The future of elder care in our country

In response to an apparent turn towards meanness in our country, I have heard lately a call for a return to civility and compassion. In addition, I have been studying trends in generational relationships and don’t like what I’m seeing.

In my recent piece on Boomer Cafe I asked, what responsibilities do baby boomers have toward younger generations? Now I begin to wonder, what responsibilities do younger generations have toward their elders who have worked hard and paid their way their whole life? A quick look through the articles in the June 2018 AARP Bulletin is instructional in this regard.

First I came to an article called “Social Security and the Elections” which warns, depending on the makeup of the new U.S. Senate and House, “Congress might look to make cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare” to reduce a ballooning deficit caused by Trump’s gigantic corporate tax cuts.

Reality check: The Social Security Administration estimates that 21% of married couples and 43% of single seniors rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 36% of near-retirees say they expect Social Security to be a major source of income once they retire.

A few pages later in the new AARP Bulletin I found a lovely article about how the Japanese respect and love their elders, a population where 28% are already over 65, and 30,000 Japanese turn 100 every year. At every bank, post office or hotel counter they provide reading glasses of three strengths for elder customers. With the highest percentage of senior citizens and among the world’s highest life expectancy rates, it seems natural for them to show concern for elders’ special needs. They also provide special buttons for extra walk time at crosswalks for senior pedestrians, and special elevators for those in wheelchairs!

I found a final article from AARP particularly reassuring as it complimented my state, Colorado, for being the first to establish a plan for the needs of an ever growing elder population. Within twelve years, one in five Coloradoans will be 65 or older, so our forward thinking governor recently appointed a Senior Advisor on Aging. The purpose of this position is to “Coordinate policies that affect older residents and work with state and local governments and health care providers on better ways to deal with the needs of an aging population.”

My sister, Diane Carter, who has been active in providing long-term care solutions and is one of our nation’s top advocates for the rights of the elderly, warns of the coming tsunami of needs we will face soon including affordable housing, transportation and access to health care for our seniors.

This is not the time to cut funds to support our aging citizens. It is instead time to prepare for a future with many more of them. Colorado’s new Advisor on Aging, Wade Buchanan warns:

“Most of the structures we have in place now, from our transportation systems to our housing stock to our health care systems, are designed for a society that will never exist again – a society where most of us are under 40.”

Retirement in rural southern Colorado: If you don’t take the risk, how will you ever know?

Four years ago, on June 17th, Mike and I sold our nice home in suburbia and left behind everything familiar to us. After living up in the Fort Collins area for the past few decades, this move felt like a gigantic leap of faith.

906 Deer Creek Lane front view

Here’s a photo of our past home in south Fort Collins. In the past four years it has increased in value more than $100,000! Wow, the prices of homes up in metroland are growing by leaps and bounds!

morning sun on comanche drive

After over a year of emotional and financial struggle, we triumphed over a million difficult challenges to create this passive solar home west of Walsenburg Colorado. We have been quite happy living here for the past few years. Retirement agrees with us, and especially in such a quiet, natural part of the West. BTW, passive solar works great down here!

Most of my worries about moving here never came to pass, and other completely unexpected problems replaced those. The biggest challenges for me have been health-related. My body made a quick decision to start falling apart soon after age 60, creating new opportunities for compassion towards others who suffer. And the truth is, I have met so many here who have been forced to retire early because of health concerns and disabilities.

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

Huerfano, meaning orphan, is a poor, rural county down near the New Mexico border, with a total population of around 6,500 and an average age of 54 years. With few good jobs and an abundance of natural beauty, the Huerfano attracts those with less money and more appreciation of rugged country and rural life. We live on three acres in the Pinon-Juniper ecosystem right around 7,000 feet elevation.

Judging by the rapid increase in traffic in Walsenburg, the many homes sold here in the past few years, and how crazy Highway 160 has become in the summer, it looks like this area has been “discovered” by those living up north in metroland.

AMAZING sunrise over the Spanish Peaks January 2018

We have found this area to be slow and quiet, especially in the winter, and windy as hell. If you hate the wind, don’t move here! The slow country ways are what now attract me. I can go into La Veta and always see people I know. I like that.

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

Laura Lee Carter is a professional photographer, writer and psychotherapist. Her midlife crisis included a divorce and the loss of her career as an academic librarian, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful flowed from these challenges. Laura now sees midlife difficulties as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for personal liberation. She has produced four books and one workbook on personal change, midlife psychology and how country living changes you.

Don’t miss her new one: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

What path am I creating that others might follow?

When everything began to change for me in the early 2000s, I was scared. It seemed like all of my previous coping skills weren’t working anymore. Staying in the same career and trying to make a moribund marriage work finally reached a dead end for me. My career no longer interested me, and my marriage was irrevocably broken.

Now I know. If you find your life headed toward dead ends, find the time to focus on who you are now, before you decide what’s next.

After I got myself out of that very bad place, and began to feel like things had truly turned around for me, my greatest desire was to create a better path that others might follow out of midlife misery. Being a psychologist and a scholar, I started studying the history of midlife psychology. There I learned that what I had just experienced was a natural, normal, healthy transformation available to every person who is willing to take advantage of this new rite of passage for the human race! If you have the desire and the courage to take risks, you can change just about everything in your life.

caterpillar butterfly quote

That is what I have been doing ever since, and life just keeps getting better. I became a writer to educate others about the unique opportunities midlife presents to us at just the right time to get it right this time! Yes, there is still plenty of time to find a much better life, but first you must decide your highest priorities and then do everything in your power to reach those goals.

But this is also about attitude. Do you believe you can create a much better life for yourself? Why not error on the side of the positive this time?

Abundance is how we live in each moment – the choice to be open, the choice to entertain the possibility that we can have, create, and attract what we truly want.

Open to your own vast spontaneous creativity. Give yourself the freedom to try new things. Let go of your innate fear of failure, and finally feel free to experiment, perhaps for the first time in decades!

  

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

One lesson we can all learn by travelling to other countries is that Americans are awfully busy. I have lived in southeast Asia, China, France and Italy, and can find no other group of people who feel the need to be constantly busy. My favorite country was Italy. They seem to have such a generous sense of time compared to us, and an ability to enjoy the process of living without guilt over stopping to enjoy each moment.

How did we ever get so busy and guilty about simply relaxing?

Freefall for blogI really don’t know how we got so driven as a culture, but I do have a few tips on how to give yourself a break from all of that internalized pressure: Take days off from your ‘normal’ life where you can truly do whatever YOU want to do. No rules. No guilt. Be lazy. Watch trashy TV. Eat mac and cheese. No food shaming either. Try really hard not to judge yourself or others for just a few hours. Celebrate having the time to just be yourself!

Let your mind wonder on a regular basis. Free thought is where all creativity comes from. How could your life be better? Free your mind to consider ALL of your options. What barriers would you need to bridge in your own mind to have a much better life?

What rules do you need to get rid of right now?

For some reason, aging can be quite the catalyst in freeing your mind. Being perfectly clear on the fact that your years are numbered can clear your head! What do you want to do before you die? Stop all the daily busyness long enough to do those things now!

feeling satisfied everyday

Stepping out of the busyness, stopping our endless pursuit of getting somewhere else, is perhaps the most beautiful offering we can make to our spirit.  — TARA BRACH

 

Rediscovering your heart

“Who knows why you start rediscovering your heart you just do it again and again…”    – Jimmy Buffet

Midlife is such a marvelous time to rediscover yourself and your earliest dreams and goals. It is the time to look back and see how well you have achieved those goals you treasured as a child, and what else needs to be done to make your life complete.

Here’s a short essay from my book Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife, about how this process might proceed:

pretty purple rocks

What Defines You? Rediscover Your Heart 

Your first step in this new action plan will be to let go of your previous reality, which was built on unrealistic goals, rules, expectations, and perceptions. This will require that you first find a way to believe it is possible for you to change your life.

How will you do this? First you must rediscover your heart, your inner wisdom, and your belief in your power to change perhaps everything in your life. Do you remember your child’s-mind and heart at age seven or eight? When you were that kid you had a pretty good idea of what you loved to do and what you were naturally good at. Back then you were still listening to your inner wisdom and paying more attention to its truths. That was before authority figures began sharing their truths with you, convincing you that your own truth was silly, unrealistic, and not worth listening to.

Now is the time to check inside again and excavate that child’s wisdom from the decades of outside advice and beliefs you have accumulated in your head and heart. Yes, there were many practical concerns that drove you to choose the major you pursued in college, the career you have dedicated your life to up until now, and even the love partner you may have spent the past 20 or 30 years with.

No need to judge the choices you have made up to now. Know that you have always done your best to survive and thrive, but also respect your present need for a mid-course adjustment. Constantly racing towards some sense of security is quite human, but not realistic. Find new respect for your changing self and the many new perceptions you will gather as you attempt to turn off the safety-seeking, security-oriented feedback loop in your brain. Security can only take you so far, but to grow and evolve you must take new risks. Your overall goal is to have no regrets as you look back over your life from the age of 70 or 80.

Change in midlife requires that, like never before in your life, you begin to believe in yourself and your power to change. This exercise will require that you develop your highest levels of self-love, self-respect, and self-compassion.

As you begin to recall your past interests and dreams, think about what happened to them. Did they hold any validity? Do you miss those dreams or have reasons to believe that you would still like to pursue them? Were they vestiges of your authentic self, which you have tried to delete or ignore for decades? Would this be a good time to allow them back into your heart, if only for a bit of new consideration?

Midlife is the best time to question again why you are here and become crystal clear about what needs to happen in your life before you die.

Laura and Rasta the view 2014

Open to your vast spontaneous creativity, give yourself the freedom to try new things, let go of your innate fear of failure, and finally feel free to experiment, perhaps for the first time in decades!

Boomer Spring Stories: The Easter Edition!

EASTER-EGGS small for blogDoesn’t everyone have a great Easter story? I do! Many years ago my Mom and I were visiting her parents in a small town in Missouri. It was a beautiful spring day so we were out walking around. We came to a park and started noticing small candy eggs laying around, so we picked a few up. Ten minutes later the kids arrived, yelling and all worked up. We suddenly got it. We were stealing candy from children! We re-hide them quick…

Easter chocolate Bunny cartoon                                                 It’s also time for my favorite Easter bunny joke!

Easter is my favorite time of year, because I was born around this time… a true Easter baby!

Here’s how the date of Easter is determined:  “Easter falls on the first Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon, the full moon on or after 21 March, taken to be the date of the vernal equinox.”

Let’s see what some of my boomer blog friends have to say about springtime. Here’s one from a friend in Australia first:

Spring adds new life

Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. Sue Loncaric from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond shares her thoughts on welcoming spring and the opportunity of new beginnings and possibilities: Ten things you can do to enjoy spring and also enrich your life with health and happiness.

Spring’s the time to do some life pruning and there’s no time like Easter to begin, says Carol Cassara over at Heart Mind Soul. Releasing what no longer serves us is a great way to celebrate renewal and rebirth.   

daffodilsLonger hours of light, the sun feels slightly warmer every day, the gray landscape begins to turn green, it must be the season when we spring forward. These experiences all inspired Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting to write her piece, “And Then There Was Light.”  

Jennifer from Unfold And Begin is happy that the temperatures are warming up in Connecticut.  It means she can come out of hibernation and start enjoying warmer temperatures.  The weather also reminded her of a special drive that she took with her mother once. Read about it in “Driving With My Mother.”

BartendersRebecca Olkowski with BabyBoomster.com has been celebrating Women’s History Month (instead of spring). She attended an event in LA called “The History of Women and the Cocktail.” During the Victorian Age, women were concocting some amazing drinks to enjoy with their friends, even though they were excluded from bars and saloons. Well, I guess I’ll drink to that!

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how going to a new Methodist church with her sister on Palm Sunday this year brought ups memories of Easters past. Robison remembers how much she liked the sunrise services and enjoyed the way the hymns sounded in the hills surrounding Lake Chelan in Washington state.

Tom Sightings admits that he has a lot of nostalgia for the 1990s, when his kids were growing up and things were going well at work. But now in Can We Be Happy for the Rest of Our Lives? he examines how happy we are — and how happy we can be — in this new phase of life we call retirement.

Field of Wild Iris near Stonewall

Me, I’m cruising with gratitude that the sun still comes up everyday and spring always returns right on time. I feel so fortunate every day that I found the love of my life thirteen years ago.

Midlife really did create a kind of rebirth for me and then a whole new spiritual journey!

Winter Solstice in the Colorado Foothills

IMGP6902

On December 21st, the winter solstice arrives, a magical time when the sun begins its gradual journey to return to us the delightful warmth of spring. At once, darkness invites us inward to seek and find sustenance in that eternal, luminous ember at our core, while beckoning us out into the night to enjoy our sparkling stars.

Predating Christianity, we humans have been doing battle with midwinter’s ominous gloom for centuries with solstice rituals of light and fire, celebrating the warmer, brighter days ahead. In Europe the ancient Yule festival survives even today, with the traditional Yule log, believed to frighten away evil spirits.

Stonehenge_Summer_Solstice_eve_02

What a wonderful time to rejuvenate your spirit by appreciating the miracle of our sun and seasons. Take time to contemplate your life.  Nothing happens without personal transformation. Could this be just the right time for your best self to start to shine through?  Is it time to rediscover the positive, creative being you are inside?  What do you love to do, but have denied yourself for ages?  Is it drawing, playing music, watercolors, writing, hiking, dancing?  Is it painting your surroundings in all your favorite colors?  Start focusing on what is dynamic and creative within. What needs to come out now?

IMGP7027

Start each day by asking yourself: “What do I want to happen today?” But this time ask for EXACTLY what you want!

May you know yourself at home in the whole of your life. May you know the vast and infinitesimal blessings of your life as a gift. And may you know and share yourself as a source of great LOVE.