Unconditional Love (Dogs!)

Pets + Retirees… They Go Together!

dog-2729805_1280_gdjHappy Valentine’s Day to all of my readers. I could not think of a better way to “celebrate” our appreciation of “heart-day” with reflections on what our pets bring us… adulation, affection, attachment, companionship, devotion, enjoyment, good will, involvement, passion, stimulation, tenderness, understanding…

“The power of love!” They say that all you have to do is look at the face of a sleeping baby, or cuddle up next to a puppy or kitten, and it will slow down your respiration rate, lower your blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, and increase in your body the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurochemicals that play big roles in the promoting feelings of calm and well-being.

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From personal experience, having two of the most adorable and loving dogs… If you’re contemplating retirement and you have never owned a pet, let me be the first to tell you:

“Pets can change your life.”

I invite you to peruse several other blogs I’ve written on this subject:

If you are almost ready to retire, or you’re going through your first couple years of your post-employment “internship,” there’s a good chance that psychologically it would be good for you to “get out of Dodge” as you adjust to your new status. This might be a good time for you to take a cruise, tour Europe, go ice fishing up north, or plan a long road trip out west. Pack up everything and takeoff. Celebrate all those years that you put your nose to the grind stone.

But eventually, you’re may want to come back “to nest,” and “taste” a little transitioning into things that seem to go well together, e.g. small doses of (human) babysitting and grandparent/child interaction and/or rescuing a pet. Becoming a homebody may also suggest the consideration of planning small or large renovation projects: fix up your garden or backyard, design your ideal kitchen, remodel the bathrooms, do a garage remake, downsize and de-clutter, etc. After the first several years of simply resting and exploring the options of your self-reinvention, now might be the perfect moment to add a furry friend to your family!

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Why get a pet?

Goodnet (“Gateway to Doing Good”) summarizes nine reasons you should adopt a pet:

  1. Pets have their perks when it comes to your health. (More on that later.)
  2. A pet will love you unconditionally. (Thus the title of this blog!)
  3. Adopting a pet is easy on your wallet. (Pet rescue from a shelter is less expensive.)
  4. Adopting a pet means saving a life. (2.7 million animals are euthanized per year.)
  5. By adopting a pet, you’re giving an animal a second chance. (Another go at life!)
  6. Pets keep you active. (Dog walking provides owner aerobic exercise.)
  7. Pets bring joy and fulfillment. (Pet care enhances a sense of purpose for retirees.)
  8. dog-3243734_1920_kandykandooPets boost your social life. (Research indicates pets decrease social isolation.)
  9. Besides, how could you possibly resist this face?

 

Medical benefits including psychological health

There’s an avalanche of online research that backs up claims that pet ownership is actually “good for you!”

Pet owners know how much their furry friend improves their quality of life. But it’s not all about unconditional love—although that actually provides a wellness boost, too. On an emotional level, owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety; health-wise, it can lower your blood pressure, improve your immunity, and even decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.

— Alexandra Gekas

 

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Here are my “top dozen” reasons and resources to peruse:

  1. Having a pet decreases stress: Promises Treatment Centers
  2. Caring for a pet lowers your blood pressure: WebMD
  3. Owning a dog reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels: Harvard
  4. Pets keep you fit and active: Gerontologist
  5. Daily dog walking helps you to lose weight: Healthy People
  6. Owning a dog can help detect, treat, and manage disease and injuries: HuffPost
  7. Pet therapy eases pain management and reduces anxiety: Loyola University
  8. Pets may reduce doctor’s visits: American Psychological Association PsycNet
  9. Having a dog may make you (at least feel) safer: LifeHack
  10. Pets help you build friendships and find social support: Harvard
  11. Dog owners are less prone to depression: GrandParents.com
  12. Pet ownership adds meaning and purpose: BestFriends

 

Believe it or not, pets can be the best medicine, especially when a person is dealing with chronic pain such as migraines or arthritis. Just like Valium, it reduces anxiety. The less anxiety, the less pain…

People who have pets are less harried; there’s more laughter in their life. When you come home, it’s like you’re George Clooney. You’re a star. This is a primary reason pets are used in various forms of therapy.

If you have a dog around, your blood pressure is lower. A lot of it goes back to reducing stress: You might lose your job, your house, your 401(k)—but you’ll never lose the unconditional love of your pet.

— Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, veterinary consultant for Good Morning America and author of the book Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual.

 

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Increasing your regular habits of exercise

The experts say that physical activity promotes flexibility, muscle strength, stamina, and balance, and helps us to remain mobile into our 70s and 80s. Caring for a pet may help! For example, studies from the National Center for Biotechnology of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (like this one) indicate that older adults who walked dogs with frequent moderate to vigorous exercise are associated with lower body mass index and faced fewer limitations to their daily living activities.

Having trouble sticking to an exercise program? Research shows that dogs are actually Nature’s perfect personal trainers—loyal, hardworking, energetic and enthusiastic. And, unlike your friends, who may skip an exercise session because of appointments, extra chores or bad weather, dogs never give you an excuse to forego exercising.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that only 16 percent of Americans ages 15 and older exercised at all on an average day! This is where your canine personal trainer can help.

—Dawn Marcus

walking-2797219_1280_mohamed_hassanHow much exercise is enough? Well, according to the World Health Organization, the “best practices” of a good health and wellness program includes:

  • 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily for children 5 to 17 years old
  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week for adults 18 to 65 years old, plus strengthening exercises two days per week
  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week, with modifications as needed in seniors over 65 years old, plus flexibility and balance exercises.

The good news? From Bark, “Researchers at the University of Western Australia found that seven in every 10 adult dog owners achieved 150 minutes of physical exercise per week, compared with only four in every 10 non-owners.” We already know that grabbing that leash, whistling for the pup, going for a brisk walk, and getting out to see what’s going on in your neighborhood, may help to reduce stress, depression, lethargy, the risks of obesity, and many other medical problems.

 

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The all-essential quest for “mattering” and “feeling needed”

In the past blog “Retiree Concepts,” I mentioned the book, Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose by Nancy Schlossberg (definitely an excellent buy), and reviewed the issues of “marginality” (bad) and “mattering” (good). The essential question is worth repeating here: “Do you feel “needed” and that you “make a difference” to others?”

Caring for a pet does a great job of fulfilling our need to find in our retired lives the “purpose, community, and structure” referred to Ernie Zelinski in his book, How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free.

As we grow older—especially after we retire—it can be difficult to find structure and meaning day in and day out. Dogs take care of that.

— Kristen Sturt

They force people to continue to do things. So, even if you’re not feeling well emotionally or physically, the dog doesn’t care. I mean, they care, but they still want you to feed them and take them for a walk.”

— Kristi Littrell, Adoption Manager at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah

At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, they’re using dogs to help soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re finding the guys who have a pet are able to re-enter society a little bit easier. They’re showing a decreased suicide rate, one of the biggest health threats [veterans] face. These guys who have a pet have someone they’re responsible for, someone who cares about them. And they don’t have to explain what they’ve been through.

— Dr. Katy Nelson, associate emergency veterinarian at the VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia

 

It’s not only about the tangibles – physical, medical, mental

It’s simple… every day, my pooches make me feel good!

Oh, we have all witnessed the “life-changing power of pets” (Psychology Today) and the tremendous social bond partnering a dog (or cat) with a human. We agree, “Pet owners have big hearts and bestow good feelings on both animals and people. Having a pet does not replace a human social network, but rather enhances and enlarges it. Cats, dogs, birds—and pets of all species, shapes, and sizes—bring wellness.”

our two pups 051216 - 1On personal observation, I can attest that walking my dogs in the neighborhood can be one of the most contemplative (almost meditative) experiences of the day. I commune with nature, let my imagination wander (dream “wide-awake”), notice things I have never before stopped to see, hear, or smell, and reflect on my life goals. I find the “pause” in my daily routine (or should I say “paws”) makes me feel refreshed, thoughtful, more calm, tolerant, and patient while at the same time more alert and focused, and always leaves me in a better mood.

Dr. John V. DiAscenzo, my talented friend and PMEA music education colleague with great background in research, would now demand of me, “Show me the specific studies that support your claim that walking dogs make people feel happy!” Got it! I found numerous references, including this article from the National Institutes of Health.

 

You can’t buy this kind of shared love… a snapshot

  • No matter how good or bad my day is, the moment of my return to home, stepping into “puppy heaven,” Gracie and Brewster rushing up in full gallop to lick (kiss) and welcome me, jumping up as if to say, “Oh, we’re so glad he’s back!”
  • The vigorous wagging of her tail and the “happy dance” Gracie does when I reach for her favorite bone
  • The “nesting” impulse of Brewster as he paws his towel on top of our bed, just before he curls up in a small ball, leaning into the small of my back (giving me great lumbar support) and falling asleep
  • Gracie pushing Brewster out of the way when jockeying position to receive pats on the head from a visitor
  • canine club 2Expert cuddlier Brewster flipping on his back so you rub his tummy, and when you are distracted, gently pawing at you begging you not to stop
  • Gracie’s “happy barks” and squeals of excitement when mommy brings in the supper dish
  • Gracie jumping up onto the extra desk chair to watch daddy type on his computer (we even had to buy her own chair)
  • Brewster winning a contest for the most puppy-pushups (up/sit/down) in dog (people) training classes
  • Having totally original “dog-o-nalities” and never failing to amaze me every day, being awakened by them at 6 a.m.
  • But, after going out, all three of us climbing into the La-Z-Boy® combo recliners and falling back to sleep, Gracie between my legs with her chin on my ankle, and Brewster on my left shoulder like a violin shoulder pad

 

Lowering the numbers of neglected pets in overcrowded sanctuaries

Finally, although perhaps not the most significant rationale for a retiree to go rescue a pet, these are estimated animal shelter statistics from the ASPCA and the American Pet Products Association (source):

  • Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).
  • pit-bull-2047469_1920_rescuewarriorApproximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).
  • About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats.
  • It’s estimated that 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 44% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 35% have a cat.
  • According to the APPA, these are the most common sources from which primary methods cats and dogs are obtained as pets:

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LiveScience posted “A Blueprint for Ending the Euthanasia of Healthy Animals.”

Do you have Kleenex handy? Read “10 Shelter Stories That Will Make you Smile.”

Simply put, if you have it in you to consider pet adoption, your action will probably save the life of a sheltered animal and give it (and you) a second chance!

 

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Additional resources

Do you need more research? Be sure to visit the final link in the bulleted list below, which also has an exhaustive bibliography worth viewing.

 

CODA: The “‘last words” as a recap and a final website for you to check out:

Studies have shown that owning a pet can be physically and mentally beneficial for people of all ages. In the case of senior citizens, just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke.

— Seniors and Pets

But, you knew all about this, right? So, what are you waiting for?

For me, I gotta go… and take Gracie and Brewster out for another walk!

Have a Happy PET Valentine’s Day!

PKF

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© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

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Besides the numerous pictures of Gracie and Brewster, photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “puppies” by kko699, “dog” by GDJ, “people” by Herney, “animals” by Gellinger, “dog” by kandykandoo, “dog” by maja7777, “walking” by mohamed_hassan, “dog” by haidi2002, “pit-bull” by RescueWarrior, “dog” by groesswang, “kitten” by creades, “pretty-girl” by TerriC, and “dog” by Leunert,

 

 

Resolutions for Retirees

[Portions reprinted from the PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS, January 3, 2019]

 

Twas the morning after Christmas, and all through the house.

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to make a New Year’s Resolution?

 

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Many do believe that ushering in the New Year is all about pursuing new directions, a sort of “rebirth,” analyzing and revising our personal goals/visions, and making promises for self-improvements… perhaps a little like the personal renaissance of retirement.

However, it is likely that after all the festive celebrations and squarely facing the first several weeks in January, if you had made New Year’s resolutions, you may have forgotten them or fell short of even starting your 2019 aspirations. My new approach is to examine and expand on what I was planning to do anyway… not to propose lofty ambitions like losing 30 pounds or exercising an hour a day (both not likely to ever happen, no matter my best intentions). What I have learned about setting personal goals (and I taught these concepts during student leadership training sessions) is that you need to “keep them simple,” “write them down,” “make them measurable,” “revisit and revise your plans often” and “publish or announce them” somehow. Tell your spouse, “This is what I am going to accomplish in the New Year.” A great place to post your “promises” for everyone to see is where you get up in the morning… perhaps on or near your bedroom or bathroom mirror.

The last time I wrote an article about New Year’s resolutions for retirees was back in December 2015. You can see it here (also printed in a Retired Member Network eNEWS): https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/12/22/random-acts-and-other-resolutions/

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Well, I suppose I better sketch out a “new plan!” Let’s see if any of these “strike a chord” with you… possible your own considerations for 2019? (I admit this is a little self-serving like the Peanuts cartoon character Lucy van Pelt dictating New Year’s resolutions for Charlie Brown. Well, as they say, if the shoe fits…)

  1. Read at least one new book each month.
  2. Take time for regular physical exercise.
  3. “Keep around young people and you will stay forever young!”
  4. Enjoy travel and “see the world,” and go on trips while the kids you used to teach are still in school.
  5. Do something creative every day: make/create music, art, dance, drama, photography, writing, etc.
  6. Complete one new “random act of kindness” every week (but don’t call attention or take any credit for it!).
  7. Continue to be an advocate for music education.* (see last link below)

The American Psychological Association at https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resolution.aspx recommends these tips on “making your New Year’s resolution stick.”

  1. Start small.
  2. Change one behavior at a time.
  3. Talk about it.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up.
  5. Ask for support.

The online Self magazine has even more suggestions: https://www.self.com/story/new-year-resolution-handbook.

Some even say, skip the formal process of adopting a New Year’s resolution altogether: https://www.rd.com/advice/quitting-new-years-resolutions/ or https://www.pocketmindfulness.com/why-you-shouldnt-set-new-years-resolution/ or https://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/new-years-resolutions-dont-work-heres-why.html.

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Here are additional links to “inspire” your own “pursuit of self-reinvention,” that is, if you decide you are willing to truly commit the time and energy for a “growth-spurring” exercise. My apologies for the multiple references to the term “seniors” below. I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider myself a senior until I hit a hundred years old!

The final bullet above is from Mike Blakeslee, our NAfME CEO/Executive Director. Even though most of us now have “less contact” with music students, his message is still timely and relevant. Many retired music teachers are still involved in supervising student teachers, conducting youth ensembles, performing in church or community groups, coaching sports, voice or instrumental sections, or teaching private lessons… so be an advocate and active supporter (leading by example) to help achieve diversity and inclusion in the profession… bringing quality music education for all!

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Best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous, meaningful, and musical New Year!

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “start-line” by mohamed_hassa, “hate” by cabrasjoan, “new-years-eve” by Gellinger, “idea” by geralt, and “doors” by qimono.

Retiring “Against Your Will”

Were you forced to leave before you were ready?

More than two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a piece, “Downsized and Out…” but since I still hear many teachers and administrators alike lamenting the fact that they either felt “pushed out” or they retired too early even though they had a lot more to offer to the profession, it seemed like a little “rehash” was in order. Sorry for any excessive repetition! Hope this helps anyone facing these common yet hard-to-cope “downers!” PKF

 

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This issue is a lot more complicated than at a first glance. There are so many stories…

“I hate retirement…”

“I am so bored! I don’t know what do with myself.”

“Why would anyone want to leave education and lose their chance of working daily with children?”

“I found something I like doing – teaching – and now, at the age of 60, I’m tired of everything.”

“I wasn’t expecting to leave teaching. I feel I have so much more to give.”

At the peak of your career, you may be asked to consider early retirement, assume an unwanted job re-assignment, or choose to “bite the bullet” because of medical issues, changes in family status, or the sudden “piling on” of new (and sometimes scary) responsibilities for care-giving of an elderly relative or grandchildren. Fear of the unknown might creep into your decision. Perhaps the labor negotiations of your teachers’ contract are not going well, or you hear rumors of the likelihood of losing benefits as a result budgetary cutbacks. You could also be facing serious downsizing of the music program, declining enrollment, or pending music staff furloughs.

 

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“The Good,” “The Very Good,” and “The Ugly!”

First, to gain a little perspective on this topic, I often share at my workshop sessions these three types of music teacher retirees. Which one best predicts/defines your future?

  • Good: People who do not see themselves as retired, just leaving a full-time job of public school music teaching, and moving on to new goals, employment, and/or volunteer work.
  • Very Good: People who know they are retired, and although relieved from the stress of day-to-day employment, now feel ready to complete new “bucket lists,” spend more time with family, travel, and hobbies, and perhaps even explore several new areas/levels/skills in music and education.
  • Ugly: People who know they are retired, are happy to leave the profession, and want nothing to do with any part of music or music education, including their state’s professional music education association or NAfME. Basically, the not-subtle message is, “Leave me alone!”

 

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Some Causes of Teacher Burnout and Early Retirement

Fifty-five percent of U.S. teachers report their morale was low and declining.

National Union of Teachers, 2013

I like Keely Swartzer’s summary in the Learner’s Edge article, “The Causes of Teacher Burnout: What Everyone Should Know,” listing these stressors:

  • An extreme number of responsibilities above and beyond instruction
  • A lack of administrative support
  • An over-emphasis on standardized testing
  • Evaluation of teachers based on standardized testing scores
  • Increasingly difficult student behavior with increases in frequency and severity
  • Home lives of children that teachers cannot control
  • A lack of personnel/proper staffing
  • Forcing teachers to teach outside of area of expertise
  • Inadequate prep time
  • Extreme amounts of paperwork
  • A lack of respect for the profession
  • Challenging interactions with parents
  • A lack of resources
  • A lack of training for new initiatives and technology

I am a huge proponent of solutions-based thinking and building resilience in educators. That being said, I am well aware of the need to know and understand the causes of this growing problem. By having this information, we can keep an eye out and develop strategies to decrease or reverse teacher burnout and increase teacher resilience.

– Keely Swartzer

Other sources to read about teacher resignations due to feeling “burned out” or unappreciated:

Of course, depending on your public school employees retirement system, some states offer full retirement benefits to teachers with 30 years of service, regardless of age, or other early-bird programs. Often, this is motivated by the move to save money for the districts (more years of experience = higher salaries). These special “windows” for early retirements may exacerbate the problem of coming national teaching shortages… and, of course, allow the decline of keeping our most proficient/experienced “education experts” where they belong…  in the classroom!

Here are several online links for further study on the factors influencing teacher supply, demand, and equity, including statistics from your geographical region:

 

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Two Retirement Scenarios – This Could Be You?

Due to the sudden change in employment status, no longer satisfying your “life’s calling,” losing the feeling of being purposeful in a job, or missing the connections or “mattering” in the interactions with other colleagues, you cannot understand why you now feel left out, bored, unappreciated, discouraged, uninspired, or even angry?  Perhaps in an attempt to model this phenomenon and providing a little real-life clarity, I will share two first-hand accounts of educators who, although they happily decided to retire, were “forced out” of the other things that they truly loved before they were ready to leave the profession entirely.

Several years ago, a local colleague retired from full-time music teaching, but wanted to continue serving as the assistant marching band director, a position she enjoyed for nearly 30 years. Unfortunately, this was during a very negative political climate in the community where she taught. A member on the school board was trying to de-hire the HS band director, making his job as difficult as possible (including not supporting his extra-curricular staffing requests). This resulted in the retired professional’s name being removed from the school board agenda at the last minute, and eliminating her chance for re-assignment, unless she filed a grievance with the teacher’s union or fought it with an age-discrimination lawsuit. She did neither… and was just left with the emotions of bitterness and being “depreciated.”

Another narrative…

Enjoying the status of “the unofficial mayor” of a local school community, and having the chance to continue serving as a cheerleader in support of the students’ after-school activities while photographing and writing articles for press releases and district publications, one music teacher was looking forward to his post-employment niche as the superintendent’s PR assistant. For several years, his free time allowed him to attend numerous award ceremonies, art shows, drama productions, concerts, sports meets, etc. and to showcase the talents and accomplishments of the children in the media. However, the retirement of a central office secretary granted administration the opportunity to re-align the staff and hire a full-time communications director, a vastly more qualified full-time employee that instantly assumed all of the responsibilities formerly held by the music teacher retiree. The worst part, the superintendent himself never told the retired staff member of the change (nor did he even personally thank him for his 25+ years working in school publicity); he had to hear of his “firing” or job elimination from the superintendent’s secretary. “No, you will not have to take the photos of the National Honor Society members next week. From now on, all PR jobs will be handled by the new staffer.” In other words, “Please don’t go away mad, just go away?”

According to the now “phased out” teacher, it felt like being stabbed in the back.

 

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Unhappy Pathways… Scenarios of “Downsized and Out!”

These are among the many “stories” of involuntary retirements…

  • Music and/or staff are eliminated from the curriculum or building in which you teach.
  • You feel unappreciated, unsupported, devalued, or ignored as a professional.
  • You are exhausted and no longer want to continue solving the same problems over and over again.
  • You conclude you must retire early to avoid losing existing contractual benefits (special bonuses, reimbursement for sick days, medical coverage, etc.).
  • The new head coach of the sport (or club or activity) on which you have assisted for many years fires you to bring in his “cronies.”
  • While agreeing to voluntarily retire from the full-time “day” job, you hope to continue serving in the capacity as assistant director (marching band, musical, etc.), club sponsor, or some other after-school position, but you are not considered for the re-assignment nor invited to return. In spite of the many years of loyal service to the school and community, you are told “your services are no longer required.”

Believe-it-or-not, if for any reason you feel “kicked to the curb,” you could be susceptible to PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You should look up the symptoms of PTSD, characteristics that can also mimic the stages of grief for losing a loved one or being fired from a job.

Anytime you compel someone to choose a pathway outside their own heartfelt core beliefs, values or goals, you add stress. Whether or not this rises to the level of true PTSD is very individual and up to a person’s mental make-up, maturity, emotional resilience, and/or personal crisis management “chops.”

 

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Definitions of PTSD… What It Feels Like

The textbook definition of PTSD is “a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.”

For the most extreme cases, PTSD depression is palpable and may even be paralyzing (according to https://mindyourmind.ca/expression/blog/what-does-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-feel):

  • It’s never ever feeling safe.
  • It’s never taking a full breath of air in your lungs.
  • It’s being afraid to close your eyes.
  • It’s having your gut instincts scream at you to RUN every time someone looks at you.
  • It’s spending most of your time alone because you are terrified of other human beings, sometimes even your friends.
  • It’s feeling flawed, bad, marked, stained.
  • It’s like being in prison.

The worst part? Most people cannot self-diagnose PTSD. Your spouse or other family members may be in a better position to advise you. A few hints? If you are suddenly having trouble sleeping, difficulty with relationships, or find yourself feeling significantly depressed or lethargic for a long period of time, visit your health care professional.

 

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The Five Stages of Grief

It is appropriate to repeat that PTSD may bring on the same “stages of loss and grief” as a divorce or the death of a family member:

  1. Denial (disbelief, numbness, shock)
  2. Bargaining (preoccupation with “what could have been,” guilt, remorse)
  3. Depression (sadness, loneliness, emptiness, isolation, self-pity)
  4. Anger (feelings of helplessness, abandonment)
  5. Acceptance (emotional resolution, healing)

However, perhaps your feelings do not rise to the level of PTSD. (We hope not!) The normal “ups and downs” of this life-changing event is eliciting your mood swings. It is clear that the psychological process of retirement follows a pattern similar in nature to the emotional phases accompanying other phases of life. Surely you have read about the research-based stages of retirement, according to most gerontologists, that are a normal “bumpy journey” for everyone transitioning into their “golden years.”

 

The Six Phases of Retirement

  1. Pre-Retirement: Planning Time
  2. The Big Day: Smiles, Handshakes, Farewells
  3. Honeymoon Phase: I’m Free!
  4. Disenchantment: So This Is It?
  5. Reorientation: Building a New Identity
  6. Routine: Moving On

(Source: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/07/sixstages.asp)

Take particular notice of #4 above.

emotions Dr. Yvette Guerrero

So are the normal cycles of emotions often associated with the “passage to retirement,” according to Psychologist Dr. Yvette M. Guerrero, University of California: “Compelling and challenging, the retirement process involves transitioning to a new identity. This process can become self-empowering and lead to creative ways to self-reinvent and thrive.”

Why is this transformation so difficult?

Change: The mere mention of this word may cause some to feel uneasy. We often find ourselves resisting change, perhaps because of the perceived risk or fear associated with it. Behavioral change is rarely a discrete or single event; however, we tend to view it in such a way. More often than not, behavioral change occurs gradually, over time.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201608/why-is-change-so-hard

 

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Steps to Take to Alleviate the Stress of Losing Your Job

Besides visiting the links within this blog-post and “talking it out” with your loved ones, seek medical advice if your depression is severe and you feel your emotions are disrupting your life and happiness. There’s “nothing ventured, nothing gained” if you are not really experiencing PTSD nor something that a doctor needs to address, such as a mental health disorder or a thyroid or blood sugar issue. It could be as simple as the addition of a little post-employment goal setting, change of venue, new hobbies, new diet, adoption of an exercise program, etc. As best-selling author Ernie Zelinski says in his book How to Retire, Happy, Wild and Free, “To be bored is to retire from life.”

“Tis easy to resign a toilsome place, But not to manage leisure with a grace; Absence of occupation is not rest, A mind quite vacant is a mind distress’d.” – William Cowper in Retirement

“Making the most out of retirement entails taking advantage of increased freedom to establish a lifestyle that is adventurous, exciting, and rewarding.” – Ernie Zelinski

Here are a few more reflections to hopefully “pull you out of your blue funk” and get you back on your feet.

  1. Reach out to stay strong. You have heard of the saying, “Misery loves company?” Yes, there is comfort in numbers, and you should consider sharing some of your feelings with recently retired colleagues and friends. “Your natural reaction at this difficult time may be to withdraw from friends and family out of shame or embarrassment. But don’t underestimate the importance of other people when you’re faced with the stress of job loss and unemployment [and retirement!]. Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Nothing works better at calming your nervous system than talking face to face with a good listener.” – https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/job-loss-and-unemployment-stress.htm
  2. Don’t continue allowing yourself to be “addicted to achievement,” wrapping up your entire personal identity with your former music position. “Sure, losing your job is a very personal experience, but don’t take it too personally. Who you are is not what you do. Never was. Never will be.” – https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/06/12/bouncing-back-from-job-loss-the-7-habits-of-highly-effective-job-hunters/#755eec27b709
  3. Face your feelings and express your concerns. Put it on paper. “Writing about your feelings is especially important if the way you were terminated was emotionally painful. Recall the details and write about how you feel over and over and over again. Doing this helps you overcome emotional trauma, begin to heal, and stop feeling like a victim wounded for life.” – http://resiliencycenter.com/handle-the-emotional-side-of-job-loss-with-resiliency/
  4. Take a balanced view of your new situation and rethink your priorities. Look at “the whole picture.” It’s time to answer the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? “Psychologist and mindfulness expert Dr. Melanie Greenberg writes in Psychology Today that she recommends adopting a ‘mindful’ perspective during unemployment, refocusing on the positive aspects of your life. That includes self-reflecting and being honest with yourself about the causes behind your job loss [or feeling bored or depressed].” – https://lifehacker.com/nine-things-you-should-and-shouldnt-do-if-you-lose-you-509536697
  5. Focus on the future. Dream a little and think big. “It’s easy to get stuck in the past and what shoulda-woulda-coulda happened but didn’t. Doing so only perpetuates destructive emotions that fuel anger, self-pity and a sense of powerlessness.” – https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/06/12/bouncing-back-from-job-loss-the-7-habits-of-highly-effective-job-hunters/#755eec27b709
  6. Find a new sense of purpose. The list is endless and very personalized: volunteer work, charity projects, or related “encore careers” like private teaching, church or community ensemble directing, music industry jobs, guest conducting, travel/tours, adjudicating groups, higher education teaching or supervising student teachers, etc. Do you still feel you have a lot more to offer children? Then, sign-up to coach, advise, assist, or teach in new arenas. “Finding a new way to provide meaning for your life will restore the sense of purpose that you once found through work.” – https://www.verywellmind.com/depression-after-retirement-1067239
  7. Get off the couch! Build a busy schedule and get active again. Now that you have the freedom, it’s time to “fill up your dance card” and self-reinvent! “If you have a lot of spare time with no agenda, you can quickly become a very unhappy person. A lot of the relationship trouble we see among retirees comes from either the husband or wife not knowing what they want. They become unhappy, and that unhappiness bleeds out into all areas of their life.” – https://www.thestreet.com/story/13101438/1/5-hardest-things-about-retirement-that-you-arent-expecting.html
  8. Revisit your music roots and rekindle your self-expression. Finally, music teachers have one distinct advantage that many other retirees cannot appreciate… our art. To dramatize this and generate a little self-direction, all you have to do is poll yourself, “points to ponder” often shared in other articles on this website: (https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/for-retirees/)
  • Why did you go into music and education in the first place?
  • What have you always wanted to explore… play… sing… compose… record… conduct… create?
  • When will you finish your own “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and have it performed and recorded?
  • When are you going to publish your next song, article, book, warm-ups, instrumental method, essays on pedagogy, musical, drumline feature or halftime show… or write your personal memoirs?
  • When do you plan to join a community band, orchestra, chorus or theater group?

Last piece of advice? Take some time to read all about retirement, managing your time and money, planning your personal goals and objectives, and sharing your thoughts and hopes with your partner. Retain membership in your professional associations and attend meetings and conferences. Finally, take a gander at this comprehensive website: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/for-retirees/.

As always, “Happy Trails,” retirees!

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PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “despair” and “man” by geralt, “good vs. bad” by techexpert, “burnout” by darkmoon1968, “sleepwalker” by Engin_Akyurt, “depression” by johnhain, “alone” by geralt, “desperate” by Anemone123, “counseling” by tiyowprasetyo, and “old-couple” by andreahamilton264.

WHERE Should You Retire?

This article was first released in the Fall 2018 state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, PMEA News.

 

Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to, do you know?
Do you get what you’re hoping for?
When you look behind you there’s no open door.
What are you hoping for, do you know?

Lyrics to “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” and the “Theme from Mahogany” by Michael Masser and Gerald Goffin

Sung and recorded by Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, and Tina Arena

 

What are the three most important factors to consider before choosing your retirement destination?

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location.

 

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Much has already been discussed and archived here at this blog-site about definitions (“the what”) and strategies (“the how”) for a happy retirement. And deciding to retire (“the when”) is a very personal issue, something in which only you and perhaps your closest family members may have a voice at the appropriate time and setting.

Now, what about “the where?”

According to many advisors, including Melissa Phipps in her The Balance blog-post “Find Out Where You Should Retire” (https://www.thebalance.com/where-should-i-retire-2894254), your deliberation may be affected by a number of influences:

  • Personal preference: stay local or go elsewhere?
  • Housing
  • Mortgage?
  • Taxes
  • Your health and mobility
  • Proximity to family, children/grandchildren?
  • Human services, recreation, history/cultural attractions, shopping, and transportation

The US Census Bureau reports that 49 out of 50 people over the age of 65 stay right where they are when they retire. Phipps advises, “If your current hometown is affordable, close to friends and family, and near activities and entertainment you most enjoy, why move for the sake of moving? Instead, consider whether the need for change can be satisfied through more frequent brief vacations, or by purchasing an inexpensive weekend getaway home.”

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However, are there advantages to downsizing and leaving your current abode?

You may want to read “Should You Downsize in Retirement?” by Casey Dowd of Fox Business at https://www.foxbusiness.com/features/should-you-downsize-in-retirement. I also recommend https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/your-complete-guide-to-downsizing-for-retirement-12-tips-for-a-happily-ever-after/.

Posted on The Motley Fool is Christy Bieber’s article “Where Should You Retire? These 5 Factors Will Help You Decide” (https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/09/19/where-should-you-retire-these-5-factors-will-help.aspx). She focuses on that scary “e” word – economics.

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“The world is your oyster once you no longer need to work – you could technically move anywhere. But there are, of course, practical considerations in deciding where you’ll live – and while dreaming about a mega-mansion on the beach may be enjoyable, it’s also important to make a viable plan. Your choice of location can affect how much you need to save, how long your money will last, and even what happens to your health and to your legacy.”

Most of the online retirement gurus recommend careful and comprehensive research, even spending time to visit and “live awhile” in the places on your “short list,” and educate yourself in these areas:

  • Population, economy, attractions, and general info (visit the Internet sites of the local Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Agency, and visitor bureaus)
  • Climate (review interactive climate data tools from the National Climatic Data Center)
  • Cost of Living (see “cost of living comparison calculator” of the Council for Community and Economic Research)
  • Crime Rates (read the PBI’s annual “Crime in the United States: Uniform Crime Reports”)
  • Health Care (check out the U.S. News & World Report “Guide to the Best Hospitals” data base)

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If you are looking for a book on the subject of “where to live in retirement,” there are many. At least, be sure to check out the 2007 revised edition of The New Retirement – The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life by Jan Cullinane and Cathy Fitzgerald (Rodale) with more than 30 new recommendations for specific communities to consider for retirement, plus updated home prices and cost-of-living figures for existing communities, new niche lifestyles including club living, spa living, communities that are also cities, and moving where there is free land, and an expanded section on second homes.

If you are still a little “unsettled on where to settle” and enjoy taking online quizzes, check out these links (to which, although fun, I cannot vouch for their validity):

Although geography may play a crucial role in this debate, so does your choice of floor plan. (One could argue that the other three most important factors in choosing a retirement destination are mobility, mobility, and mobility!) When I retired in 2013, I suffered severe pain in my Achilles heels requiring ten weeks of challenging physical therapy. During recovery, I walked my two puppies past numerous one-story ranch structures in my neighborhood, feeling a little jealous that I had to return to a split level with its multitude of stairs – four sets of five steps! The trend in our area for new construction for retirees is a one-floor patio home with a “great room” (kitchen, dining and family/game room areas) that incorporates the safety and ease of future “senior access” while accommodating the needs of multi-generational use of the residence, with these practical design elements:

  • Wheel chair access, especially in the bathrooms
  • Pull-out and pull-down shelving
  • Multi-level counters
  • Remote control blinds and windows
  • Slip resistance floors
  • Open floor plan
  • Bright, functional lighting
  • Flat-panel light switches

(Source: https://houseplans.co/articles/planning-for-retirement-house-plans-for-seniors/)

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Finally, this is too important an issue to “pull any punches” without a few more resources (below) for your consideration. Good luck, and happy trails, retirees!

 

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

venice-2476300_1920_kirkandmimi

Photo credits from Pixabay.com: “hands” by stokpic, “people” by MabelAmber, “early morning” by werner22brigitte, “polynesia” by Julius_Silver, “portugal” by larahcv, “panorama” by pixexid, and “venice” by kirkandmimi.

The Myths of Retirement

Dispelling Five Common Misconceptions Involving One of Life’s Greatest Transitions – Perspectives from Gerontologists, Psychologists, Authors, and Other “Retiree Gurus”

 

Throughout my travels presenting at music educator conferences and local workshops, I discover soon-to-retire music teachers and other professionals have many preconceived notions about retirement. I hear the general acceptance of many “myths,” including these five Five Mythsthat seem to be the most prevalent:

  1. You retire FROM something.
  2. It’s an easy transition.
  3. It takes little time to prepare.
  4. It’s completely different from anything you’re doing now.
  5. Retirement is the time to downsize and move.

Let’s “troll the Internet” a little and check-in with a few leading authorities on retirement planning.

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1

You should retire to, not from, something.

“Most people today view retirement as an opportunity to begin a new chapter in their lives, ‘not a time to wind down and move off the playing field,’ says gerontologist Ken Dychtwald, 64, the CEO of Age Wave, a research think-tank on aging issues.”

“They are trying to figure out new ways to be productive. ‘Many are wondering: What can I do with this stage of my life that is perhaps my highest purpose?’ says Dychtwald, who is also a psychologist. He has written 16 books on aging, health, and retirement issues.”

— “How to Reinvent Yourself in Retirement” by Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/10/12/five-stages-of-retirement/16975707/

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quote

“You really should retire to something, not just retire from something… Having a notion of what you are retiring to is also a necessary early retirement planning activity. One that everyone should complete.”

“I would say that I just want the freedom to do whatever I want to do. To spend time in the garden, exercise, travel, pursue opportunities that interested me, learn new things, meet new people, etc. I had done the necessary steps of making sure that I had budgeted for my hobbies and our travel wishes. I thought that was enough. However that wasn’t going to occupy all of my retirement days.”

“Now I do want and enjoy free time where there are no obligations just as much as the next guy, but I needed to look at what I was really retiring to so I wouldn’t end up one of those unfortunate retirees who say they are bored and wished they had never retired. That is why you should plan to retire to something, not just retire from something.”

— “Retire To Something,” Leisure Freak Tommy: https://www.leisurefreak.com/non-financial-aspects-of-early-retirement/retire-to-something/

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quote

“Throughout your working years, you have probably viewed your retirement as a destination. It is a goal you are saving for and will hopefully reach one day. But once you reach this destination, then what? ”

“The perception of retirement as a destination may be why some people approach retirement with dread rather than anticipation. They view retirement as a finish line or as the end of the road.”

“But retirement is simply a milestone you pass on your journey. It’s like crossing the border from one state to the next. The road will continue to unfold before you.”

“Your life has changed in countless ways from the time you graduated from school and entered the full-time work force until the present. You have probably changed jobs and perhaps changed careers. You may have lived in numerous places, gotten married and raised a family. Friends have come and gone, your hobbies and interests have evolved and your body has changed.”

“Your retirement could easily last two or three decades. It won’t be a one-dimensional, stagnant state of being. Your life will continue to evolve in many ways after you retire. You may move, the people in your life will continue to shift and you will probably travel to new places and engage in new activities.”

— “Your Retirement is a Journey, Not a Destination” by Dave Hughes, RetireFabulously: http://retirefabulously.com/2017/05/15/your-retirement-is-a-journey-not-a-destination/

 

2

For many, retirement may not be an easy transition.

“50% of retirees will suffer some form of acute emotional distress. This is potentially a very large problem given the fact that 10,000 people are becoming eligible for Social Security every day for the next 20 years in the US alone.”

— Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne in Retiring Mind, Fairview Imprints, 2010: http://www.theretiringmind.com/

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quote

“For some people, retirement planning conjures up images of languid days free from the demands of the daily grind, but for others the prospect of leaving the workforce may be a daunting or even frightening transition.”

“For most, this major milestone will elicit a mixture of emotions that fall somewhere between anticipation and apprehension. Retirement is, in fact, a complex experience for almost everyone, characterized by gains and losses and tremendous shifts in identity and routines.”

“Unless those challenges are addressed and dealt with, the so-called ‘golden years’ can be tarnished,” says Irene Deitch, PhD, psychologist and professor emeritus at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. “Even those who may have thought they were prepared can find that the transition is tougher once they’re actually in the throes of it.”

—”Eight Ways to Ease into Retirement” by Katherine Lee, Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/future-planning/happy-retirement.aspx

3

Preparation to retirement is essential for you and your family members.

“Most gerontologists agree that a period of adjustment will occur during the first years of “interning” as a retiree. Even more crucial is the “pre-retirement” or “imagination” stage of retirement, involving your preparation six to ten years prior to “taking the big leap” to FREEDOM!”

“Have you considered a few ‘terms of transformation’ below that are all-to-common to soon-to-be-retirees undergoing that life-changing transition to ‘living their dream?’ How should you unravel these “conundrums” or mysteries of transitioning to retirement?

  • Self-Identity and Change
  • Free Time
  • Energy and Fortitude
  • Losing Control and Perpetual Care”

“The only solution to ‘softening the blow’ of the possible turmoil and incongruity brought on at this time is to follow the Boy Scout rule… BE PREPARED.”

“According to TIPS Retirement for Music Educators by Verne A. Wilson (MENC 1989), at least three years before you leave your full-time employment:

  1. Sit down with your spouse if you are married (and other family members) and plan ahead carefully.
  2. Decide when you want to retire. Estimate as accurately as possible what your economic situation will be after you retire.
  3. Decide where you want to live after you retire. This means not just the neighborhood, city, or state, but also the kind and style of residence… retirement community, one-floor ranch, apartment, etc.
  4. Set some goals regarding how you want to spend your retirement time. Focus on your talents and abilities instead of looking at the handicaps that may come with the aging process.
  5. Be prepared for “change” and learn how to accept it, and be willing to embrace new opportunities for personal growth, flexibility, and adaptability.
  6. Be sure your intentions are clearly stated in writing (wills, power of attorneys, living wills, etc.)”

— “New Dreams and Horizons” by Paul K. Fox and other sources: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/new-dreams-and-horizons/

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quote

“Prior to retiring, you should make a concerted effort to prepare for ‘life after work,’ including:

  • Cultivate interests outside work
  • Lead a healthier lifestyle
  • Revitalize family relationships
  • Spend more time with spouse
  • Embrace spirituality or meditation
  • Nurture friendships and make new friends”

— “Retire Happy: What You Can Do Now to Guarantee a Great Retirement” by Richard Stim and Ralph Warner, USA TODAY/Nolo Series: https://www.amazon.com/dp/141330835X/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

 

4

Retirement may or may not be completely different to what you are doing right now.

“Many people want to continue to work. In fact, 72% of pre-retirees, age 50 and older, say they want to keep working after they retire, according to a recent survey sponsored by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave. Almost half (47%) of current retirees either are working, have worked, or plan to work in retirement, the survey found.”

— “Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations,” by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Agewave: https://agewave.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2014-ML-AW-Work-in-Retirement_Myths-and-Motivations.pdf

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quote

“Planning for retirement may require a focus on self-management throughout a person’s career, according to a model of career development by psychologist Harvey Sterns, PhD, the director of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology at the University of Akron.

“No two retirees are the same and multiple pathways exist to get from work to retirement.”

“There is no right way to retire,” Sterns says. “Many people think retirement is wonderful, and for people who want to retire, that’s the right thing to do. If they don’t want to, that’s the right thing, too.”

“After 26 years as a counseling psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Nancy K. Schlossberg, EdD, was ready to retire. But she was hardly ready to slow down. She looked forward to having more flexibility and freedom in her schedule to explore other interests. Still, there was the question of what her new identity would be…”

“Retirement can take many forms, Schlossberg notes. In fact, she identified the following six based on her interviews with about 100 retirees:

  • Continuers stay connected with past skills and activities, but modify them to fit retirement, such as through volunteering or part-time work in their former field.
  • Adventurers start new activities or learn new skills not related to their past work, such as learning to play the piano or taking on an entirely new job.
  • Searchers learn by trial and error as they look for a niche; they have yet to find their identity in retirement.
  • Easy gliders enjoy unscheduled time and like their daily schedule “to go with the flow.”
  • Involved spectators maintain an interest in their previous field of work but assume different roles, such as a lobbyist who becomes a news junkie.
  • Retreaters become depressed, retreat from life and give up on finding a new path–the only negative path in Schlossberg’s classification.”

“The path retirees choose after retirement isn’t necessarily the path they stay on either, Schlossberg says.”

“It’s an evolving part of your career development,” Schlossberg explains. “And the longer you live, the more your path will shift and change.”

— “A New Face to Retirement” by Melissa Dittman, American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov04/retirement.aspx

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quote

“After the last school bell rings, retired teachers have a leg up. Opportunities cut a broad swath from tutoring to substitute teaching to jobs a little further afield, such as fitness training.”

“Teachers have a combination of tools in their kit that many retirees don’t — solid degree credentials, expertise in a specific field and a passion for helping people learn something new.”

— “Great Jobs for Retired Teachers” by Kerry Hannon, AARP: https://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-04-2011/jobs-for-retired-teachers.1.html

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quote

“Most teachers spend their first year of “retirement” decompressing from the full-time teaching gig. It’s that special time you’ve looked forward to for years. You do some traveling, catch up on all those books you never had time to read, and just relax. Your days are free of ringing bells and reports. Plus, you get to spend a much larger part of your day in your pajamas. Yay! You earned it. You know you’ve arrived when Labor Day stops feeling like D-Day.”

“After a year or so, however, you may start to realize you actually miss working. Not that you miss the standardized tests, parent conferences and grade reports. But something in that work stimulated you in a way nothing else comes close to doing. Perhaps you miss the pleasure you felt creating learning units, or the joy of introducing students to a new author, or the collaborative bonds with fellow teachers. These were true enjoyments and now they are gone.”

“Once you’ve decompressed sufficiently, you might want to consider doing a career redesign. Unlike many other careerists, retired teachers have the freedom and the financial ability to put together a ‘second-act’ career, tailored to the life they want. Keep in mind, U.S. pension policies have restrictions on post-retirement income, so keep a close check on those caps.”

“If you’re feeling ready to begin again, here are ten opportunities you should definitely consider.

  1. Tutoring
  2. Specialized Test Prep
  3. College Application Support
  4. College Adjunct Teaching
  5. Career and Life Coach
  6. Tour Guide
  7. Writing and Editing
  8. Educational Consulting
  9. Translator
  10. International Schools”

— “Ten Great Encore Careers for Retired Teachers” by Peter Spellman, Nextcalling: https://nextcalling.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/10-Great-%E2%80%98Encore-Careers%E2%80%99-for-Retired-Teachers.pdf

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quote

“We were fortunate to have Dr. John V. D’Ascenzo join the PMEA Retired Member Coordinator at the PMEA Summer Conference, assisting on the session “Retirement 101 – Retiree Stories and Strategies,” which was held on July 17-18, 2018 at the Red Lion Hotel in Harrisburg, PA.”

“John provided a lot of interesting perceptions and coping tips for the “soon-to-retire!” He shared new segments for consideration with references.”

“The evaluating of personal and professional paths prior to and at the time of retirement leads to behavioral changes that promote positive outcomes (Krawulski, de Oliviera Cruz, Medina, Boehs & de Toledo, 2017). Activities would include:

  • Giving and/or receiving education/training.
  • Volunteering roles: leadership, followership
  • Pursue different career paths for remuneration or gratis.”

Retired Member Network eNEWS, August 2, 2018: https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Retired-Member-Network-eNEWS-080218.pdf

 

5

Retirement may or may not be the time to pull-up stakes and move from your current residence.

“The US Census Bureau reports that 49 out of 50 people over the age of 65 stay right where they are when they retire.”

“If your current hometown is affordable, close to friends and family, and near activities and entertainment you most enjoy, why move for the sake of moving? Instead, consider whether the need for change can be satisfied through more frequent brief vacations, or by purchasing an inexpensive weekend getaway home.”

— “Fine Out Where You Should Retire” by Melissa Phipps, The Balance: https://www.thebalance.com/where-should-i-retire-2894254

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My next blog for this “Retirement Resources” forum will investigate this subject more closely and pose the questions, “Where Should I Retire?” and “What are the three most important factors to consider before choosing your retirement destination?”

Retirees: Do you have YOUR favorite “myth in retirement?” Please share. (Click on “comment” near the top of this article.) We would love to hear from you!

Otherwise, stay tuned for additional thoughts and tips on preparing a happy transition to retirement. You are also invited to revisit past blog-posts at this site: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/for-retirees/.

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “emotional” by werner22brigitte, “knit” by foundry, “grandma” by fujidreams,”senior” by RitaE, “fisherman” by paulbr75, “old couple” by MonicaVolpin, “trumpet-player” by Hans, “fashion” by skeeze, “violin” by niekverlaan, “artist” by imaginart, “guitarist” by SplitShire, and “cottage” by MonikaDesigns.

 

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Retirement… It’s a Private Matter!

 

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The clock may be ticking (28+ years in the field?), and you are the most senior music staff member.

“They” are all out there waiting for your decision.

When are you going to retire?

Like it or not, your “education community” and the coworkers with whom you have collaborated as much as half of your life, will want to share this special moment with you. You should expect the planning of multiple sets of farewell parties (especially if you were assigned to teach in several school buildings – I had four functions) and the second your retirement is posted, “your friends” will start collecting for gifts and maybe even begin speech-writing for a roast or two!

We want to be there for the “big event!”

And, it’s none of their business.

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People need to respect your privacy on this life-changing passage to self-renewal and reinvention. If you’re about to make that decision to “bite the bullet,” you have to be sure you are psychologically prepared for it (there’s usually no turning back), and then hopefully be permitted to announce it in your own way and on your own time. Well, not exactly…

You will be compelled to officially state your intentions.

Yes, you’re probably contractually required to put in your “walking papers” early in the second semester so that the school district can start the process of hiring a replacement, but there are a lot more issues at stake here. And, like it or not, there is probably no way to keep it “under wraps” for very long!

When the time is right, your fellow teachers and other school staff will want to celebrate your many years of meritorious service. They will hardly be able to contain themselves experiencing a myriad of emotions associated with living vicariously… excitement, joy, jealousy, pride, optimism, anxiety, fear of the unknown, and even “what’s in it for me?”

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Some of my colleagues have told me, when they were ready, they just wanted to fade away from the landscape, and quietly go without fanfare or festivities. Call it modesty, discretion, shyness, timidity, or social awkwardness? The sad truth, a few were leaving before they were really ready. They would admit they had more to give and still enjoyed teaching children and making music. However, they felt they had to retire early because of a perception that there was declining support for the music program, fear of staff/class reductions or student enrollment decreases, negative updates on the status of the labor negotiations, predictable loss of benefits as defined by a new contract, possible emotional burn-out or fatigue, or simply a sense of being devalued or ignored as a professional, “kicked to the curb” or “it’s time to leave before anything gets worse!”

You didn’t appreciate me when I was teaching here, so don’t make a lot of whoop-la as I prepare to retire!

 

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Of course, other reasons to retire are more concrete: health problems (yours or other members of your family), your spouse is retiring or relocating, opportunities to travel, you were offered a new position (higher education or other field), etc.

One big issue is how to you tell your students. My own story was that (although a very good indication of strong community support in my high school spring musical production) I had several school board members serving as theater volunteers. I was required to tell the superintendent of my plans by February, and he then distributed the list of projected staff retirements at a Board meeting the last week of the month. “The word was out” before opening night, and I had to scramble to tell my grades 5-12 string students, even taking into consideration a few of their feelings of guilt or abandonment while alleviating unsubstantiated fears for the future of the orchestra program.

That’s not how our former music teacher Mr./Ms. _____ used to do it!

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Someone wise once told me that no matter how you perceive your standing or “popularity” with the kids, 30% of them will be upset at your leaving, 30% of them will be happy or at least interested in someone new taking over your position, and 40% will be ambivalent. For those of us teaching instrumental and choral electives (saddled with the overall responsibility for our own recruitment and retention), it is important that during this transition, you encourage your students to support and assist the new hire, and continue their enrollment in the class and positive behavior, motivation, and participation in the program. I remember a few lectures about the “benefits of change” and “patience” and the role of student leadership in the process.

gratitude-2939972_1920_johnhainThe music parents are another matter. I had great support of both the band/string parents and my loyal “theater angels” throughout my career, and I made sure to attend meetings as early as possible to tell them “in person” my future plans so that they did not have to rely on those “rumors on the street!” One advantage I had was I lived in the district. I promised to roll-up my sleeves and support a fund-raiser or two, and was able to attend numerous concerts and musicals to support my “extended family” as a nonjudgmental retiree.

If some of your parents are more of a pressure group or negative influence, you may wish to discuss their role in your impending departure and warn an administrator. Avoid being a part of any gossip or political controversy… it’s no longer your “sandbox.”

Of course, you should NOT be involved at all in the search, interviewing, or even training of your replacement. Sure, it is a good idea to meet with the new teacher once or twice to “hand over the reins” and perhaps tell him/her where the closets are if not the skeletons. Willingly give out your phone number if the newcomer wants help, but then STAY AWAY. No one can BE YOU, and trying to “clone” your essence in a potential “protege” or well-tutored graduate from your program is an invitation to disaster. The new staff member must find his/her own way, making more than a few mistakes along the way (like you did a long time ago?), but not experience any interference from the “old veteran!” You have to trust that your superintendent, HR/personnel director, and other school leaders found the most qualified and talented candidate available and will support him/her during that “sometimes bumpy” orientation/transitional period

 

What is your legacy?

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Now would be a good time for you to review “for posterity” your professional record quietly behind-the-scenes or even share this with your closest colleagues or supervisors. Sort of like writing your own obituary (a little morbid?), reflect on and frame your career in music education. For what do you want to be remembered? What was most important to you? (It was disappointing to me that one of my principals showed he didn’t know me very well at our last faculty meeting and my final “sendoff.” In his speech, he focused on my tendency for long and sometimes passionate emails as the single greatest contribution to 33+ years in his building.)

r3_logoIn Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to have the PMEA Retiree Resource Registry (R3), which besides providing a pool of well-qualified consultants and unofficial mentors for PMEA members, pre-service teachers, and “rookies” who want advice, it allows our retired members to archive their achievements, awards, and teaching assignments online. I believe it’s just good mental health for recent retirees to look backwards and revel in a little personal gratification, esteem, and peace-of-mind for their contributions to the profession. Yes, you deserve to be proud.

You truly “made a difference.”

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

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Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “shaking-hands” by geralt, “best wishes” by artsy-bee, “man” by geralt, “guitar-player” by couleur, “woman” by cnort, “gratitude” by johnhain, “piano” by stevepb, and “couple” by memorycatcher.

 

 

Retiree Concepts

Random Terms Re: Retirement Transitioning

dictionary-1619740_1920_stevepbThe “new” definition of retirement includes a unique collection of synonyms. Gone are the designations “seclusion,” “privacy,” “withdrawal,” “retreating” and “disappearing” based on archaic models of retiring when the average life expectancy at birth in the 1800s was 38 and in the 1900s was 47. (Merriam-Webster and others still show these words on their online dictionaries!) Now, some of the more creative descriptors for retirement are “renewment,” “rewirement,” “rest-of-life,” “second beginnings,” and “reinvention.” (Also see http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-do-you-define-retirement/.)

In addition to these, there are a few nontraditional terms that may come up during the passage from full-time employment to “living the dream” (hopefully) in retirement. These will not show up in a typical book for retirees… but, understanding them can “make a difference” through this roller-coaster ride of coping with life-style changes/altered expectations, and finding creative new ways to self-reinvent and thrive.

 

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Marginality and Mattering

Do you feel “needed” and “making a difference” to others? The definition of “mattering” is “the belief that we matter to someone else.” This is an essential part of what author Ernie Zelinski of the best-seller Retire Happy, Wild, and Free emphasizes the importance of “finding purpose, structure, and community in retirement.”

“It has been suggested that one problem of retirement is that one no longer matters; others no longer depend on us… The reward of retirement, involving a surcease from labor, can be the punishment of not mattering. Existence loses its point and savor when one no longer makes a difference.”   – Rosenberg and McCullough Quoted in Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose by Nancy Schlossberg (APA, 2017)

According to counseling psychologist Nancy Schlossberg, Rosenberg’s concept of “mattering” is “a universal, lifelong issue that connects us all.”  Her four dimensions of mattering are:

  • Attention – the feeling that a person has the interest of another;
  • Importance – the feeling that others care about what you want, think, and do;
  • Ego-Extension – the feeling that others will be proud of your successes and/or saddened by your failures;
  • Dependence – the feeling that a person can depend on someone else.

Although initially attributed to collegiate retention, persistence and “getting students connected” (https://sites.google.com/site/uscedco030/Home/theorist-pages/marginality-mattering-and-validation-theory-nancy-schlossberg-laura-rendon/schlossberg), Schlossberg defines “maginality” as “a sense of not fitting in” and which “can lead to self consciousness, irritability and depression. For some, these feelings can be permanent conditions.” Furthermore, “feelings of marginality often occur when individuals take on new roles, especially when they are uncertain about what a new role entails.”

Just like the sometimes tumultuous passage to and emotional ups-and-downs during your “life after the work?”

 

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PTSD

What does “post-traumatic stress disorder” have to do with leaving your job? Hopefully it does not apply to you, but…

If are among the surprisingly large number of music teachers who lost their job “involuntarily,” you may be undergoing the same “stages of grief and loss” often shared during the breakup of a marriage or the dealth of a loved one:

  • Denial (disbelief, numbness, shock)
  • Bargaining (preoccupation with “what could have been,” guilt, remorse)
  • Depression (sadness, loneliness, emptiness, isolation, self-pity)
  • Anger (feelings of helplessness, abandonment)
  • Acceptance (emotional resolution, healing)

checkmate-1511866_1920_stevepbFeeling you were “kicked to the curb,” “downsized,” “minimized,” or somehow “forced” to resign or retire comes from many scenarios:

  • Music or staff are eliminated from the curriculum or building in which you teach.
  • You feel you must retire early before the end of the contract to avoid losing existing medical or other contractual benefits.
  • While voluntarily retiring from the full-time “day” job, you hope to continue serving in the capacity as assistant director (marching band, musical, etc.), but are not re-assigned or asked to return.
  • The new head coach of the sport in which you have assisted for many years fires you to bring in his “cronies.”
  • The perception that the program to which you have devoted your whole career is being dissembled or de-emphasized for the next “flavor-of-the-year.”

Most mental health experts agree, you cannot self-diagnose PTSD. However, the “warning signs” are probably evident. If you are having trouble sleeping, difficulty with relationships, or find yourself feeling significantly depressed or lethargic, visit your health care professional.

 

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Losing old habits…

“Surrendering your urge to be an agent of change!”

The next retiree concept is more of a habit or tendency, something that those of us who retired from education may find it a little hard to stop doing at first. Among the core values of “moral professionalism,” we consistently seek ways to reform “the system,” much like efficiency experts. In other words, “break it if it needs fixed,” or seek new practices or approaches to solve problems. This means we seldom accept the status quo or “that’s the way it’s always have been done.”

I found that in my volunteer work, when I come up to a challenge like a policy that isn’t working, I look for better ways of doing it. Teachers always self-assess and seek changes for “the good of the order,” but these “systems” are not our classrooms. Educators were expected to “monitor and adjust,” modify our lesson targets, rip down old bulletin boards and put up new with more exciting media, re-write curriculum, etc. – always with the mission to “build a better mouse trap” for more efficient delivery of instruction to all.

comic-characters-2026313_1280_OpenClipart-VectorsIn retirement, this can be frustrating. You can’t tell somebody else how to run their operation. Some people do not want to hear criticism, nor do they care what your opinion is, nor do they want to change their traditions or fine-tuned (?) step-by-step procedures. You on the other hand want things to improve, e.g. better training, more consistent application of the rules, etc., and therefore you feel “unrequited stress.”

Throughout my whole “professional life,” I never looked the other way. I try to fix things. But that’s not everybody’s inclination, and the world is not going to come to end if someone doesn’t take your advice. As retirees, remove the unnecessary hassle. You have two choices. Resign from the activity, or step back from being its self-appointed critic, accept the situation, and let everyone go back to playing their own way in their “sandbox.”

 

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Caregivers anchor

Many retirees choose to be part- or full-time caregivers, perhaps babysitting or serving as the custodian of a senior family member.

If you are fortunate enough to have grandchildren (your own or adopted ones), enjoy them! Your generous super-competent daycare services may provide ever-so-essential attention to your loved-ones. “Playing with the kids” is wonderful for your own mood, perspective, and mental health. And, how many times have I heard the sage advice to “immerse yourself around young people and you will stay forever young!”

grandparents-1969824_1920_sylvieblissHowever, invest your time wisely. Retirees deserve a life of their own and opportunities for unstructured “time-off.” Don’t forget the other items on your “bucket lists” (like travel, “encore career,” and volunteering). Serving as your family’s childcare “safety net” is nice, but don’t let this schedule dominate everything you do in your retirement… trading one job for another… with no financial compensation (but a whole lot of fun, I know).

Sometimes the responsibility of taking care of an elderly family member comes to you unexpectedly (like an ill parent or grandparent). When this “all-encompassing” duty is thrust upon you, it may consume every free moment in your schedule.

This excellent advice is from the blog-site “A Place for Mom.”

Many of us do end up deciding to become family caregivers, a demanding role that often includes advocating for your loved one, coordinating providers, and performing home medical care tasks.

In fact, over 65.7 million Americans currently provide care for a family member or loved one, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, and 36% of those are caring for an elderly parent.

Being prepared for the role of caregiver means taking a lot of different factors into consideration. You will need to ask yourself hard questions about how your own availability and care-giving capabilities will affect your ability to provide effective care — for your loved one and yourself.

  – https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2-24-14-caregiver-questions-to-as/

Several of the “big questions” from their site:

  1. Am I financially prepared for the extra costs of care-giving?
  2. Am I really capable of taking care of Dad or Mom all by myself?
  3. Do I have the social support and resources I’m going to need?
  4. How will care-giving affect my physical and mental health?
  5. Will I be able to make time for myself and my family?

seniors-1505938_1920_geraltAgain, that focus on “first things first” (remember the book of the same name by Stephen Covey?) and “take care of yourself, too!”

In her book In A Different Voice (Harvard University Press), author Carol Gilligan describes the philosophy of moral development based on “evolving steps of caring.”

  1. Decisions based solely on care for their needs. (GOOD)
  2. Decisions based on care for the needs of others. (BETTER)
  3. Decisions based on care for themselves and others. (THE BEST)

As mentioned in a previous blog, we could all hope to prescribe to Kathy Merlino’s “independent-living manifesto” ― being actively involved in her children’s lives, but NOT leaving them the ultimate chore of “taking care of mom!”

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“Stressed over the season”

Finally, while we are on the subject of care-giving, here are a few links to alleviating stress, especially around the coming winter holidays:

Also, although I wrote my own blogs about “the happiest time of the year,” (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/tips-for-retirees-on-managing-stress-during-the-coming-winter-celebrations/ and https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/12/22/random-acts-and-other-resolutions/, I found more wisdom re: “stress for seniors.”

Best wishes for you and yours to enjoy the festive season and a Happy New Year!

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

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Photo credits from Pixabay.com: “person” by RitaE, “dictionary” by stevepb, “volunteer” by maialisa, “stress” by thedigitalartist, “checkmate” by stevepb, “head” by johnhain, “comic-characters” by OpenClipart-Vectors, “grandfather” by kko699, “grandparents” by sylviebliss, “seniors” by geralt, “shopping-mall” by stocksnap, and “senior” by RitaE