MonthJuly 2017

Alive and Kicking at 63 (Aging is a strange process)

Alive and Kicking

In modern societies life expectancy is well into the 80’s and many of us baby boomers will live beyond that. Throughout most of my adult life I’ve had very few medical issues beyond the usual colds and flu. But after turning 60, I feel like the warranty expired on my body. Not that anything major is wrong. I’m still alive and kicking but I am dealing with several small but annoying issues and monitoring some potential major ones.   The big ones are not much of a concern because my family history shows them to be part of our deal, but never really serious. It’s the minor ones and the monitoring that is troubling.

For most of my life I would see a doctor once a year or less. The one trip would be for a physical and aside from my weight, they pronounced me healthy. For my 60th physical they did a PSA test (prostate) that showed a higher than normal number. In the end, I found that a large prostate is a genetic normality and not cause for concern. But the process of discovery was lengthy, really troublesome and scary at times.

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As part of our retirement plan, we moved from Massachusetts to Florida. One concern was the quality of medical care since Boston has some of the best hospitals on earth. I have found that the Florida medical practices focus on older people and they have been better at dealing with the aging issues than my GP up north. During my latest physical, the doctor discovered that my thyroid was not doing its thing. I needed to begin taking the enzyme that it was supposed to be producing. I didn’t realize that the joint pain and skin sensitivity was all related to the reduction in my thyroid’s production of the enzyme. Getting older is a new experience for me, but common place for the doctors in this area. My parents are still living in Massachusetts and with some effort finding good medical support. But it’s more of an effort for them.

Part of my weekly routine includes an exercise regimen. Its tennis 3 mornings a week and a class at the YMCA one evening a week. Not only does that schedule keep the body ticking along, it gives me a cadence that keeps the days in order. These activities have helped me to meet people and make friends in a brand new environment as well. Pushing the body physically, mentally and socially on a regular basis is an important element in maintaining your health.

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Part of me feels petty for even complaining about these minor issues. At least I’m around to experience them. I’ve lost friends to cancer and co-workers to terrorists. But aging is a strange process with many subtle hazards. To maintain a good quality of life, it’s important to work at good health as part of your daily life. Find some activities that are both good exercise and fun. Get good doctors to stay on top of the annoying issues that go along with an aging body. Putting up with the appointments, prodding and probing just goes with the territory. Accept aging for what it is and appreciate the opportunity to experience it.

 

Getting Settled (Transition is a painful process)

 

When we moved to Sarasota, we decided to rent for a year so that we could get to know the area and find the right place to live and buy a home. This strategy was chosen knowing full well that getting settled meant that we had to make two moves. Given the pain associated with moving, this was not a decision that we made lightly. We bought our home in mid-June and moved in last week. The move experience was no less painful than we expected, but was the strategy the right one?

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In the 10 months that we have lived in Sarasota, we have explored a lot and met many new people. We’ve built some new friendships and established some new acquaintances that may bloom into full-fledged friendships. Most of our discussions have something to do with learning about what to do and where to live on the “Sun Coast”, the greater Sarasota area. Very few of the people that we have spoken with are unhappy with their choice of Sarasota as a place to live. The longer term residents harbor some resentment toward the new comers because the area has become built up. But they are still very happy to be living here.

One thing that struck me about the “new comers” is that they fall into two categories. A lot have been coming to Sarasota for years and knew the area before they bought a home. The other large group bought a home when they first moved in. Very few chose the strategy of renting and finding the right home for them. Almost all of those that bought when the first came to Sarasota have moved at least once.

We found the greater Sarasota area to offer a wide variety of living options. Had we not lived in an apartment for a few months, we would have purchased a single family home in an OK neighborhood with a pool. That would put us back in the mode we had been in for the last 40 years of maintaining a house, yard and pool. Apartment living quickly taught me the benefits of maintenance free housing. We also learned the tradeoff between private ownership and higher density living with a shared pool. The outdoor life makes the community and your neighbors just as important as the four walls and roof.

We have spent the grand total of eight nights in our new home. It’s roomy, quiet and the neighbors are really nice. We had a dinner invitation the night we moved in and a monthly neighborhood party a couple of days later. Our home is in a maintenance free community and many of the owners are “snow birds”, only here in the colder weather. The full time residents warmly welcomed another addition to their group. We have room for guests and a community that worked hard to blend the natural surroundings of the Florida forest with an active golf and tennis environment.

Moving is a painful process and choosing a two move strategy went against every fiber in my being. My better half, the smarter one, convinced me to put a toe in the water before we jump in. She was right. Had we gone with my gut we would have been in the wrong type of home. The neighborhood would not have been right and we would have over paid making moving that much harder. Becoming retired is a tumultuous process that has many steps and stages.

The move strategy of renting to get to know an area is the right way to go regardless of that painful second move. In all likelihood you’ll move twice before getting settled anyway and renting gives you the advantage of being able to take advantage of the natural demand cycle in your market. It’s much better to buy from a distressed seller than be a distressed buyer. More importantly, your home is your castle and being in the right situation for your retirement lifestyle goals is a key element for your long term happiness.