Thursday, October 25, 2018

Finding Creative Opportunities After Retiring

Investing time into developing your 'second act' can pay off

Patricia Corrigan, Next Avenue

Ann Nessa presenting one of her shawls
Tone deaf? Turned off by a blank canvas? Two left feet?The arts enhance the lives of older adults, but even if you have no desire to sing, play an instrument, paint a picture or take up the tango, many other options for expressing creativity exist.

That was evident at a recent pop-up art show at a home in my neighborhood, where colorful lithograph prints, origami-inspired leather purses and wallets, handmade kimono jackets and abstract art crafted from recycled materials were on display.

Whether you’re interested in exploring a new area of endeavor or want to reinvigorate a passion from the past, finding the right path can be part of the process.

Four people who did just that include a doctor-turned-sculptor, a former astronautics and aeronautics engineer with a sweet job in a chocolate shop, a veteran of the corporate world who reinvented herself as a photographer and a retired buyer at a manufacturing firm who knits gorgeous scarves she calls “neck art.”

Credit: Compliments of Susan Emmerson
 A longtime ear, nose and throat surgeon in Illinois, Susan Emmerson took early retirement, earned two fine art degrees and now works as an artist in Boston. Clients make appointments at her studio or view her work at the Kingston Gallery.

What do they see?

“People tell me they see vague body organs, interesting shapes and shadows — and some say they enjoy the colors,” said Emmerson, 60. “I started drawing what I was most familiar with — the inside of the body. Now I draw on Tyvek®, heat it and sculpt 3-D globular objects.”

Emmerson has long been interested in both art and science. “I knew I couldn’t do both at the same time — you have to throw yourself into both careers — but it was always in the back of my mind that I would retire early from my practice and go to art school,” she said. Emmerson left medicine in 2004 and completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees in art in 2012.

“If people want to retire to write or be an artist, I encourage them to find a way to do it,” Emmerson said. “Yes, it takes time. But you may as well be doing something you love to do, because time is going to go by anyway.”

‘Being Creative Is a Form of Relaxation for Me’

Astronautics and aeronautics engineer, ski racer, information systems technician,

Compliments of Doug Cale
consultant, house flipper, marathon runner, homebuilder, proud grandfather and owner and head chocolatier at Birmingham Chocolate in Birmingham, Mich, near Detroit. That sums up much of Doug Cale’s life to date.

“I’m a risk taker,” said Cale. “I like to take chances, and I’m not big on the word ‘retirement.’” Cale, 71, left his “first collection of careers” in 2002. One day, while working on a house he hoped to flip, he met with three friends who also had left the corporate world. One was making chocolate, which interested Cale.

“I’ve been in the chocolate world now for 10 years,” he said. “I’m not trained in the pastry arts, but I come up with ideas for new recipes. I’m always asking why we can’t try this or work on that.”

One of the dark chocolate truffles at Cale’s shop is flavored with Jamaican rum. A white chocolate truffle has hints of blood orange. A specialty bar, made for a pie company, combines a streusel crumble with berries.

Cale also finds job satisfaction developing marketing strategies, exploring new partnerships and experimenting with his business model.

“For me, life is all about engagement,“ he said, “Coming up with new ways to do things day in and day out, what I get out of this job is the creativity. And being creative is a form of relaxation for me.”

Credit: Compliments of Pete Rosos
‘Photography Is My Second Act’
“Originally, photography for me was a way of hiding, but now it’s about making connections, meeting new people and hearing their stories,” said Carol Thomas. “Photography has opened my eyes and my heart to the beauty of the world.”

Thomas, 71, lives in Berkeley, Calif. She got her first camera at age 12 and has considered herself serious about photography since the 1970s. But only recently has she started identifying herself as a photographer.

In 2012, Thomas retired as the CEO of Education Northwest in Portland, Ore., one of 10 federally funded regional education labs. Her list of retirement goals included improving her photography skills. “I looked for local resources, started reading more photography blogs and enrolled in a class,” she said.

Since then, Thomas has joined two local photography clubs and she is an affiliate of
Pro Bono Photo, a group of volunteer photographers that works with nonprofits. This year, Thomas was invited to join Berkeley Fine Art Photographers and her work has been included in exhibits at galleries.

“Photography is my second act,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t very good at first, because it was a hard switch from being so analytical and literal in my old job to being more creative and abstract. Now, it’s cool to think of myself as a photographer!”
‘Making Shawls Brings Me Lots of Joy’

Ann Nessa never goes out without wearing one of her shawls — wardrobe accessories she calls “neck art.” Nessa knits them from colorful yarns, including silk, merino, linen, angora and even bison. Many of the yarns are hand-dyed, and they come from all over the world.

“I look for unique yarns, and I want no distraction from the design. I want the yarn to do the talking,” said Nessa, 75. “Some of the shawls are big and some are small, and I wear them with dresses or jeans.”

When Nessa retired in 2009, she was already a knitter. When she noticed new and different shawl patterns available, she decided to make shawls. Each one takes a couple of weeks to finish, depending on how often Nessa sits down to knit. How many has she made? She admits to “hundreds,” each one unique. “Making shawls brings me lots of joy.”

For Nessa, knitting is not a solitary art. Before she moved recently from Whitehall, Mich., to Buffalo, N.Y., Nessa was a longtime member of Pints and Purls, a knitting club that met at a craft microbrewery. In her new city, Nessa has learned about one knitting group, but hasn’t ruled out starting another.

“I’ll go to a library and see what groups they have, or maybe I’ll settle in at a coffee shop and start knitting,” she said. “Other knitters will come right over to talk. Who knows what might get started?”

Patricia Corrigan is a journalist and the author of numerous books, including a guide to San Francisco that expresses her great joy in her adopted city. Visit her blog here.


The Best Way to Improve Brain Health

By The Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging from Next Avenue
Credit: Adobe Stock
(Advances in science and public health are increasing longevity and enhancing the quality of life for people around the world. In a series of interviews with the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, 14 visionaries will be revealing exciting trends and insights regarding healthy longevity, sharing their vision for a better future. The Longevity Innovators interviews highlight new discoveries in biomedical and psychosocial science, as well as strategies to promote prevention and wellness for older adults. This is the first in the series.)
Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black (chair of the department of neurosurgery and director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles) has pioneered advances in our understanding and treatment of brain cancers and complex neurological conditions. Black is also a research scientist studying targeted drug delivery, cancer stem cells and Alzheimer’s detection through retinal imaging, among many other areas. In an interview with the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, Black talks about the importance of developing a test for early onset Alzheimer’s and his goal to inspire the next generation.

Dr. Keith Black
What is the most important thing that people should know about improving brain health?

People need to know how important lifestyle is to sustain health. Lifestyle, diet, exercise, moderating stress, making sure you get a good eight hours of sleep when you can, making sure you keep your brain engaged particularly in novel activities — all of these matter. You have to remember the brain is a living organism very much like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.

We need to treat our brains better. For example, try to avoid excessive alcohol and make sure that you screen yourself for diseases like diabetes and hypertension that can be devastating to the brain.

What will be the benefits of having a reliable test for early onset Alzheimer’s?

I think there’s a huge misconception that if you get Alzheimer’s or if you’re going to get Alzheimer’s, there’s nothing that you can do about it. And I think the science shows that that perception is incorrect.

We know two things now that address your question. The first is that Alzheimer’s starts about two decades before a person develops symptoms. During that period of 20 years, you’re losing brain cells, and you’re losing brain connectivity. If you can detect the disease at the very start, particularly before you lose enough brain cells to become symptomatic, we may have the ability to stop the process or at least slow it down and prevent an individual from becoming symptomatic.

If people are developing Alzheimer’s in their 50s and 60s, they are going to become symptomatic in their 70s and 80s. If you can slow the overall process and have people become symptomatic in their late 90s or 100s, you have the ability to essentially prevent the disease from being symptomatic in most of our lifetimes. That’s really the major reason to move towards early detection, because preventing brain loss is a lot easier than restoring brain cells once they’ve died.

The other reason people should be interested is that even though we don’t have a pill that can stop the progression, we know that Alzheimer’s also has a lifestyle component. The scientific evidence shows that lifestyle habits such as a Mediterranean diet, exercise, sleep, meditation and other types of mindfulness modify stress levels. We’re seeing that potentially even micronutrients like the omega-3 fish oils may be very important in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

What’s your take on Pfizer
ending research to find new drugs aimed at treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases? How do you think it will impact ongoing research?

I think a lot of the trials that have failed for Alzheimer’s disease, including the Pfizer trial, could’ve been better designed and better developed. I think we have a lot to learn from the failure of those trials.

For example, how do we get the drugs into the brain more effectively? How can we better select the right population of patients to treat? I think addressing those potential reasons for the failures of those drugs will lead to successful therapies and hopefully successful approvals.

The Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging

The Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging aims to improve lives and strengthen societies by promoting healthy, productive and purposeful aging.

Friday, October 19, 2018

7 Ways to Find Love and Friendship Later in Life

Remaining open to connecting with new people can be rewarding
By Wendy Sue Knecht for Next Avenue

Credit: Adobe Stock

There’s no question of the importance of personal interactions and connections with friends as an important source of our well-being. This is especially true as we age, and much has been written about the challenge of making friends and finding love in the later years.

Looking for love, or even just hoping to make a new friend, can seem intimidating when you’re older. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Personally, I didn’t find Mr. Right until late in life, and it definitely took some work on my part to be ready for the right person when he came along.

Here are a few insights that may be helpful in finding love and friendship as we get older:

1. Re-frame old mindsets It’s all how we frame things in our minds that affect our vision. With the right mindset, it is easier to find love and friendship.

Although it is often said that as we get older we get more stuck in our ways, this doesn’t have to be true. We learn more about ourselves as the years go by, and our tastes become more distinct; but that doesn’t necessarily imply that we have to become more rigid. As I’ve experienced, it is possible to become more open-minded as we age.

When I got married for the first (and only) time at age 47, I can’t tell you how many comments I received from well-meaning friends and acquaintances: “Really, wasn’t that difficult?” “Weren’t you used to living alone?” and “Weren’t you set in your ways?”

“No!” I would emphatically answer. Being single for so long made me ready to welcome change. Having more self-knowledge made it easier to feel open to new experiences. I realized that being set in my ways was a choice and served no purpose. I made a conscious decision not to be “stuck” in a rigid mindset.

2. Don’t expect others to be perfect With age comes confidence, and hopefully, the acceptance of our own imperfections. Personally, in my younger days, I had strict standards that everyone had to live up to. My friends used to tell me that I was “too picky” regarding men, which was a nice way of saying “too critical.” Once you come to accept your own faults and imperfections, it is much easier to accept other people for who they are. Not only do I not expect anyone to be perfect, I would hate for anyone to expect that of me.

3. Don’t let others define you
When we were younger, many of us chose friends a lot like ourselves. Hence the “cliques” in high school, where everyone was pretty much alike. Back then, we needed to be alike to be accepted.

Once we have the self-assurance of age, it is no longer necessary to find a partner or a friend to define ourselves. You can appreciate others more fully when you realize they are not a reflection of you. Differing opinions and tastes can make things more interesting if you are open to listening without judgment. For example, the famous friendship between Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Anthony Scalia comes to mind.

4. Embrace quirkiness Perfect is boring and quirkiness can be a lot of fun if you have a sense of humor. My husband’s “Obsessive Cleaning Disorder” would have driven me crazy in my 30s, but now I can work around it and even appreciate it. As long I keep my own modicum of neatness, I can reap the benefits of his obsession. I am perfectly happy for him to clean up the dinner dishes and organize the drawers (he does a much better job than I do).

Quirkiness in ourselves and in others can make life more interesting. Don’t fight it, embrace it.

5. Celebrate differences An appreciation and tolerance of differences is a big bonus of getting older.

A recent vacation was a big eye-opener. In my newly acquired travel agent role, I booked a small French river barge and filled it to capacity with 21 people. I recruited half of the passengers, whom I knew, and one of my friends brought along the others. Although mostly everyone knew at least one or two of the others on the trip, it was a fusion of childhood, college and work friends from all walks of life, white to blue collar. Everyone took a leap of faith and I held my breath, feeling responsible for the whole lot.

Our group was smart to ignore the topic of politics — one that is way too divisive these days. But everyone took the time to learn from each other. We shared our love of travel, food and wine, and embraced each other’s differing backgrounds. By the time the seven-day trip ended, we all had made a few new friends.

6. Visualize
Remember the self-fulfilling prophecy is just that. If you really can feel in your heart that you are ready to meet a new friend or love interest, you are much more likely to be open to it when the opportunity presents itself. Visualize it happening. I found there is a lot of value in putting good thoughts out to the universe.

7. Keep an Open Mind
Keeping an open mind is key to finding new friends and love as you get older. Never say never; love and friendship could be just around the corner.

By Wendy Sue Knecht
Travel expert Wendy Knecht is a former flight attendant, a designer of travel bags and author of Life, Love, and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir. She blogs at WendySueKnecht.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Are You a "Solo Ager"?

By Richard Eisenberg

With her recent book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A retirement and aging roadmap for single and childless adults, Sara Zeff Geber brought the term “solo agers” into the national vocabulary. By Geber’s definition, a solo ager (sometimes called an “elder orphan”) is a boomer without children and/or grandchildren. Geber, a
2018 Influencer in Aging based in Santa Rosa, Calif., is a retirement coach for boomers, a life planning and retirement transition expert, a professional speaker, a workshop leader and a Forbes contributor. She has a Ph.D. in organizational behavior.

Next Avenue: Your bio says: Sara has been among the first professionals in the field to recognize that the baby boom generation would re-invent the whole notion of retirement in a very exciting way. Tell me about that.

Sara Zeff Geber: In 2010, nobody was talking about this. Boomers were primarily in the workforce. I was looking at the trajectory of the boomer generation and what we’ve changed in society and the likely changes we will enact in our later years. Now, we’re starting to see them bigtime.

Why is there so much interest in solo agers now?

For one thing, there are so many of us. Almost 20 percent of boomers don’t have kids and as I keep being told in my talks, solo aging is not limited to people who don’t have kids. Lots of people are aging alone with kids who live a long way away and a lot of them don’t want to rely on their kids.

Some people refer to older adults without children as ‘elder
orphans,’ but you don’t like that term and many others don’t either. Why?

I hate that term. I find it offensive; the word ‘orphans’ has always had a negative connotation. I wanted to use words that are positive or at least neutral. I think I coined the term ‘solo ager’ eight years ago and now I’m pleased others are using it.

What are the challenges and opportunities solo agers face that are different than other people?
Opportunities? You absolutely have a lot more freedom to decide where you’re going to live. You don’t have the tug of kids or grandkids to live in a particular climate you don’t want. And you can go wherever you want.

What do people ask you about solo agers when you give talks about it?

People are very interested in the topic of where they should live. I’m not the biggest fan of aging in place; I like to see people focus on aging in community. It’s so important to build and maintain a social support network. I encourage people to think through to the end of life when we need people around us.

What do solo agers need to do first for their retirement planning?

They should use professionals like financial advisers and estate attorneys and get their paperwork in order — advance directives, wills, trusts, powers of attorney. That forces solo agers to think through: ‘Who will I name on those documents?’ And they have to talk to those people; you can’t just name them and let it go. You need to tell them your values and your vision for your future.

What happens when a solo ager asks someone to be in charge of their end-of-life wishes?

I can’t say people are always very gracious and say: ‘Yes, I’d be happy to do it.’ They’re not always comfortable at first. Help them understand you need people in your corner as a solo ager. If you tell me ‘I asked one person and she declined,’ I say: ‘Move on to the next person.’

I encourage people to start with family: a niece or nephew who lives near them.

What happens is often people go into a crisis after a fall or a medical event and there they are in the hospital and somebody needs to be there as an advocate waving paperwork saying: ‘I am power of attorney.’

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want people to remember me as a person who opened the world’s eyes to the fact that many people in the coming older generation of boomers, and possibly generations to follow, don’t have the safety net of adult children as we get older. And we need to plan in many ways what want to be, who we will be around and how we will avoid isolation and loneliness.

Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch.@richeis315