The Road to Retirement.

July 30, 2021

The Road to Retirement.

May 29, 2023

There's nothing like going back to work to improve our retirement years. I recently accepted a part-time gig at a brand-new Assisted Living facility close to home.

What a nest.

I mean we're talking ombre-designed cozy nooks. Furniture, book spines and ceramics in hues of warm oranges and yellows. While another area features white and gray varieties. Not to mention crackling fireplaces, cougar hair salons, "arrrgh," and Frank Sinatra crooning to the tunes of the 40s.

I quickly realized I didn't want to work there, I wanted to live there.

Some of my new job responsibilities, as an activities assistant, include leading karaoke, exercise and arts and crafts. They will soon discover that my enthusiasm far exceeds my abilities in all of these domains...

...but until then...

I'm even going to be trained to drive the sixteen passenger bus to local restaurants and attractions.

In other words, it's like kindergarten all over again. Without the disciplinary problems. Mine, not the residents'.

Anyway, to stay on point, on day one, after suiting up Covid-style, I visited with each of the residents in their rooms. Mostly women and mostly older. Ruby and I chatted about the good old days while scrolling through photo albums.

Did I say scrolling? How 2021 of me! I meant reminiscing.

In my new job, I'm required to take training about various aspects of aging. This week’s topic was dementia. I scored a perfect 100% on the exam. Mainly because I can relate to the symptoms. Wandering with no known purpose throughout the house while talking to myself, rummaging through drawers to find God knows what, having a hard time making sense of the world around me and feeling stressed by my environment. Wait a minute, is that dementia or life with teenagers?

Please tell me I'm not alone.

I even learned a new word - "elopement."

Wandering that takes a person away from a safe setting. In my new role I need to keep an eye out for residents who elope. If anyone looks like George Clooney, I'll elope with them.

Before I transitioned to Julie McCoy, your Cruise Director, I spent 30 years in Education. I promised myself that if I ever decided to work again, it would be low-tech, include lots of movement to channel my A.D.D., and contribute to my community.

Which is a lot more fun than house cleaning. Seriously, who doesn't want to part with dust bunnies on a daily basis?

In the past, I used full-time work to explain why my home wasn't Zen. Why the heady aroma of homemade bread wasn't wafting through my neighborhood and why I couldn't help my daughters with homework. I'm looking at you, Algebra II. In any event, you can see where this is going.

It was a bad year to retire. After a while, the rinse and repeat of webinars, meet-ups, and podcasts felt like eating the same meal every day. Not something you want to do unless it's spaghetti..

...With meatballs and lots of parmesan.

Anyway, the pandemic left me with no active retirement groups meeting in real time. No chance to hire a personal trainer to develop talents in painting, gardening or golfing. Not that I have any talents in painting, gardening or golfing. It was just the romantic retirement version gleaned from envying television commercials.

And no matter how much I Zoom-moved my body, at 63, I was never going to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated like Christie Brinkley with her two daughters.

But that was then and this is now. Even though I'm a few years away from an empty nest, I found I needed some structure to my day. I like to have connection to the outside world, the chance to further develop talents and interests. To give back while having fun and not taking myself seriously. After all, we need to be productive to feel alive.

Besides, I want to see what my options will be in the upcoming decades, should I decide that Assisted Living is a good fit for me. No sense ignoring demographic inevitability.

So, scoot over Ruby. Now who was that standing next to you in your 1948 High School Yearbook?

Terry Fierro, MA, is an educator, writer, actor. A nature and travel lover who enjoys getting rid of stuff, shortening to-do lists and reveling in JOMO (Joy of Missing Out).

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