Our group of friends from Engineering College meets for breakfast, every first Sunday of the month. The camaraderie and the joy during the meet is seen to be believed. Why do we meet? How did we start meeting? I presume this urge of meeting school and college friends must have been there all the time. But till a generation before ours, there were hardly any means to locate long lost friends. Internet, WhatsApp and FB are the vehicles that have made this possible.
As a group of friends in the age group of late sixties, we try to discuss different topics during these meets. Topics range from “How to manage major Illnesses” to Yoga, Vipashchana and what have you. There was once a discussion on cashless society last December when we had demonetization exercise going on. This time it was about us, the Senior Citizens! The other option was GST but everybody opted for the first one. My friend Prem has a way with words. He said let us not call ourselves old, we are senior citizens! This tweaking of the word had so much positivity, that it set the ball rolling in the right direction. It culminated in my writing this blog, for which I wanted the title “Plan Old Age” but I changed it to “Plan Senior Citizenship”!
The caricature below is the attitude we should have, especially at this age. In younger age people, tendency is to think that they are infallible. They think that nothing is ever going to happen to them.
The quality of life in the our Golden Period will be dependent of how we handle different things in life. There will be many scenarios in current situation, as they are in any other situation. Health of an individual can be broadly explained as
· Those who may need physical assistance
· Those who may need support due to brain related illnesses like Alzheimer, Dementia and so on
· Those who are senior but do no need regular assistance or support
The personal situations also will have a lot of variation e. g.
· Those who are living with the spouse
· Those who may have lost the spouse
· Those whose children are nearby
· Those whose children are far away
With so many combinations, it is natural that each person’s status will be different and will need specific solution. We can however make a general attempt regarding what could be done to make life easier, relatively manageable and happy. I am not writing about bucket list! The key is to keep our health and wealth, in good condition, in case of health both physical and mental, and in case of wealth it means management of funds that we have at the time of retirement. In spite of our best efforts things may not work out the way we want.
This is a very important aspect that humans usually avoid. Our body keeps on sending signals all the time. We assume that if something goes wrong in any system, it will auto correct, we should not rush things. Wait for a few days. At our age please don’t do it; if you find any variation, get it checked from the doctor! Don’t become paranoid but be careful. Acidity can be acidity but it can be preamble to heart attack too! With age, body’s chances of fighting out and recovery are diminished, so not speaking up may result in something irreversible.
It is necessary to speak up about things other than health too! This will enable us to resolve things rather than bottling them up.
Act early is next to Speak up. If you speak up about whatever issue you may have and act quickly, there are obvious advantages. We have been taking action on everything all our life but in older age we may think in terms of delaying action, sometimes because of not understanding the gravity of the situation! Maybe our reaction time has increased!
Make new friends and keep the old
This should be true all your life but during your working phase of life, you do not get time to increase your friends circle. But in old age there is definitely a lot time available. So use it fruitfully and make new friends. Keeping links with old friends is an obvious thing but sometimes we forget importance of this. With old friends we can share anything and everything. Try to become an extrovert if you are not. When you go out, it could be a good idea to talk briefly with new people. When you go to a restaurant or get into planes, trains, buses say hi to person sitting next to you. Believe me you, in most cases people open out!
Make a rule to talk to at least one new person whenever you go out. You may have apprehensions, you may sometimes be rebuffed by someone who is a strong introvert. But don’t lose heart, people generally want to talk. Talk a bit to your grocer or the chemist. But make sure you don’t get popular as a big bore!
Be wise financially
When you retire, what you are left with, is all that is you are left with. Try and get advice on financial matters and tell your advisor that you want to be conservative. Don’t take actions based on sudden events that are out of control. Your actions should be well thought of.
Don’t be emotional about finances. Your assets are going to go to your children but make sure that they are in your name till you and your spouse, both are on the terra firma! Occasionally a child may need some funds from your kitty. Take a very measured decision considering your long term requirement and if you feel that you may be hand to mouth, be a little unemotional and deny the loan. Look at this as Catch 22 situation (meaning of Catch 22 situation is a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions). If you give the loan, your child may be happy but you may not be!
There will be some couples who do not have children. They need to discuss the matters in more details because their path for disposition of assets, after them, could be different. Nominate someone much younger than you, to execute your will!
Don’t get tricked into card frauds attempted by tricksters asking for card details. Don’t get seduced by someone offering high interest rates way above bank rates!
Think out of box
Reverse mortgage is an avenue not much used in India. It is reverse of taking a housing loan from a bank. You mortgage your house to a bank (many nationalized banks are doing it) and against this you can get monthly, quarterly money from bank same as EMI’s you pay to the bank. By doing this you are opening up the value of your home during your life time and you get to stay in the same home till you both die. I will not go into tenure and closure details but they are very fairly handled by banks. Only persons who may not be happy in this arrangement is your kids! One very important point, since what you are getting is loan from the bank it is tax free!
Important threshold for doing reverse mortgage is the age, at which reverse mortgage should be done. Since we do not know our last day on the earth, one could think of 15 year period but when to start this is going to be a very tricky decision. 68 or 70, what age is the right age we don’t know!
Appoint a Proxy
This is a very natural thing to do and will make life smoother for you, in case of your falling sick and not being in a position to handle paper work, deciding line of treatment etc.
Make a Will
WILL is the most powerful document that can be used to pass on your assets to your next generation and it over rides everything else. Again, ensure that the “WILL”, will pass on assets “after both of you pass”! Keep emotions in check! Making WILL, will give you comfort that you have organized things well so that next generation does not have avoidable headaches!
Consider moving from a bungalow to an Apartment. Managing things in independent homes beyond a certain age is not easy. So downsize to a home where many services will be handled by common facility providers.
This need not be said but our abilities to eat and drink get compromised with age. Limitations on physical activities also crop up. Hence we should not keep on eating things, we were eating in our younger age. Eat healthy food.
Same is true for exercise. By not doing appropriate exercise suitable to our age, we may damage muscles, bones or whatever.
Keep Connect with younger generation
This connect is absolutely essential to remain young mentally. You may also have a disconnect with technology! You may have disconnect with new thinking! All these things will make you feel lost.
And last but not the least, never utter the sentence, “In our times ….”!
Golden phase in our life as a senior citizen, is phase to enjoy, to be in peace with everything, to give back to society any which way possible. Make new friends, learn new things and rest assured that these are the things which you can do at any speed you want, the age is not going to come in the way!