Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where Will You Retire?

This makes me so happy and so hopeful.

As is the case for most parish ministers, I often feel fairly inundated with aging issues. How to care for aging elders, how to receive care as an aging elder, deciding when it's time to move to assisted living, how to get into the good retirement communities, how to pay for it all. When to revoke driving privileges. When to stop the treatment, or to refuse the final, invasive surgery.
Alzheimer's. Broken hips. Biopsies. Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About the Visiting Nurses Association But Were Afraid To Ask. Orthopedics. Catheters. Spending $60,000 to make the house handicapped accessible, only to have the beloved one die soon after.

I would really like to retire someday. I am at the age where I am starting to really look forward to it, and read my Fidelity statements with a lot more interest than I did at age 30. But like many do-gooders of my generation who live in an unbelievably exorbitant housing market, owning property is a distant dream and I actually don't know if I'll be an old lady living in her own home at any point in my life. If I choose to stay around the Boston area and keep working in ministry and education, heck, I'd rather rent and live somewhere halfway decent than have to commute from some "fixer-upper" 1.5 hours away.

I used to think it would be impossible to retire. I figured I could never let go of speaking, pastoring, teaching, writing, studying toward some professional purpose. Lately, however, I'm thinking that it will be mighty fine to put my feet up someday and do nothing more intellectually strenuous than grow basil. And I mean for years at a time. Lord, hear my prayer.

My sister and I talk about communal retirement living pretty regularly. We both feel that, given the high numbers of single, child-free people in our generation, it makes sense to consider our futures together, as communities, without expecting that we can all do well (or even be happiest) going it alone. And given what I've seen of multi-generational living arrangements, I would think that many parents might also consider communal living in their senior years. It's not that children don't welcome parents into their home: they do, and I'm amazed by how often they do, and with what a true sense of welcome and desire to help. But it's HARD fitting into your child's household, even if they have one to offer you. Maybe you'll be glad to be able to hold off on moving in for a few years. Maybe communal living can help you do that. For singles, we have to take care of each other.

I have a fantasy of owning a big Victorian with friends, and making several apartments out of our house. Maybe a communal kitchen. A nice yard. A garden. Walking distance to public transportation. A good church somewhere nearby, and senior services available for good medical care. I think it's insane for Gen X and Y not to start thinking earnestly and often about how we are going to deal with the geriatrification of America. If I was in my 20's, I would definitely consider going into eldercare as a career. I think there's TONS of money to be made in it, and it would be fulfilling. I am going to get my nephews thinking entrepeneurially [did I just make up that word?] about providing services to the elderly. With all those Boomers heading into their 60's, my boys will be of the perfect age to make a fantastic living opening and running boutique retirement homes, don't you think? And with all the money they'll make, they can do something terribly altruistic. That is, if they don't take to Chinese and Persian as languages and go into international relations and peace work.

So anyway, look for PeaceBang's Home For Old Broadway Lovin' Pastors sometime in about 2036. You can come over for Spaghetti & Sondheim Night.


Blogger Khanoum said...

We're dealing with this at church with accessibility issues. So few people in their 40's and 50's (and many even into their 70's) are willing to believe that making the church accessible isn't just for some imaginary people that might happen along, but is actually for *them.* We're about to have the biggest generation of elders yet, and they seem to be in incredible denial about that fact.

Glad you're thinking about communal living. The frightful "retirement communities" I've come to know around here are ridiculously expensive and don't appreciate people looking frail. It's hard to find ones that are affordable and humane -- they exist, but not enough, and not subsidized enough for sure.

Blogger fausto said...

I have visions of you and CC's other favorite minister racing around Naples (Florida) together on your plasma-screen Segways, still thrashing out theism versus humanism.

My mother's parents spent their final years here, and my mother is convinced that they lived 10 to 15 years longer because they did.

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Loneliness is supposed to be one of the biggest problems of senior citizens in the US, so communal living that is not just "assisted" sounds like something of a solution.

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

My parents are in a retirement community (not too far from where you live, PeaceBang) and it's not "frightful" at all. Then again, they are members of an intergenerational community (a UU parish, no less!) so they are not with people their age all the time -- though they have a vital life there, with culture, politics, food, good company, and no driveway to shovel when the New England snows come. And when one was recovering from surgery that one (they've each been there) could recover in the skilled nursing wing, and then go back to their apartment when s/he was better; and spouses aren't separated, they can visit each other easily. It does cost -- but they were not rich people, just thrifty, and it's a good solution.

That said, as a single person in the do-gooder biz, I may not be able to afford this kind of community, and I am starting to think about communal living of some kind with other Boomers when the time comes -- and joke with my parents that if I do move to a community like theirs, my generation will demand high-speed internet and/or wifi, which they don't have...

Off to teach. Thanks for the good reflections.

Blogger Jess said...

fausto - interesting link and looks like a great place. But wow, the entrance fees are expensive! (Speaking from the place of just having turned 30,) how do people manage that when the time comes? I suppose if you sell a house you could just fork over the check, but wow.

Blogger fausto said...


1. The fees include not only room and board, but also soup-to-nuts health insurance. Try pricing that out after age 65, when your employer no longer subsidizes it. It ain't cheap no matter where you want to live.

2. In 1970 when my grandparents moved there, the fees weren't so high. Not just because of inflation since then, but also because the sponsors mispriced the insurance component when the place got started. They had no experience with these kinds of communities before, and failed to anticipate how much longer than their actuarial life expectancies well-cared-for residents would be able to survive. A number of similar comminities went bankrupt on the medical costs before they figured out how to price them appropriately.

3. You're only 30. Keep funding the maximum contributions into you IRA or 401(k) plan for the next 35 years, and when you're 65, those numbers won't seem quite so big.

4. Yeah, a lot of the residents of these types of places do sell their houses when they move in. My grandparents did. It paid for their entrance fee and a lot of monthly payments too.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

((I have visions of you and CC's other favorite minister racing around Naples (Florida) together on your plasma-screen Segways, still thrashing out theism versus humanism.))

Now THAT is a reality-television show I would watch.



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