on a trip to Mexico with her daughter last year and is on her way to Florida with
her son this year. She can’t walk the length of the airport any longer, so she arranges for a wheelchair to make an accommodation for her physical limitations.
While she is busy, she hasn’t found her passion in retirement yet. She doesn’t want to just fill her days; she’s searching for a purpose. Clara misses some of the structure of having to get up for work every day. She hasn’t yet found what will keep her sharp and engaged. She did take one course at a local college, but the long walk to the classroom was too much in the end. Right idea, just some logistics to work out.
Sometimes, you have to be more adaptable than you thought you would. Clara didn’t have grand plans for retirement, and frankly, was worn-out after caring for her injured husband for many years. However, she didn’t expect that she would be so limited by physical constraints to do what she wanted to do. She remarked, “If only my knee worked right, my retirement would be so much better!” Going to museums and exploring other cities remains on her list. That goal keeps her motivated to improve the disagreeable knee. In the meantime, she’s filling her days with activities that interest her and she’s looking forward to her trip to Florida. And, she is keeping a positive outlook for her retirement.
For more information about how to plan for your own retirement, try filling out this worksheet: My Plans for Retirement.