Category: Health and Wellness

5 Ways to Promote Brain Health in Retirement

5 Ways to Promote Brain Health in Retirement

“There is no fountain of youth, but there is a fountain of health” states Dr.Carol Ward, geriatric psychiatrist for Interior Health, BC. That Fountain of Health™ is a national initiative “to promote brain health and resilience” particularly for adults in their Next3rd. The science has revealed 5 ways we can protect and improve our cognitive function.

The Good Doctor

Dr. Ward, whom I call Carol, a friend of many decades, has had a passion for helping the elderly ever since she began practicing geriatric psychiatry in 1992. She provides leadership at the national and regional level to enhance mental health care for seniors, and practices what she preaches in her patient care. “Seniors have a whole life story to share and I love learning about their lives.” Carol enthusiastically alerted me to the Fountain of Health™ (FOH).

What is the Fountain of Health™?

Simply put, it’s a fabulous resource for you and your doctor. Founded in 2010 by Dr. Keri-Leigh Cassidy, FOH is collaboration of several research and medical organizations focused on mental health, brain wellness and ageing well. It’s science-based, practical and easy to use. FOH’s findings highlights the 5 actions you can take to improve your brain health.

“It’s a tool and a culture change. It promotes positive aging.”

Dr. Carol Ward

If that’s not cool enough, the FOH has The Wellness App which is a simple tool designed to help you succeed in making small changes that stick. More about that later.

The Five Ways

The 5 ways, highlighted by FOH are key areas where you can “make change” to protect and promote your brain and overall health. The benefits of each area are explained and practical tips for implementing change are suggested. You don’t have to choose all five, just pick one to start if you like.

“Genes account for only 25% of your health condition. The rest is in your hands.”

Dr. Ward

1. Physical Activity

If you’ve read anything about ageing well, this is no surprise. The science is there. Exercise promotes your brain’s neuroplasticity and resilience to stress. “You don’t have to run a marathon” Dr. Ward explains. Just move everyday. Exercise helps reduce the risk of vascular disease including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and stroke. Discover more benefits and tips for success here.

Ideally, aim to raise your heart rate for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.


2. Social Activity

Loneliness is a risk factor to your health, yet as we age we are more likely to encounter social isolation. “Face to face is best.” Research has shown that socializing improves your mood and brain function. Having a “positive confidante”, someone “who has your back”, reduces your risk for stress-induced illnesses. Go for a walk with a friend, join a club, or volunteer are actions you can take to improve your social interactions. Learn more here.

“Figure out how you’re going to stay connected to the world, to people.”

Dr. Ward

3. Brain Challenge

Erase that image of declining brain function as you age! Your brain is ‘plastic’ and can continue to grow through old age … as long as it is exercised! Challenging your brain helps you build your “cognitive reserve”. Sudoko or crosswords, music or languages – get started! Discover more.

“Education and lifelong learning actually improves brain function over time and lowers your risk of developing memory problems and even dementia when you are older.”


4. Positive Thinking

The messages we give ourselves can make a huge difference to our mental and whole well being. Positive thinking (not the rose-coloured glasses stuff), can help you recover faster from health set-backs, improve your mood, memory and longevity. Think … “ageing is good” (not bad)!

In other words, be kind to yourself (and others). It’s not easy to change the way we think, but it can be done with practice. Actions such as writing your gratitudes, reflecting on your strengths, and blocking time chunks to practice problem-solving can help. Click here for more ideas.

“Changing the way you think about yourself as you age might be one of the most important things you can do for your long term health!”


5. Mental Health

“Our brains are not pre-wired to fail.” Poor mental health can translate to poor overall health. The good news is that mental health and life satisfaction can improve with age. Taking care of your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness. The key is to act now if you have concerns about your mood, alcohol use, anxiety, and the like.

“There’s a movement out there. Positive psychiatry. “

Dr. Ward

Instead of just treating mental illness, positive psychiatry provides a whole approach to mental well-being using additional practices such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga. The goal is to improve optimism, resilience, and an overall sense of well being. The FOH offers these ideas for you to act upon.

Making Change Stick

This is the beauty of the FOH and its Wellness Project. It provides tools like The Wellness App or downloadable worksheets to help you make change in small steps. You can sign up for positive encouragement from the App if you like, or share the worksheets with your doctor. It’s like having your own brain health coach!

The key is small change. Following the principles of SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-stamped), you are encouraged to choose one clear goal. Maybe you decide you want to increase your social activity. Your one small change is to call a long-distance friend once a week. The app and worksheets help you stay on track and see measurable progress!

“You don’t have to overwhelm yourself with change. Narrow it down to one thing that’s tangible and measurable. That’s the elegance of FOH.”

Dr. Ward

Final Words of Wisdom

Dr. Ward sums up what we can do to set ourselves up for a brain-healthful Next3rd:

  • “Managing your risk of vascular disease is truly one of the best things you can do for your health. Move your body.”
  • Take care of your hearing and eyesight; this helps mitigate cognitive loss. “The impact can be quite significant. Hearing aids are almost invisible now.”
  • “Look after your brain. You can always learn something new.”
  • Build your social connections to prevent loneliness. “Get out there.”
  • Enable a good sleep. “There is interesting research on lack of sleep and cognitive impairment.” Natural light helps your sleep rhythms; get outside. Be mindful of caffeine and alcohol use.
  • “The drive to be well is in us, even if we are unwell. You CAN make positive change.”

“Move your body, move your brain, move your mood!”

Dr. Ward

Care to share?

3 Retirement Lessons from the Inca Trail

3 Retirement Lessons from the Inca Trail

Built in the 1400’s and hidden from the Spanish, this 45km, 4-day trail through the stunning Peruvian mountains to the unforgettable Machu Picchu Inca ruins is a trip of a lifetime. It’s not easy, and it may not be for those expecting 5-star accommodations, but it does cause you to see things with a new lens. Especially when we face one of life’s biggest changes, retirement.



  1. You Can Do More Than You Think You Can

I wasn’t sure I was up to it.  Hiking in high altitude, from dawn to dusk, for 4 days, sleeping in tents and no showers! Three mountain passes, the highest, aptly named Dead Woman’s Pass, is 4,215m high. I’ve never been that high, and my body is, you know… ageing.  Old sports injuries are ever present along with other aches and pains, and you just didn’t know how you’d react to the very high altitude.  Could I keep up?

But, I had a list.  60 Things to Do Before I Turn 60.  Hike the Inca Trail was the BIG stretch goal.  Time to put my dream to action.  Enter Jocelyn, my energetic, tough, but encouraging physical trainer.  She helped me overcome injuries, strengthen the bod, and build up my cardio capacity.  More importantly, she helped my mindset.

“You’re not old. You can do this!  Age is just a number.”


She would remind me, when I would doubt injury recovery, and question my ability to do this trek.  She was right!  Going to the gym, raised my confidence level, but the big test was on the mountain.  I was the oldest of our group and I could keep up!   I did it!  Completing this trek, helped me realize I can do more!

I will never forget that exhilarating feeling of reaching the top of Dead Woman’s Pass and ‘whooping’ as loud as I could over the Andes mountains! 



  1. The Right Tribe is Uplifting

“We are a family”, Rudy, our outstanding trek guide told our group of nine people, aged 22 to almost 60, and of various backgrounds and nationalities.   “We stick together and remember, PMA – positive mental attitude.”  That was our mantra for the four days of personal challenge for all of us. It worked. No need for competition, no race to the top. No one left behind.

We started out as strangers with different reasons for doing the trek, and we ended as a ‘family’ with a special bond after sharing a remarkable experience together.  We supported and encouraged each other through altitude sickness, travellers’ bellies, sore knees, the cold nights and a cold.  Snacks, meds and other remedies were shared (thankfully one trekker was a nurse) along with the local wisdom of our guide.   We enjoyed coca tea happy hour and Peruvian meals together in the dining tent, along with laughs, stories and a collective awe of where we were!

We made it to the beautiful wonder of the world, Machu Picchu, together, each of us uplifted and happy for each other!



  1. Travel is Sooooo Good For You

Especially in our next 3rd stage of life.  It causes us to be adaptable, open and curious. It puts our minds to work, researching sites, planning itineraries, or understanding different languages and protocols.  It can also test our stress resilience!

We learned so much on our trek through the Andes, while our comfort levels were tested. I was amazed at the marvels of Inca architecture and engineering on steep mountain slopes. We were introduced to the local culture, history and customs thanks to our valuable Andean guide and the local village people. Praying to the Sun and Mother Earth for good karma on our trek, eating alpaca and guinea pig, and of course sipping Pisco Sour, the tasty national cocktail.

Yet, we had to forgo our first world comfort and even sanitation expectations. (Always carry your own TP and hand sanitizer!)  Things we take for granted, like a seated toilet, were luxuries, but the magnificent mountain views, the Inca ruins, the starry night skies and the friendly people were definitely worth it!

The beauty of the place and the Inca civilization reminded me of how truly amazing this planet is.  I’m inspired to see more!


Remember this When Pondering Retirement

Check your attitudes to ageing, retirement and your ability.  You CAN do it!

Nurture tribes that uplift you.  Choose PMA people!

Travel – not just in a comfy way, but out of your comfort zone.  Let the world amaze you!

Care to share?

Retirement: How You Perceive Your Health Makes a Difference

Retirement: How You Perceive Your Health Makes a Difference

Vitality. Most of us want it, especially in retirement. Yet, nearly 70% of Canadians over 60 have at least one chronic condition that may hamper this desire to live a life full of zest. Arthritis, high blood pressure and back problems might put a hold on your retirement dreams. Or not.  It depends on how you look at it.


That Mind-Body Thing

What you tell yourself, your body listens.  Keep telling yourself that you are old and decrepit, and you behave accordingly.  Your body will likely oblige as well.  Although, healthy maturing adults have just as good an immune system as people half their age, research has show that our attitudes about our health and life impact how well we fend off disease and discomfort.

It’s that PMA thing again.  Having a Positive Mental Attitude (covered in this happiness post) can help make the difference in creating a retirement life of vitality.  In fact, our general attitude to retirement may need a re-set as shared in this post.  The body is a marvel.  Do you focus on everything that’s wrong with it, or what an amazing machine it is?

 “How old would you be if you didn’t know your age?” Satchel Page


5 Ways to Deal with the Cards We’re Dealt

Having a mature and positive approach to wellness is one of the 15 retirement success factors, determined by Dr. Richard Johnson, founder of Retirement Options.  He shares one study that identifies 5 different approaches people in retirement take regarding their health:

  1. Mature: We take responsibility for our health and wellness, make necessary changes, and develop and carry out options to maintain good health.
  2. Rocking chair: We are passive about our wellness, and only act when forced to do so.
  3. Armoured: We are rather obsessed with our health, constantly on the lookout for something wrong and may over-do exercise, dieting and other health practices.
  4. Depressed: We may either neglect our health and wellness or become somewhat of a hypochondriac when we are feeling very low
  5. Angry: We shun professional health care and take on the full burden ourselves, rather than in partnership with the professionals


How you respond to your health in retirement impacts your retirement vitality.


You Just Might Be Surprised by What You Can Do!

Our goal, of course, is the mature response where we take responsibility and action to improve and manage our health in partnership with health care professionals. I am reminded of Gary, who I interviewed for this post and who shared his attitude and (mature) approach to being diagnosed with cancer in retirement. Inspiring.

Perhaps a visit to a physical therapist will arm you with new exercises to manage an old injury.  Working with a qualified personal trainer to build your functional fitness may open new possibilities for you.  A modification to your diet and sleep habits may also add life to your years. Mindfulness and nurturing your social circles can bring you joy.  Make the most of what you’ve got.  Its in your hands!

Want to really be inspired?  Olga competed and won many medals in World Masters track and field in her 90’s. Her story is shared in the book “What Makes Olga Run” by Bruce Grierson which examines her lifestyle, attitude and biology for secrets to her good health and longevity.  Listen to her wise words in this short video clip.

“I am an optimist and I take the most hopeful view of matters.” Olga Kotelko


Care to share?

Boomers: 3 Posts to Start 2018 Right

Boomers: 3 Posts to Start 2018 Right

Your health, happiness and retirement are likely on your mind if you are a baby-boomer. As we move into the third stage of our lives, our ‘next third’, we are facing considerable changes and likely some uncertainty.  How will my health hold out?  Am I ready to retire?  What will I do to be happy and fulfilled?  Here are three posts from the Next3rd blog that will help you set your intentions for 2018:


Over 50? How to Reboot your Bod

You may have been blessed with good health until now or perhaps those aches, pains and extra pounds are starting to hamper you. Either way, now is the time to pay more attention to your health.  Study after study, tell us that exercise and good nutrition help us age well.

This post highlights tips from the insightful and practical book series “Younger Next Year” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. Chris is now in his 80’s, physically active and seems to be building a new business full of purpose.  Need more inspiration?  Read about Dave, a former engineer turned triathlete coach in his early retirement in this post! (Two posts for the price of one!)


Ready to Retire? 15 Success Factors

You may think your retirement will be a permanent vacation, but think twice.  Retirement brings some of the biggest changes in our lives.  As we age, we may become more resistant to change and thus live a life fraught with fear, resentment or even depression.  Loss of identity and purpose, neglected relationships, and rigid mindsets are some of the pitfalls that can seep into our retirement years.

This post highlights key factors that enable a successful, fulfilling retirement to help us live life’s third act with zest and vitality.  I have been dedicating individual posts to each retirement success factor over the past year.  Six more to explore!  Dreaming of your ideal retirement? Learn from Sue and Dean, who sold their home to sail away in their retirement in this post.  (Yep, another 2 for 1 deal.)



7 Habits to Create a Happy Retirement, a Happy Life

As we age, we return to our own individuality.  We care less about fitting the mould and towing the corporate line.  Recognizing that money can’t buy happiness, we begin to look beyond our careers for life satisfaction.  Perhaps its releasing your pent-up creativity, or pursuing new leisure activities, or just re-connecting with old friends.

This post explores the six arenas of life that contribute to life satisfaction identified through research on adult development.  It also offers seven habits that can truly create more happiness in your life based on recent research on happiness.  One habit for each day.  Look at that!  A new, easy daily practice for you.  Want to meet someone who made big changes for a happier life?  Read about Marlene in this post.  You’ll be inspired!  (2 for 1 again!)


Happy New Year!  I hope that this and other Next3rd blog posts inform and inspire you to live your best life in your next third.

Care to share?

Retirement: How to Find Purpose After Career

Retirement: How to Find Purpose After Career

Our career gave us purpose, goals, growth and tasks on which to focus.  Yet, research has shown, we still need a sense of purpose after our careers to live a rich and satisfying life.  Retirement gives us a new opportunity to discover what truly sparks our vitality, but many career-hardened boomers struggle in this endeavour.  Here is a valuable approach to discover your new purpose.  Get ready for that “aha” moment!


Why Purpose?

I can see some of you rolling your eyes.  I’ve had a few skeptics in my strategic planning sessions who thought discovering the organization’s core purpose was a waste of time.  Au contraire.  Knowing your true mission saves you time.  It gives you direction, helps you in decision-making and gives focus on how to spend your efforts, energy, and resources.

Do you volunteer for this or that group?  Do you invest in this or that activity?  Do you spend time with these people or those?  How do you apply your skills and talents? How do you grow? How will you spend your time?

More importantly, research has shown that your overall wellness is linked to having purpose and meaning in life. A purposeless life can lead to depression and is often expressed as “frustration, anger, a feeling of worthlessness and internal angst” explains Dr. Peter Johnson, co-flounder of Retirement Options. Working toward something that is important to you, energizes you and fires your vitality.  It gives meaning to your life.  Isn’t that the ultimate goal in our 3rd act of life, our Next3rd?


“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” 

– Viktor E. Frankl



Yours to Discover

Your purpose is in there, inside you already.  It probably has been buried since childhood, covered with external demands and tasks asked of others over the years.  Now you can mine it. Let’s go digging.  It may be muddy at first, but over time and with focus, your purpose will become clearer.



The Venn Diagram Approach

Andy Stanley reminded us to reflect on ‘why we are here’ in the 2017 Leadercast “Powered by Purpose” conference. For those less into existential thinking, his simple Venn Diagram just might hit home.



“Instead of asking what am I most passionate about, ask what breaks my heart?’” 

– Andy Stanley


“What breaks your heart?” That’s hitting the bone. Your answer will give you insights into what you truly care about and what problems you may be inspired to help solve.  Your first seeds of your life’s purpose.

Take an inventory of your skills, talents and wisdom that you can offer.  Revisit those personality profiles you may have completed in the past for more insights. How can you apply your gifts to the problems or challenges you’ve noted above?  You may want to do something completely different than in your past career.  This is your opportunity to bring out the real authentic you.

Who were you thinking of when examining what breaks your heart? Troubled kids, the polar bears, your family?  Who can you help by applying your gifts?


Meaning in life often comes from serving others.


What is the overlap or the intersection between these spheres of what breaks your heart, your gifts and who needs your help?  What is at the centre of your Purpose Venn Diagram?  There’s your first iteration of your current life purpose!  Is that “aha” that I hear?


Just Do It

Congratulations.  You’ve planted a seed to your life’s purpose and meaning.  Now act on it.  It’s not the thought that counts so much as the action driven by that seed that gives you life meaning.  It’s an iterative process.  As you act to fulfill your life’s purpose, your mission and life meaning become clearer.  Enjoy the quest!


Purpose feeds action.  Action feeds meaning.


Care to share?

Successful Retirement: What’s Hope Got To Do With It?

Successful Retirement: What’s Hope Got To Do With It?

What are you expecting in your retirement?  Consider how you answer this.  Your response will give an indication of how satisfying your life will probably be.  There’s more. How happy are you now?  Your answer is also an indicator of your future happiness in retirement.


The Difference Your Outlook Makes

Do you see your retirement as a time of promise and new beginnings?  Or are you afraid of what the future will bring? Your expected satisfaction in life is one of 15 factors for retirement success that Dr. Johnson, a leading expert on gerontology and adult development has identified from his 30+ years of practice and research.

“The self-fulfilling prophecy principle is real – act accordingly.” —Dr. Richard Johnson


There is a correlation between what you expect and what you’ll experience in your future, between how happy you are now and how happy you will be in the future.  When we see a future life of contentment, “we gain a sense of personal relief today”.

However, when we are apprehensive and worry about the world around us and what will come, we succumb to a life hampered with anxiety and uneasiness.  We are continuously on the lookout for the next threat that will trouble us.  This outlook robs us of our happiness today and gradually builds an isolating wall of fear around us.


 What’s the Secret to a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)?

Optimism and enthusiasm.  And what drives these endearing attitudes?  You guessed it.  Hope.

“Hope is the power which gives us confidence about tomorrow, an assurance that eventually things will be OK, a security that all is well.”


Hope is experienced in different ways and at different levels by different people.  For some, it is the belief that there is more good in the world than bad, and that the good will prevail.  Others experience hope at a spiritual level and have faith in the wisdom and guidance of a higher power.  “A positive mental attitude comes from hope in oneself and the human spirit.”

 “When we can rise to some level of hope in our own future, we can multiply our happiness today.”


Hone Hope’s Motivating Powers

I am usually an optimistic and enthusiastic person, yet sometimes I do feel the weight of the world.  When I focus on all the bad news to which we are constantly exposed, or look at the damage we continue to inflict on our planet, I can feel a level of hopelessness and resignation.  My outlook of our future becomes dim.   I want to retreat.

But, when I watch a Ted Talk led by a smart, engaged scientist explaining his or her solution to a world problem, I am relieved and reminded of the good in the world.  My hope is restored.  And with that hope, I am motivated to get out there and enjoy the world and the gifts of the day.

“What you focus on, grows.”


When you start to worry about the future, remind yourself of all the good around you.  Build your hope quotient and you will be happier today and in retirement.

Care to share?

7 Habits to Create a Happy Retirement, a Happy Life

7 Habits to Create a Happy Retirement, a Happy Life

What makes you happy now?  What will make you happy in retirement?  Are you waiting for something to happen first, or someone to do something, and then you’ll be content? Ancient wisdom and current science tell us that “happiness is an inside job”.  No need to wait to be happy, you can start now with these seven simple practices!


What is Happiness?

Dr. Richard Johnson, founder of Retirement Options and expert on adult development and gerontology describes the extent of our happiness as:

“The degree to which we experience a sense of delight, fulfillment, pleasure, contentment, and a sense of rightness in all arenas of life”


It’s in our genes, or not.  It’s in our attitudes and beliefs, or not.  According to Dr. Amit Sood, renowned expert on stress and resiliency, Mayo Clinic professor, and author of The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness”, 50% of our happiness depends on our conscious choices.

“Happiness can become an enduring habit.” Dr. Sood


All Arenas of Life?

Really?  Yep, we’re talking life balance.   Research has identified six key facets of life that when attended to, lead you to fulfilling life satisfaction and a successful retirement.  We need all six in our life to varying degrees and when one or more is neglected, and another is all consuming, we are out of sync and our bodies are under stress.  Stress at the cellular level.  Excessive stress is not happiness.

We need a purpose; our meaningful work, be it paid or unpaid. Healthy family relations let us give and receive love. Social relations, from close friends to casual interactions with strangers, keep us engaged in the fabric of life.  Pursuing personal growth, health, and well-being opens our minds and possibilities.  Having a sense of connection to a higher power brings peace, awe and wonder. Leisure brings entertainment and rejuvenation, and yes is a need!

“Happiness is what happens to us, when we attend well to all the arenas of our life”. Dr. Johnson


Be like Yoda

When we pay attention to the six life arenas, we can become like Yoda. Centered. Grounded. We are more emotionally resilient, have better focus, are more fully present and healthful.  Content. Fulfilled.  How can we get there? That brings us back to “conscious choice”.


One Habit a Day

To help us become more mindful, calmer and content, Dr. Sood has identified seven practices that can lead to a happier life.  He suggests practicing one a day so they become enduring habits.  Take a few moments each morning, close your eyes and focus on the practice for the day.

Monday – Gratitude: Focus on the gifts in your life; re-frame the negatives to the positives.

Tuesday – Compassion: Recognize everyone has struggles; be kind, be helpful, not critical.

Wednesday – Acceptance:  We are all works in progress, imperfect. Let it go, be fair.

Thursday – Meaning: What is important about the gifts of today? Who can you be of service to, how?

Friday – Forgiveness:  Yourself and others. Focus on life’s higher meaning and not hurt.

Saturday – Celebration: Honour others and yourself. Bring out the joy.

Sunday – Reflection: Prayer, meditation, quiet connection to a higher power. Be calm.


Try it!  I did and do, and have noticed that I do feel more content and less anxious.   Happiness really is an inside job!


Care to share?

How This Retiree Adjusted to the “C” Diagnosis Smoothly

How This Retiree Adjusted to the “C” Diagnosis Smoothly

He was working his retirement plan, living the dream, engaged with life.  Big travel plans, hobbies to indulge, fulfilling community involvement, fun social circles.  Eight years into retirement, the cancer diagnosis was received, and he took it all in stride.  Here’s how…


Be Adaptable

Gary is a pragmatic, matter-of-fact, logical type of guy.  To hear him talk about his cancer diagnosis and treatment is like listening to someone talk about a mosquito bite.  An irritant, but life goes on.

Before retirement, Gary and his wife attended retirement life planning workshops provided by their employers. Beyond the financial plan, they truly had a whole retirement plan. It was, and is, a full plan.  Community involvement, gardening, golf, hiking, curling, volunteer jobs, travel, elder caregiving, learning, and of course travel – big trip type of travel.

“If you don’t know what you’ll do in retirement, you’ll be lost.”


Gary is busy.   Yet, he is relaxed about his retirement plans. He allows for wiggle room.   If an opportunity for a new adventure arises, he adapts.

And that’s just what Gary did, when he was given the “C” news. Adaptability is a retirement success factor and I would say Gary has this one figured out!

“We just adjusted our plans.”


Thankfully, Gary’s prognosis looked positive, and so they adjusted their activities, commitments and travel plans while he went through his treatments.  Road trips instead of flying. Coordinator versus executive volunteer positions.  And a little less golf and curling. No problem.


Get On With It

As I listen to Gary share his experience, I am struck by how little he dwells on his serious health scare. His reaction to the news?  Let’s find out what it is, deal with it, and get on with it. “I really didn’t think about it too much.”  It happened, there was a treatment strategy, and some lifestyle adjustments.  So what?  I am inspired by his calm attitude.  It is what it is, just get on with life!  Acceptance.

“Health concerns can start to creep in and that happens to everybody.”


Lessons Learned

“Get planning on the big things. If it involves travel, do it now.”


This is a recurring theme shared by the retirees I have interviewed, and I’m thinking we need to pay attention. Whether it’s a big hike, a long trip or a new sport, start now, while you can, so you have no regrets.  “You don’t know what health issue will hit you, so do the big stuff now.”

“Have a plan.”  A life plan, that is, for retirement.  Gary understood the big changes retirement would bring.  He and his wife, embarked upon their life plan a couple of years before retiring, enabling a smoother, easier transition. They developed new hobbies and the social circles that come with them.

“If you’ve planned it, and have a retirement income to match your plan, you are in good shape.”


In His Words

“Do it early. Don’t wait!”


Care to share?

How to Turn the Burden of Elder Care into a Gift

How to Turn the Burden of Elder Care into a Gift

You’ve got the call or you’ve made the call.  Your parents need your caregiving help. Of course, you want to be there for them.  But how can you care for them, and honour your own needs?  How can you enhance your relationship with your parents, not strain it?


The Weight of Caregiving on Retirees

Having people depend on you for care can affect your retirement success.  Some people delay retirement, given the additional financial burden of caregiving, and put their dreams on hold. Others retire earlier than planned, turning caregiving for a loved one into their full-time job, and giving up vacations and other pleasures in their lives.

Studies have shown that the heavy weight of caregiving is not the physical or financial burden, but the emotional strain.  Caregivers of loved ones can feel a myriad of emotions at any time, from appreciation and love, to guilt and resentment.  This paradox of feelings can create inner turmoil for the caregivers and add to our stress.


Growth Through Caregiving

Just like the grieving process, there is a 9-step growth cycle that caregivers of loved ones can experience. Through this process, you gain the gift of personal development and deeper relations with your elders.

As we move through these stages, described by Dr. Johnson founder of Retirement Options, we grow and develop personally.  When the need for care is first realized, we may feel sorry for our parents’ and their diminishing health.  Then, we take on heroic (and unsustainable) acts of caregiving to ‘fix’ the situation and bring it back to normal.  When the ‘fixing’ doesn’t work the way we wanted, we begin to question our usefulness, our help, our capabilities, intentions and more.  Some caregivers may feel angry and resent their caregiving responsibility.


“If we do not resolve our anger and resentment, we may move into depression, feeling stuck, helpless and hopeless.” 


We may feel the loss of giving up our social and leisure activities as the burden of caregiving takes its toll.  To move out of this caregiving low, we reach out for help.  Perhaps its community care programs, support groups, faith groups, counsellors or other assistance.  As we reach out, we may find other caregivers with whom we can share experiences and gain some encouragement to lighten our load.

Many caregivers of loved ones feel guilty about the care choices and approaches carried out or about their mixed feelings.  “Am I doing enough?”  Should I be feeling this way?”  When we can forgive ourselves for being human really, we can move on to acceptance and letting go.

“It is only through active and creative acceptance, that caregivers can emerge from the strain of care to find themselves refreshed and rejuvenated.”


What Can You Do?

How can you turn the burden of caregiving into an enriching, loving experience?  First, get informed.  Gain a good understanding of the physical needs and the emotional needs of your parents.  Discover what resources and care options are available in your community.

Second, line up your help.  Engage the resources you will need. Reach out to others who have cared for their parents and find support groups.  Understand your own needs, physical and emotional, and develop your boundaries. Find back-up support so that you can take a break, and continue with activities that are important to you.

Open your heart and mind and seize the opportunity to strengthen a healthy, positive and loving relationship with your parents. Let go of negative attitudes toward ageing.  Master the art of meaningful conversation.  Practice active listening.  Listen for the feelings, and intentions as well as the content.  Share your love.  Feel the gift.


Some Resources

AARP Caregiving: Care for Yourself                   Comfort Life: Caring for the Elderly

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How Not to Be Archie Bunker in Retirement

How Not to Be Archie Bunker in Retirement

Remember Archie of the TV sit-com “All in a Family”?  That narrow-minded, opinionated, grey-haired guy in the armchair barking orders to his wife, Edith?  As we age and move into retirement, we run the risk of becoming that ‘grumpy old person’.  Unless, we develop a certain trait.

Lessons from Darwin

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution taught us that we must adapt to survive.  Dr. Johnson, a leading expert on adult development and gerontology agrees.  He has identified adaptability, the personal flexibility you can exercise at any given time in any given situation, as a key factor for retirement success.  We must adapt not only to survive, but to thrive in retirement.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” —Charles Darwin


Ch Ch Ch Changes…

Won’t stop in retirement.

Contrary to common perceptions, we will likely experience more change in retirement than any other time in our life.

Our body changes and will keep changing. Our lifestyle changes significantly as we end the formal work chapter. We will face changes in our family, from the loss of parents or perhaps a spouse, to the addition of sons or daughters-in-law and perhaps grandchildren.  We may move out of the family home, or to a new community; our social circles will change.  New interests, hobbies and leisure activities may emerge and perhaps your purpose in life will evolve.

Add to these, changes in technology, social norms, politics, demographics, the economy, the environment and other macro influences, and you get the picture.  Change is everywhere, all the time. When we fear or resist change, we seek sameness, search for that elusive certainty and security, and revert to rigid schedules.  We fall into a rut.  We get stale.  We become Archie!

 Adapting to change, not resisting or hiding from it, is the ticket to a smooth retirement ride.


How to Be More Adaptable

My yoga teacher uses the word, ‘release’ versus ‘stretch’ and that is how I would sum up adaptability.  You’ve got to let it go, not force the stretch.  To be more adaptable, we may need to change our attitude, decisions and actions.  It will likely mean letting go of the need for control and certainty and having faith that you, and the world, will be OK.

To be more adaptable means to be more:

  • Accepting than critical
  • Agreeable than argumentative
  • Forgiving than judging
  • Pleasant than harsh
  • Calming than upsetting

Doesn’t that sound like the perfect, wise elder?  The anti-Archie!


Start Removing that Crust

I admit it. I can be a tad crusty as I age.  A bit fixed in my opinions and view of the world. Maybe it’s the “I’ve seen/done that before” cynicism that’s creeping in.  Before we know it, we are encased in a thick crust of inflexibility.  Just like Archie.  It’s takes a conscious effort to remain flexible, malleable and adaptable, but we can do it.  When, we do, our life is richer, interesting and happier.

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