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Wrong Bucket List?

03/22/2016

A geriatric psychiatrist, Dr Marc Agronin,  wrote an interesting article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about the current generation of senior citizens.  Because they are “healthier, heartier, and richer” than previous generations, numerous surveys have shown Americans are happier when they get old, with thanks largely to the current entitlements and the previously-common pensions.

My take on the article is that the notion that elder Americans are happy is widespread — but only an inch deep.  Scratch the surface, and you will find a confused, frightened old person.  As an example, he discusses the sudden love affair that the elderly develop with taking cruises.  Of course, who doesn’t love taking a cruise?  We took another last year, so I do understand the narcotic pleasantness of it.  But, Dr Agronin notes modern retirees “live” for their “bucket list.”  The periods between these adventures become boring interludes, when nobody wants to see your photographs.  He argues that retirement is becoming a hollow experience, without meaning.  Certainly, all of us know seniors who appear happier than they really are.

The good doctor argues that we don’t spend enough time with our families.  If we must take cruises, we should take some family with us, he advises.  Of course, that assumes there is actually some family to be around.  In addition, families are often too widely distributed to really enjoy in modern America.

He gives too little attention to spending enough time with community.  Once-a-month, we deliver Meals-on-Wheels, which is very satisfying for us.  Once-a-week, I attend Rotary, where I enjoy the good company and the bad jokes.  We have held many projects to help the less fortunate or clean the environment.  Yet, the biggest problem facing Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, and other social organizations is falling membership.  Community involvement has fallen, just like family involvement.

But, both families and communities have something in common — people!

How do we change the model of retirement from driving a Winnebago . . . to painting the fence for the widow down the street?

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