Posts Tagged ‘retirement’

Photo: 2Life Communities.

Back in June, I was listening to the radio in the car and heard a local interview with poet Billy Collins. Collins was in the area for a 2Life Communities fundraiser. In searching for more information on 2Life Communities, I found this 2021 story from GBH radio. Turns out, there actually exists, through a lottery system, an affordable and very diverse option for retirement in Greater Boston.

Marilyn Schairer reported, “Some senior adults living in and around Boston face a major life dilemma nowadays, especially when they retire and are on a fixed income: they have to choose between paying for heat, for food or for rent.

“That’s what 2Life Communities is working to change. The nonprofit is on a mission to help senior adults live in affordable housing in the Greater Boston area, with over 1,300 units and hundreds more in planning and construction stages, as demographic shifts leave more older Americans burdened by housing costs.

“Amy Schectman, president and CEO of 2Life Communities, said 2Life does more than just provide housing for middle- and low-income senior adults.

“ ‘We’re dedicated to the proposition that every older adult should have the opportunity to live a full life of connection and purpose in a dynamic, supportive environment,’ she said.

The organization’s mission brings together a community of people from all backgrounds and cultures. …

“A major demographic shift is underway in the United States as the baby-boomer generation ages. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 years old or over, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“But Schectman said only a third of older adults who qualify for subsidized housing actually receive it nationwide. The remainder, as found by Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, are ‘housing cost burdened,’ Schectman said, ‘meaning they’re spending an inadequate [amount on] money on food and medicine.’

“Currently, 2Life Communities has 1,340 affordable apartments on six different campuses in the Greater Boston area, including Newton and Framingham, and they’re looking to build another campus in Lynn. … Tenants at 2Life are selected through a lottery system, and the waitlist is long. …

“Tenant Darryl Smith won an apartment in the lottery three years ago, and he is thrilled.

“ ‘Oh man, I’m jumping for joy,’ he said. Smith, who is in his 70s. …

“2Life was formed in 1965, and back then it was called Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly. Schectman said the new name is meant to convey a sense of joyous aging, and it comes from a traditional Jewish or Hebrew toast: ‘L’Chaim,’ which means ‘to life.’

“One of the things tenants said they like about the living situation is the diversity. Resident speak a plethora of languages, and there are lots of people from the Boston area, of course, but many are immigrants, representing countries such as China, Ukraine and Belarus. …

“ ‘The end of the year is a big time of giving,’ she said. ‘And let me be clear, we can’t do what we do without philanthropy. We are 100% dependent because we believe you can’t chintz out on services and programs.’

“The median annual household income among residents is $12,078, according to Schectman. But even with federal subsidies and tax credits, she said partnerships with businesses like Dellbrook Construction are needed. Dellbrook’s CEO Michael Fish said he understands the need for organizations like 2Life Communities.

“ ‘The fact that they’re expanding and growing tremendously is not surprising whatsoever, and it’s incredibly necessary given the state we are in and the need for affordable housing for seniors,’ Fish said.

“And tenants like Darryl Smith feel a lot of gratitude for having a newfound home.

“ ‘I’ve got friends now that you can go right to,’ he said, noting the sense of community. ‘If you have any kind of problem, they’ll walk with you, and everybody’s smiling.’ ” More at GBH, here.

As my husband and I scout retirement communities, we realize that although we are fortunate enough to be able to pay the costs, we are going to lose out on contact with people of diverse backgrounds. Diversity of nationality, religion, and language is often tied these days to economic diversity. I will just have to keep volunteering with English as a Second Language classes. For me, making friends in those classes is truly enriching.

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Retirement means different things to different people. Some people can hardly wait to start traveling or playing golf more. I was always afraid of it — afraid that I would be bored, afraid that I would stop learning, afraid that without the structure of a work schedule I wouldn’t be able to remember what day it was.

In the event, it hasn’t been too bad.

Recognizing the variety of attitudes people have about retirement, the American Association of Retired People (AARP) commissioned a study for use by financial planners (varied attitudes do affect financial planning). I got a kick out of the recommendation about tempering people’s belief in a future consisting of walks on the beach and endless golf. After all, one really changes as time marches on. And I’m particularly aware of that today as my lack of attention entering an on-ramp was a bit responsible for getting my car rear-ended.

Chaiwoo Lee, Ph.D., and Joseph F. Coughlin, Ph.D., have now published “Describing Life After Career: Demographic Differences in the Language and Imagery of Retirement” at the Journal of Financial Planning. I removed references to prior research, but you can find all that here.

“This empirical study was conducted to understand people’s perspectives toward retirement and to describe how views differ between people of various characteristics.

  • “Verbal and visual representations regarding life after completion of a career were collected online from 990 adults in the U.S. to uncover underlying ideas and map key concepts.
  • “A small number of words and features were reported in descriptions of retirement, indicating both an ambiguity and limitation in relating their current selves to possible future states.
  • “Perceptions of retirement were generally positive, and a sense of optimism was evident across different segments.
  • “Some demographic differences were found in thoughts on life after career. For example, people making less than $25,000 a year used fewer positive words and more negative words [editorial comment: No kidding!]; younger adults’ images were more likely to address financial well-being; and older adults and those with higher incomes provided more images related to travel.
  • “Using the results of this analysis, financial planners can better address clients’ emotional needs, rather than solely focusing on rational financial planning. …

“The ambiguity and limited vocabulary associated with retirement might be explained [in part by the fact that] participants were asked to think about an intangible future state, their answers may have been bounded to a small, abstract, and coherent set of words. The observation that younger respondents used more vague and abstract words, while older respondents used more specific words, further supports this explanation.

“The finding can also be explained with portrayals of retirement in public media. Ekerdt and Clark observed that the majority of retirement advertisements did not depict visual images, and the small portion that did focused on leisure and freedom. Such limitation in consumers’ exposure to related concepts may have impacted the results, where ‘relax’ and ‘travel’ were among the most frequent.

“People were generally optimistic about life after completion of career. Most of the words were positive, and images showing life after career were generally more positive compared to images representing today. A possible explanation can come from the positivity bias, or the Pollyanna Hypothesis, which describes that people universally tend to use positive words more frequently and diversely than negative words. It is also aligned with past research that found people to be more optimistic about the distant future compared to the imminent future.

“The majority of such positive words and images addressed emotional values, suggesting a higher emphasis on pursuing emotional fulfillment in retirement. This may be due to related media that mostly convey positive contents around leisure, freedom, personal pursuit, and financial security.

“Results showed some differences in how different segments view life after career. For example, older participants, suburban and rural residents, married people, and men provided more words addressing physical values compared to their counterparts. … The positivity gap between the present and the future were greater among younger participants. However, while images from the younger participants showed wealth, family, and accomplishments with a positive lens, their descriptions lacked in how they plan to reach the ideal future state. [No kidding!]

“These findings have practical implications for the evolving roles of financial planners as curators, educators, and co-creators of retirement. The limited vocabulary and imagery imply that clients may not have a clear, or realistic, vision of retirement. Results suggest that planners may have a new role as curators of possible lifestyles for clients to consider and plan for.

“Respondents reflected inordinately high positivity about their future retired selves. Financial planners may not want to dissuade clients of looking optimistically, but they may find an important role as educators in tempering popular images of beach walks and green fairways with candid discussions of possible futures that may be costly and less positive.” Ha, ha, that’s for sure!

Nevertheless, I thought it was interesting that people think about retirement so differently.

More here.

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In Helsinki, Finland, where young people traditionally leave home at 18 but can no longer afford urban rents, Millennials are applying by the hundreds to live with the elderly.

According to Kae Lani Kennedy at Matador Network, “Retirement homes are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials.

“ ‘It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,’ explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in ‘A Home That Fits,’ a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties. …

“Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community. …

“By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with ‘A Home That Fits’ have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.” More here.

And check out a post I wrote about the same phenomenon in Cleveland, here. Both initiatives sound like fun to me.

Video: Seeker Stories

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Here’s another story about an older worker from John. I think we’ll discover more of these, given that retirement today doesn’t have the same appeal for everyone.

“Frank Gurrera is old-school Brooklyn,” writes Pete Donohue at the NY Daily News.

“Gurrera, a World War II veteran, is nearly 90 years old. But he’s still working as a subway machinist at the MTA’s sprawling brick maintenance complex in Coney Island. Gurrera makes or modifies parts for workhorse trains that were built decades ago and need periodic roof-to-wheels overhauls in order to remain in service.

“ ‘I enjoy the work,’ he said. ‘It’s the satisfaction of making something from nothing, making something from just a piece of metal.’

“Gurrera is exactly the type of transit worker the Daily News celebrates with its annual Hometown Heroes in Transit awards, which honor bus and subway workers who demonstrate exceptional dedication, bravery, compassion, ingenuity and other admirable qualities.” More about the awards here.

Although this story is from New York, people like Gurrera are also valued in Greater Boston, which has the oldest subway system in the country. The Boston Globe has reported on local machinists who are needed to make train parts by hand.

Photo: Pearl Gabel/NY Daily News
Frank Gurrera, who turns 90 on Oct. 29, makes subway train parts that no longer are available from the original manufacturer. The parts are used for workhorse MTA trains that were built decades ago.

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Kathy was telling me on the commuter train about an article on Littleton’s Life Care Center, which uses llamas and other critters to engage the residents.

I said, “Send me a link!”

Today I received the article in the Lowell Sun. Samantha Allen writes, “At the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley, it’s not uncommon to see patients asleep in their wheelchairs by the saltwater-fish tank, or out for a stroll around a pasture filled with grass-grazing animals like goats and llamas.

“Director Ellen Levinson said while the merits of ‘pet therapy’ have been adopted and used at various skilled nursing facilities across the country, it’s rare to find chickens and alpacas at a site.

“At the 120-bed nursing home, which houses a specialized memory-support unit for those with severe dementia and other conditions that affect the memory, staff members make time to ensure their patients interact with the animals whenever possible.

” ‘This is my philosophy: A lot of places say, “We have pet therapy,” and what they have is someone who brings a dog in on a leash once a week,’ she said. ‘If I were living here, that would make me more miserable. It’s not like real life. It’s not like having a dog, and then you’re just tempted with what you could have all the time.’ …

“This spring, the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley was awarded a perfect score by the [Massachusetts] Department of Public Health in a survey of nursing homes and senior-care providers.” According to Kathy, the Center is also friendly to outsiders, welcoming the public in for the llama shearing and other events.

Read more about the approach Levinson devised, here.

Photo: Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley 

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There was a nice article in the NY Times last week about people aging in place and inadvertently creating a retirement community. My husband sent me the link.

“When the co-op conversion wave began in New York City in the 1960s,” writes Constance Rosenblum, “singles and young married couples flocked to the Upper West Side hoping to get a piece of the action. Some of those people, now in their 70s, are still there, cemented in place by apartments bought for a song or equally treasured rent-stabilized units.

“As the neighborhood’s population has grayed, some apartment houses have morphed into what social scientists call NORCs — naturally occurring retirement communities. The most recent census estimates indicate that 22 percent of Upper West Siders, or 46,000 people, are 60 or older, compared with the citywide average of 17 percent. Attracted by convenient shopping, abundant mass transit and a wealth of cultural activities, many older residents hope to remain in their apartments the rest of their lives.”

I am a huge fan of walkable communities for people of any age, and I have often wondered why retirement communities are built in the middle of nowhere. Cost of land, I suppose. But if I couldn’t walk (or wheel myself) to shops, public transportation, the library, and so on, I would be very unhappy.

Perhaps it is the generation now nearing retirement that will make so-called Smart Growth a reality at last — simply because they don’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere.

More from the Times.

Photograph: Marcus Yam for The New York Times
The walking group of Bloomingdale Aging in Place doesn’t let snow interfere with a constitutional in Central Park.

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John recently alerted me to a PBS News Hour interview that my brother’s friend Paul Solman conducted with Rosa Finnegan, an enthusiastic 100-year-old worker. That reminded me that I had purchased the September 3 issue of the Christian Science Monitor Weekly largely because that lovely lady was on the cover.

The lead article had an intriguing title and blurb: “The silver-collar economy — More companies are hiring people 65 and older because they believe they are reliable and productive, while the seniors themselves need and want to work. But is the trend squeezing out young people?”

It interested me because I’m an older worker who is not tired of working. I don’t know if all young people feel squeezed out, but just yesterday, a young employee asked a friend of mine, “Are you thinking of retirement? You’ve been here a long time.” My friend made a polite rejoinder about loving the work and the people and not making any plans to leave.

She has many productive years ahead of her.

Mark Trumbull writes of Rosa Finnegan that she “has plenty of similarities with other wage-earning Americans. She hitches rides in with a co-worker, likes to joke around with colleagues, and feels very grateful to have her job. At the end of the day, she’s ready to sink into a cushy chair at home.

“But Mrs. Finnegan is also a trailblazer. She offers striking proof that employment and productive activity need not end when the so-called retirement years arrive. Let’s put it this way: Where many people now nearing retirement can recall Sputnik, civil rights protests, or the pitching wizardry of Sandy Koufax, she mentions memories of gas-lit streets, the spread of telephones, and working at a rubber plant during World War II.

“Having passed her 100th birthday this year, Finnegan is still working at a needle factory in [Needham, Mass.], helping to make and package the stainless-steel products in custom batches. Yes, she walks a bit more slowly now than many of her co-workers. But Rosa, as they all call her, still has willing hands and a nimble mind. And she has no desire to leave her job.

” ‘I’d rather be here than almost anywhere,’ she says. ‘You feel like you’re still a worthwhile person, even though you’re old – [you’re] not sitting in a rocking chair.’ ”

Read the whole delightful story here. And check out the Solman interview and his video clip, here.

And to all who say U.S. manufacturing is dead, I will just point out that there is a needle factory in Needham.

Photograph: Melanie Stetson Freeman / The Christian Science Monitor
Rosa Finnegan works on a needle at Vita Needle in Needham, Mass.


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