Pet Ownership & Retirement

pmeaReprinted from the Winter 2016 PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association.

 

 

Many of us already know the immediate joys of dog or cat ownership – how much fun, affection, and meaning they can bring into our lives. According to HelpGuide.org International, a nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization of “digital mental health pioneers,” pets also provide numerous benefits for your health and well-being, and even your longevity. Quoting from their website (http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/the-health-benefits-of-pets.htm):

doggies_ - 3“Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health.”

Studies have found that dogs improve our mood and health:

  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than adults without pets.
  • People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets
  • Playing with a dog or cat can elevate your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
  • Pets can help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease).
  • According to the American Heart Association, heart attack patients who have dogs survive longer than those without.
  • Pet caretakers over the age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

doggies_ - 5Once you reach full retirement, you may find yourself with a lot more “freedom” and time “at-home” to share with your spouse, other loved ones (babysitting grandchildren/ nieces?), friends, personal music-making, hobbies, and pets! Indeed, this may be the first chance you have to go out and rescue a dog from an animal shelter. Full-time music teachers with those incredibly packed schedules of after-school/evening marching band practices, choir, band, orchestra, jazz, musical, and/or dance rehearsals and performances, their own concert gigs, private lessons, etc. may not be able to properly care for a dog by themselves. The only reservation to bringing a new dog into your home is if you plan to take a lot of long trips in retirement. Perhaps then, you can revisit the option of animal adoption after taking several cruises, safaris, and cross-country road trips. Pets need your love and attention!

Having a dog or cat as a retiree will support many healthy lifestyle changes, such as (from HelpGuide.org):

  1. Increasing exercise
  2. Providing companionship
  3. Staying connected and meeting new people
  4. Reducing anxiety
  5. Adding structure and routine to your day
  6. Providing sensory stress relief
  7. Helping you find meaning and joy in life
  8. Boosting vitalitydoggies - 3

You need to read the entire HelpGuide.org blog-post and Harvard Health Publications for more information about dog ownership and issues dealing with heart-health, weight-loss, boosting your immune system, bipolar disorder, PTSD, Alzheimer’s patients, and children with learning disorders. They provide additional tips on choosing a pet, and the costs and commitment associated with them. Other excellent online resources include:

doggies_ - 4Several of my own experiences “learning and growing” with Brewster (a yorkie-poo) and Gracie (a bichon frise), “new children” added to my household immediately after retirement, are shared at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/what-i-have-learned-from-my-dogs-in-retirement/. Here are a few of the intangibles…  “rules for healthy living” our pets model and we realize by having them:

  1. Life is all about taking a long walk, smelling the roses (and everything else), bamboozling another treat from “daddy,” and getting your ears scratched or belly rubbed.
  2. Live enthusiastically in the “here and now.”
  3. Forgive unequivocally and immediately, and always run to greet loved ones when they come home.
  4. Whenever possible, fearlessly explore the fringe (almost beyond the reach of the leash).
  5. Relax and snuggle with someone you love as often as possible.

doggies_ - 7So fdoggies_ - 8or what are you waiting? Go out and find a dog or cat to rescue… or at least pet one! You’ll be glad you did!

PKF

 

© 2015, 2016 and 2017 Paul K. Fox

renew-your-membership2

This article is a complimentary re-issue to motivate retired music educators to join PMEA – their professional association. For more information, please go to the PMEA website http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/ and read the blog-post “PMEA in Retirement – What’s in it for Me?”

Post-Employment Prep – New Places to Go

Follow the Wonderful “Gold Brick Road” to More Retirement Resources

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This blog-site will continuously explore new/better research on and suggestions for a happy, healthy, and meaningful transition to retirement. This month, it seems we hit the mother-lobe of recent discoveries for this journey… four more for the road! (To catch-up reading all the blogs for retirees, click on the category link “Retirement Resources” at the right.)

Jean Potuchek

Probably one of the most insightful and expansive treasures of online articles on retirement is Stepping Into the Future – A Retirement Journal by Jean Potuchek, who defines herself as “a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching.” She succinctly states her purpose: “This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.”

enjoying-retirement-1358850-1Take a deep breath, find an easy chair, ignore your cell phone’s texts/calls, and plunge into her full website: https://stepintofuture.wordpress.com/category/retirement-transition/. Or, if you prefer, set aside 30 minutes and read a few of her individual posts (below). I have just begun to “crack this nut” – her blog-site is more extensive than anything else I have found!

choir-1438273As a music educator, this last title peaked my interest. We urge every retiree to revisit their creativity roots and seek renewed opportunities to enjoy music as a lifelong pursuit. (We have already posted reprints of several of my articles on this subject from PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, including Sing Your Heart Out, Now and in Retirement and It’s Time to “Dust off Your Chops” (join a community band/orchestra).

Potuchek relates her rationale for a quest in more spontaneity in her retired life and participating in a “creative aging singing workshop” sponsored by the Portland Public Library:

I am never going to be a totally spontaneous free spirit; it’s just not in my character. I like structure, and I don’t see myself giving up scheduling as a way to structure my days and weeks. But as I get weekly practice in spontaneity, I am learning to loosen up and be more flexible with my schedules. My first spontaneous jump into a new activity has brought the joys of choral singing back into my life, introduced me to some new friends, and helped me to recover long-forgotten skills (like reading music). Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? For this old dog, retirement is proving to be a time of growth and learning. – Jean Potuchek

Top 55 Retirement Planning Websites

the-end-of-the-road-1207268-1Generally, I am not much in favor of perusing commercial websites on planning for retirement, especially those by investment counselors, but Ernie Zelinski (author of bestsellers like How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free) sent me this link: http://goldretiree.com/retirement-planning. Zelinski’s own “Retirement Cafe” (http://www.retirement-cafe.com/) is the second website listed, and seems to archive the foundations of much of his subsequent writings. Here is his “10 Dumbest Retirement Moves.”

  1. Purchasing a larger home than you need or than you can afford
  2. Watching a lot of TV — more than an hour and a half a day is excessive!
  3. Gambling
  4. Spending a lot of time shopping
  5. Complaining about life
  6. Being afraid to spend the kid’s inheritance
  7. Being a miser with your money
  8. Planning to work forever — something NOT advocated in The World’s Best Retirement Book.
  9. Neglecting your health by not indulging in vigorous physical exercise every day
  10. Not making new friendships and neglecting old friends

If you are concerned about your personal finances, investment, life styles, travel, or other issues in planning for your “golden years,” goldretiree.com may be valuable. Besides Zelinski’s site, I was taken with the following writers:

aarpThe final entry at goldretiree.com, AARP is worth mentioning here (http://www.aarp.org/). I was one of those 40-something spouses who automatically became a member when his wife turned 50 and she joined; I was neither ready nor expecting it. However, the AARP magazine and online materials are excellent, and span topics about travel, health care and coping with aging, finance, dining and cooking, etc. plus special discounts and benefits.

If you like, the entire listing of retirement websites is provided at this link: GoldRetiree.com

Stephen Price

In my last blog-post on retirement, “Three Exit Lanes to Retirement Self-Helhowtosurviveretirement_pricep Guides,” I briefly mentioned Stephen Price’s book “How to Survive Retirement: Reinventing Yourself for the Life You’ve Always Wanted.” No one resource has everything… but this book comes closest to covering the greatest variety of subjects, exploring such possibly mundane (?) topics of financial planning, making your home elder-friendly, and social security information, to riding the up-and-down emotions of “change” and retirement. The book’s table of contents is eclectic:

  1. Entering Retirement
  2. Discovering the New You
  3. The New Realities of Money
  4. Making a Move: Post-Retirement Relocating
  5. Do Unto Others: Opportunities to Volunteer
  6. Travel
  7. Encore Employment, or Returning to Work
  8. Planning for a Healthy Retirement

Volunteer Gardener

Of special merit, Price shares 14 pages of ideas on volunteering, with a gang of valuable websites on which to follow-up… everything from animal shelters, museums, zoos, aquariums, and conservation groups to business mentoring, foster grand-parenting, senior companions, and child advocates.

The last full chapter, written by Laurence Burd, MD, starts with a quote by the late PA Senator Arlen Specter: “There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset,” and dives into the effects of aging and how to maintain good health throughout “our maturing years” (or second childhood?).  I have never seen a manual for retirees that goes into such detail on these issues:

  • Decline of Organ Performance and Function
  • Wrinkles and Dry Skin
  • Gray Hair
  • Balding
  • Hearing Loss
  • Decreased Vision
  • Dental Problems
  • Skeletal System
  • Cardiovascular System
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)medicine-1419753
  • Swelling of Ankles and Feet
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Urination Irregularities
  • Decreased Sex Drive
  • Memory Loss
  • Help, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and Anxiety

This is definitely a book worth buying, reading, and keeping!

Although a life of ease may have been your dream, retirement brings with it a host of questions, problems, and responsibilities that never occurred to you and may now seem insurmountable. How to Survive Retirement will help you plan for most any eventuality during the golden years. – Steven Price/back cover

Finally… The Ultimate Resource Guide/Bibliography

I tried to revise, assemble, and share in one place all of the retirement resources I have found. Click on this link to download the ultimate retiree resource guide 072216. You do not have to be a former music educator to use this reference list to gain a perspective on research and assistance to preparing and managing the life-changing adventure of retirement.

This document is my present to you. It cannot get much more comprehensive or convenient to find/use this collection of “sound advice” from advisors who themselves have successfully found happiness, good health, and real purpose in retirement life.

pmeaUpdates to my presentation “Surviving and Reveling in Retirement” for the PMEA Summer 2016 Conference are posted on the PMEA retired members website:  http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/. If you are music teacher retiree and taught or live in the state of Pennsylvania, we recommend joining PMEA to enjoy the numerous benefits of networking with fellow colleagues, reading publications, supporting music advocacy efforts, realizing ongoing professional and leadership development, and other programs. One advantage of being “senior citizens” is that our dues and conference registration fees are significantly reduced! For more information, please go to the PMEA website: http://www.pmea.net/membership-information/.

retirement-life-1385597-1

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

An Engaged Mind Makes for a Happy Retiree

Boost Your Health and Outlook on Life with Brain Stimulating Activities!

shiny-brain-1150907-1

Have you fed your brain today? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, retired or not! How do you maximize your brain health and have fun doing it?

Intentionally Energize Your Mind

According to Dr. Angela K. Troyer in her August 2014 Psychology Today blog , “One great way is to find leisure activities that challenge and engage you, and to participate in them often.”

Dr. Troyer says the research is clear. “In recent years, there has been accumulating evidence that participating in activities that make you think hard and learn new things is good for your brain health. People with such active, engaged lifestyles tend to do better on memory and other cognitive tests than people who are less engaged. Even more encouraging is research showing these same individuals are less likely to develop dementia – such as Alzheimer’s disease – than those with less active lifestyles.”

She summarizes her top 6 ways to engage your brain with advice for new and challenging learning. She concludes, “It’s important to pick something that makes you think a bit.”

  1. Nurture your inner artist. You have heard me rant about this before. Music educators, go back to your “creativity roots” which inspired you to enter into this profession and “make your own music.”
  2. dancers-in-white-1440514Take up a new hobby. Now that you have the time, go exploring… and the skies the limit! But don’t forget, anything worth doing “engages the mind!”
  3. Explore cultural activities. Near or far, this is a no-brainer! We are talking about the very things we love and have experienced most of our lives: the symphony, ballet, theater, opera, museums, etc.
  4. Do old activities in new ways. How creative are you? Dr. Troyer asks, “If you already have some favorite activities, think about how you could ‘shake them up’ and make them into novel, challenging activities.”
  5. Learn something new, just for the fun of it. How courageous are you? What are you waiting for? You should have an extensive to-do list of things to try for the first time.
  6. Take the ultimate “formal learning” challenge. Enroll in a course at the local community college, community center, or library, or sign-up to volunteer in a new organization doing something you have never done before.

Read Dr. Troyer’s full article at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201408/6-ways-engage-your-brain.

curious-cat-cutout-1405973Curiosity does not kill the cat… or the retired person either!

Do you know the differences among IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional quotient), and CQ (curiosity quotient)?

Citing issues of solving the complexity of life (ever try to set-up a new printer?), the article “Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence” of The Harvard Business Review (see https://hbr.org/2014/08/curiosity-is-as-important-as-intelligence/), touches on the value of the curiosity quotient. “CQ… concerns having a hungry mind. People with higher CQ are more inquisitive and open to new experiences. They find novelty exciting and are quickly bored with routine. They tend to generate many original ideas…”

Author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic makes two important conclusions.

  1. Knowledge and expertise (like experience) translate complex situations into familiar ones, so CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems.
  2. Although IQ is hard to coach, EQ and CQ can be developed. As Albert Einstein famously said: ““I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Although we no longer have to spend our lives at school solving “complex problems” and motivating students to study and appreciate music, being passionately curious is exactly what all retirees should strive to be and do every day!

How do retirees face the tumultuous passage of leaving full-time employment?

heart-in-your-hands-1311548.jpgIf you have not read a previous blog of mine, “Advice from Music Teacher Retirees to Soon-To-Be Retirees,” check out the reprinted version on the Edutopia website: http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/advice-music-teacher-retirees-soon-be-retirees. The act of retirement is a very stressful transition, and what would be worse is sitting around mindlessly watching television or allowing your brain to “atrophy!” In the article, I refer to Dr. Amit Sood’s writings, author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living: “This a time of enormous change. You are leaving your job and friendships with colleagues and finding new things to do.” He recommends, “Find meaning in new passions, including possibly using your work skills in a new job or volunteer work.”

My own ideas on stimulating our brains have more to do with a journey into the unknown… to steal a quote from Star Trek, “to boldly go where no one has gone before!” If you have not experienced any of these, take a gander. However, you should customize (and frequently revise) your own unique list.

One retiree’s bucket list of “brainy engagements!” Not enough hours in the day…

  1. face-questions-1567164Just like a rehearsal – start off with a mind warm-up! Go to the website https://curiosity.com/. You will be amazed to read topics from the sublime to the ridiculous – examples like “Cats and Dogs Drink Very Differently” to “How Does Memory Work in Your Brain.”
  2. Have you perused the awesome coursework and lectures in iTunes University? Download the app to your smartphone… it’s free and you won’t be sorry!
  3. You need to visit the “Best of Bonk” website about creativity and critical thinking in education, hosted by a modern-day genius Dr. Curtis J. Bonk from the Indiana University of Bloomington: http://www.indiana.edu/~bobweb/cv_hand.html. Almost makes you wish you were still teaching?  
  4. Also, don’t forget to sample the inexhaustible iTunes library of free video and audio podcasts on nearly every subject in the world.
  5. In a thousand years, one could never consume all of the material available from Ted (the famous “Ted Talks” either online at http://www.ted.com/ or the TED Radio Hour hosted by Guy Raz) and YouTube.
  6. computer-monitor-tablet-and-mobile-1241520Leo the Tech Guy program and site at www.twit.tv and www.tech guylabs.com offer an extensive archive of broadcasts solving problems and recommending purchases of computers, software/apps, smartphones, cameras, home theater, and other devices.
  7. Here are a few more “very educational” and “mind nourishing” websites and television channels, many with online versions of full length episodes and videos: The Discovery Channel http://www.discovery.com/, National Geographic Channel http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/, The History Channel http://www.history.com – to name a few.
  8. Believe it or not, there are many free brain-games websites, such as http://www.games.com/brain-games and http://www.brainbashers.com/. I cannot vouch for their educational value, but word games, Sudoku, and logic puzzles can be… stimulating.
  9. If you miss being a teacher and creating tests (did we ever enjoy assessments?), there is a even website for taking and sharing quizzes: http://www.quibblo.com/.
  10. chess-world-1415252Finally, hobbyist websites are a wonderful resource. Examples: photography Flickr,  Shutterbug, and Tips from the Top Floor; family history research programs www.ancestry.com, www.familylink.com, and https://www.myheritage.com/; sewing http://www.sewingsupport.com/general-sources/sewing-websites.html;  woodworking http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/highland-woodworking-links-woodworking.aspx and http://www.woodworkers-online.com/p/top-100-woodworking-sites.html; gardening http://www.gardenguides.com/ and http://www.garden.org/; cooking http://www.epicurious.com/, http://www.bestcookingsites.com/, and http://online-recipe-websites.no1reviews.com/cooking-websites.html.

Blogs are all about sharing ideas. Comments to this site are welcome! You are invited to “join in the fun” and submit your own “engaging mind” resources!

Make it a point in your life to discover something new every day. Happiness and good mark-learns-to-row-1468576health is all about nurturing our skills/talents, exploring new pathways, facing new challenges, engaging our minds, and enjoying the “good life” after full-time employment. Nothing is stopping you from starting a new career, learning a new language, writing a book (or reading everything you always wanted to at the library), learning (better) how to act/dance/sing/play a new instrument, taking a trip to a new country (or city in the US) or journey to your backyard with a camera, and modeling the essence of the Robert Frost message, “I took the road less traveled by…. and, that has made all the difference.”

Additional Resources:

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox