Saturday, March 22, 2014

14 Apps for Retirees

About once a week I download apps whose only appeal is that they're free. So I have dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of apps that, like old shirts from high school, are out of sight, out of mind, unlikely to be seen or used  again.

Today, however, I came upon 14 apps that are useful to retirees. 

1. AARP -- A shortcut to the best that's available at the AARP website.

2. Elderly Care Guide -- A lot of retiring boomers have a big problem -- taking care of elderly parents. 
3. Mint -- Keep track of money. 
4. Check -- Similar to Mint, but with some interesting extras

5. Retirement Planner -- Important financial shtick 
6. Lumosity -- A bazillion ways to train your brain and have a little fun at the same time.
7. Words With Friends -- An awesome word game that keeps you connected.
8. Baby Boomer Dates -- A legit dating site for anyone over 45. 
9. Ultimate Baby Boomers Guide -- How to age, exercise and manage change  (not free). 
10. WebMD -- Info for anyone with a pulse. (for Apple, Android and Kindle) 

11. Urgent Care -- A registered nurse answers questions and, if needed, has a licensed physician call back within 30 minutes. 
12. VZ Navigator -- Tells you where to go (without insults), plus restaurants, gas stations, more...
13. Find My Phone... Ooops... Where-the-hell did I put it? Use this app on another device. 
14. Lots more for retirees at the Google Play Apps Store -- Just search "retiring."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Retirement Cookies II -- More Taste, Less Smoke

Cookies rock -- they are one thing I would definitely pack if I were going to be abandoned on an island. And not the packaged variety. I'd want something right out of the oven, made with my own two hands. 

In retirement, I'm becoming a kitchen ninja with cookies as my throwing stars -- I mean, these are killer cookies. As you'll see in the video, I've come a long way since my first pathetic batch. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Karl Walenda, an Inspiring Retiree

On his last day at work, Karl Walenda walked a high wire between the two towers of the ten-story Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I walked to Starbuck's. Two very different approaches to retirement. 

Whereas I've ended up with a non-fat, no-whip mocha, Karl finished his 1-second retirement kissing the concrete. Of course, he also got worldwide attention. I got a farewell party with about 20 or so colleagues ("So long and thanks for all the fish"). This raises some questions: What am I going to do in retirement? How exciting do I want it to be? Would I rather amble a half mile for coffee or stagger on a wire stretched 121 feet above a street? My answers won't come all at one time. But I have been doing my research.

I've mentioned volunteerism a number of times in my posts. Coaching kids' basketball crossed my mind. But watching Karl tip-toeing on a high-altitude thread at age 73 has stirred something unexpected. A little envy. A bit of shame for being so wimpy in my choices. And the realization that I can do something exciting, because I'm still able. Now I'm thinking whitewater rafting, hiking the Appalachian trail, vein-popping bodybuilding. But I know me, inside and out. I'll probably gravitate to things like creating a comic book, traveling, astronomy, going into politics with the unrealistic goal of rebuilding the world... my retirement is a work in progress.

So, watch for me. But don't look up. I probably won't be there.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Retiree's Dog Days

I met Henry in the surgical waiting room at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield, Michigan. We shook hands, a fairly regular first-time greeting, quick, polite. I couldn’t read his face but he didn’t seem as surprised to run into me as I was to see him. Then he licked me. 

Black Labradors are friendly, but Henry lit up everything within10 feet. The woman holding his leash said, “He’s part of the hospital’s Pet Therapy program.” Her name was Helen, according to the name stitched on her pocket. “He’s an official employee of the Volunteer Services Department.” He even had a an "official employee" badge on his vest – it was attached to the leash and had a little badge that said, “Pet me.” So I did… and got another lick in return . 

Some kids about four or five years old spotted Henry and jumped all over him. His tail wagged a little faster but he didn’t seem at all bothered. Helen scratched his ear. “He's well trained, aren't you, Henry?”

As she told me her and Henry’s story I found out that Helen was retired and a volunteer who took Henry around to meet patients, employees and people like me – I was waiting while my wife was having surgery. Henry didn't leave my side, not even under attack by the kids. I think he sensed my tension. I have to say, just having him there was soothing. 

Helen took six weeks of classes to learn her job of handling Henry. “It’s the best volunteer experience I’ve had – and I’ve burned through a lot of them since I retired. I take him to patients in speech and physical therapy. I stop and talk when he runs into people like you who’re waiting – dogs can tell when you’re stressed, you know? Just having Henry around lowers patients’ blood pressure, makes them feel less lonely, puts everyone -- employees too -- in a good mood. Everyone knows him.”

As a recent retiree I had a few ideas about how and where to volunteer, but something like this
These Black Lab pups are in line for the extensive
training that will make them care dogs. 
hadn’t occurred to me. Helen said that she'd found a lot of potential jobs at Volunteer Match, an organization that matches retirees like me with jobs that I want -- and have the ability -- to do. It opened up an entirely new set of possibilities for me. I thanked her, gave Henry a good scratch under the chin and got a good-bye nose on my hand.

Max came out of surgery about an hour later. She was fine and has a few weeks of recovery ahead of her. And, thanks to Henry, I was fairly calm when I saw her. That, in turn, relieved her a bit. So  a little bit of Henry went a long way.

Among the things I learned from the experience is that there are more ways to enrich my retirement than I thought possible -- an old dog can learn new tricks. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Retired, in Need of Intelligent Life Forms

Before I retired, I spent at least 8 hours a day at work surrounded by colleagues. Most of them bipeds. Some with opposable thumbs. A few with prefrontal cortex. One or two able to use tools. But all of them friendly and capable of communication. Now I start my day started in complete silence. 

It’s wonderful but different. Almost spooky. Today, by nine o'clock; I had checked email and admitted that it's unlikely I'll get any more surprise retirement parties. The clock hit 10, and no one had badgered me for a report, which was a good thing. On the other hand, the clock hit 10, and no one had badgered me for a report. The quiet was deafening. I decided to search for intelligent life forms to replace those I had left behind.

I started at home, letting the water drip in the kitchen sink, adjusting it till the beat was perfect for “Sergeant Pepper’s” -- in my head, the Beatles were gathered in my office while I went about editing my Linked In profile, which was soon followed by messages of congratulations (Nice going! Don't have to sit in a noisy office all day! Enjoy it!) I walked to the shopping mall and wrote while the voices of buying and selling floated around me. I stopped for a late lunch where a waitress kept asking me if I wanted more coffee. I had discovered what I'll call a state of "semi-sensory deprivation." Perfect.

When Max walked through the door after her day at work, she told me about her afternoon meeting, the snowy drive home, the idiot in the parking lot. I had another intelligent life form in the house. Some gentle noise. Good conversation. I'm finding that retirement is a lot about learning to be alone, something I thought I knew how to do but really don't. Now I'm alone -- on my own terms.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Retiring -- A Piece at a Time

I had the wrong idea about retirement. I thought I’d be employed one day, and completely retired the next. But it turns out that I'm retiring a piece at a time. There are parts of me -- ankles, elbowslivernose, etc. -- that are on the beach, enjoying the view, so to speak. But there are other pieces that still go to work every day. Worst of all, my head -- it still wakes up thinking about the office ventilation problems, my wobbly chair, bad coffee, a shifting desktop and who’s bringing the bagels.  The key to getting my head to retire, I decided, was to get out of my comfort zone – stretch my mind, do something abnormal, go a little crazy. So I went to IKEA.

 What an unusual day. I lunched on a smoked salmon while, 50 feet away, a woman bought a bathroom sink. I learned how a human being could live in 180 square feet (which I had already learned in college, although not yet completely human). And I bought wire shelving that (the box promised) would support an aircraft carrier and could be put together in 30 minutes – if I were a nuclear physicist. Unfortunately, I'm not a nuclear anything and the assembly has eaten up my the day and all of my patience. But I’m a retiree… I have the rest of my life to figure out how parts 1A and 6C connect rod-F to rack-4.

 So, getting into new adventures is working -- I hear my mind saying good-bye to office routines. I think my head is going to retire sometime soon and join the rest of me. Maybe I’ll throw myself another party.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How Conservatives Have Twisted Language

I can't stand it anymore. Dictionary-challenged folks (mostly Republicans and Tea Partiers) keep using the word "entitlement" to describe Social Security and Medicare as gifts that a lot of lazy, undeserving riffraff (we retirees who otherwise couldn't afford to retire) receive when we hit retirement age. Not true! Send these conservative high school dropouts back to class for their GEDs! 

Social Security and Medicare are entitlements because the people who receive them have already paid for them -- with the FICA tax that came out of their earnings throughout their entire working careers, and they're entitled to get what they paid for.

The programs work. They don't contribute to the national debt. And my head is going to explode if I hear someone misuse "entitlement" one more time. (KABOOM!... that's what I get for listening to a conservative newscast.)