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Nancy has written over 700 columns and essays on the subjects of education and parenting. You can sign up for her newsletter to get a new one delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning..

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Golden Years

Under topic: responsibility-values

A senior citizen over 65 recently wrote an article in a national magazine lamenting the fact that these were not his golden years and that growing old was not fun. He feels that any retiree over 65 who claims to be happy or even content is lying. This is sad considering the fact that this age group now makes up 13 percent of the population and is increasing in number faster than any other group. The author, Eli Rubinstein, goes on to say that the people who had the most success in their productive years are the ones who miss the joys of earlier accomplishments the most. Obviously this man did not prepare as well for his retirement. The following are some suggestions to future senior citizens to avoid the same mistake: It is important when retiring not only to retire "from" something but "to" something. Try not to let your present job take over your whole life leaving you no time for anything else. Develop other interests along the way like: golf, playing bridge, buying and selling antiques, stamp collecting, writing, gardening, education. Try not to be one-sided. The author talks about the aura of quiet resignation in his retirement community, in other words, waiting to die.

This seems like a self-centered way to live.

His community could become engaged in crusades to help others: writing letters, calling congressmen. One crusade I would like to see taken up by as many people as possible is the United Nations crusade on the Rights of the Child. They could write to the UN and find out what they can do as a group. In case anyone is interested in this cause the address is: UNICF World Summit Mobilization, 3 United Nations Plaza, New York, N. Y. 10017. Telephone: 212-326- 7522.

Try not to let your present job take over your whole life leaving you no time for anything else.

Another possibility is an Adopt-a-School program like members of industry and other groups are doing. In adopting a school each could become involved with a child, encouraging him, tutoring him, becoming his advocate.

Reaching out to others brings rewards to all and can and should be done at every age. Another idea is to change the way retirement communities are operated. Why not have retirement communities built around themes?

Choose your place according to the theme.

How about the following avocations: horticulture, animals, mystery story writing, physical fitness, dancing, antiques, acting, play writing, painting--you name it. In this way, you would interact with people who have the same interests as you and the community would provide what you need in order to continue your interest. Choose your retirement community according your individuality. If you enjoy the sea, why not retire near the ocean?

What about the mountains in Switzerland?

When I suggested retiring to a foreign country, someone feared that he would miss seeing his family. But, if it is a nice country, I suspect he would have more visitors than if he retired in New Jersey. Finally, I recommend that you make your own arrangements. Do not leave it up to someone else to decide what is best for you.

You know what is best for you.

Choosing a retirement community for you can be difficult for your relatives. It would be a kindness to relieve them of the burden especially if it means you can cater to your own interests and needs. If you are a couple choosing, remember to negotiate carefully and generously with each other so that both your needs and desires are acknowledged and satisfied. I encourage you to plan ahead. They may not be golden years, but they can and should be productive years.

First published in 1991