Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - September 13, 2019

"Something to do, ..."

While husband Art's family pretty much ignored birthdays, my relatives were into celebrating them. So I thought it was neat when earlier this month I received an unexpected letter recognizing one of my milestones. It began:

Dear Gloria,

Enjoy your Birthday.

However, since the sender was AARP, the organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, I was pretty certain they weren't going to stop at wishing me a happy birthday:

... Our records show that you haven't yet registered for the valuable benefits of AARP membership, even though you are fully eligible ... Return the membership form above with your payment to receive your special 25% Birthday Discount, plus a FREE INSULATED TRUNK ORGANIZER ...

The letter was signed by Jo Ann C. Jenkins, who is identified as the chief executive officer. Wanting to do some "due diligence," I checked it out. It seemed "legit" as Jenkins has been the CEO since 2014.

Still, it's my birthday today and it seemed a bit presumptuous to ask ME to give THEM money, even if they were offering me a free trunk organizer. (For that matter, I think my car's trunk is as organized as I need it to be!)

When Art's birthday was approaching last month, Beltone reached out to him. There were no birthday greetings ... maybe they knew his family doesn't do that ... but they did want to test his hearing.

Hearing loss is a national health issue, affecting 1 in 3 seniors ages 65-74, and 50% of seniors 75+. Beltone is offering free hearing screenings and technology rebates for those who think they may need hearing aids or who are unhappy with their current technology ...

It included a "check" for $800, signed by Joshua Beach. Under his signature, it said "authorized signature," and he also signed the associated letter. Beach was identified as "HCP" on the letter. Some Internet searching revealed there is something called the Hearing Conservation Program and a person can apparently be certified in the program. However, I couldn't find any Joshua Beach who worked for Beltone. I also noted that in the lower-right-hand corner of the check it says, "NOT A CHECK NO CASH VALUE" in large letters.

Art was not impressed with this birthday greeting!

A little earlier, he had also received a survey from the CEO of Meadowlark, a facility that provides a range of care capabilities for the older crowd here in Manhattan, Kansas. They are expanding their operation and wanted his input. One of the questions was:

Which of the following most closely matches your future retirement living plans, if any?

No plans
Move in with relatives
Move to another house or condominium within the area
Move to a senior living community
Relocate to another geographic area
Other (please specify)

I joked with our daughters that he was going to check the second one and when the time comes, we'll move in with them! Katie said she was glad she and her husband decided to move 11 hours away!

The survey went on to ask if we would be interested in a concierge desk, a casual bistro or a rooftop bar. It was clear at that point that we don't match the demographics they're searching for. We consider these things to be code for "ridiculously expensive."

Since I will be retiring from the university next May, I recently visited with a fellow in the human resources office about some questions I had. He suggested that I visit with my financial adviser to determine how I want to handle my retirement funds. I had to chuckle. Any time I decide to spend or save or invest money, I do discuss my options thoroughly with my financial adviser. His name is Art ... and he does the same with me.

All four of these situations share something that Art occasionally mentions. He says if someone who hasn't seen you for a while says something like, "Wow, you look great!" they MAY be complimenting you, but they may also be unintentionally revealing that they think you normally don't look so hot.

In the same fashion, these four stories all deliver a similarly conflicted message. While offering something you might truly need, there is also a subtle message that you should expect to be needing what they are offering - if not now, soon.

On our trip to Europe this past summer, Art, Art's daughter Karen and his grandson Josh, 25, had gone on ahead of the rest of our group. Josh wondered if there would be anyone in his age group coming later and Art answered those who would follow were 60-, 70- and 80-somethings. This led Josh to wonder how he was going to deal with a bunch of old farts with walkers and canes. So when we arrived and hopped out of the van, Josh asked himself, "Where are the old people?"

It is a fact that as the years pass, a person's abilities will eventually decline. But our own concern over such losses and the not-always-so-subtle messages coming from around us may encourage us to stop living before our life is truly over.

In my own case, I haven't really pictured the details of what my life will look once I don't have a daily job to go to. But I do have a ton of projects that have been on hold way too long that I am eager to tackle.

Being a writer, I always appreciate when someone can put into words something I have been wrestling with to say in a concise way. My friend Jay did just that. He told me the key to a successful, happy retirement is to have "something to do, something to look forward to and someone to love."

Check, check and check.

So I am expecting all of today to be happy, despite not having my very own trunk organizer, hearing aid, concierge or walker!

Left: Gloria's "Happy Birthday!" offer card; right: Jay (left) and Josh.

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Other columns from 2019 may be found at: 2019 Index.
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