The Impact of a Brief Conversation
It's amazing how much little things matter.
George was sitting all by himself at Panera in the middle of the afternoon on New Year's Day. He picked a table by the window. So he could see the people passing outside as well as those around him.
George was 78 years old. His wife died 3 years ago. His son and daughter live out of town. Many of his friends had died. Those few still alive are married and celebrating the holiday with their wives or with their children. He didn't want to impose on them but he didn't want to be alone on this New Year's Day.
That's what led him to Panera –- the opportunity to spend time with others. It didn't matter if they didn't know him. Nor that they might not talk to him. They were there and he could hear them talking to each other. That was enough.
He had brought a book with him to pretend he was reading. He sat there with it as he sipped his coffee.
Just then there was a voice, "What are you reading, young man?" He looked up to see a man standing by him. "It's Rogue Lawyer By John Grisham," George responded. "John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost all his books."
The stranger introduced himself. His name was Dave Barrett. Dave was in town with his wife for the holidays. They were spending time with their oldest son and his family. In fact, his wife, their son and daughter-in-law were at a nearby table. Dave just got up to refill his coffee.
As they spoke, Dave noticed the tremor in George's right hand. He figured George was suffering from Parkinson's but wouldn't ask him. George told Dave about the area around his home and how it changed over the years. More people had moved in, more houses were built and it had grown more populated. At one time, George's house was the only one on the block. Now there were houses as far as you could see.
Dave told him the same thing happened where he lived. More people moved there and what had been rural was now all homes.
Dave spent about 10 minutes talking to George before it dawned on him his family was waiting for him. He thanked George for the opportunity to talk to him and wished him a Happy New Year.
That unexpected conversation with Dave brightened George's day. It eliminated the loneliness he had felt. When he went home, he was still happy. He had a great conversation with someone he didn't know. 2 weeks later he was still telling others about it and he smiled as he did.
It's amazing. We never know how a brief conversation, a token of friendship, will impact another person. It may have been awhile since they had someone to talk with. They don't want to impose on a friend. However, they would welcome any opportunity to get free of that cloud of loneliness hanging over them.
If there is an older person living in your neighborhood who doesn't have family or friends visiting on a regular basis, stop by periodically and see how they're doing. Even if for a short period of time. They will relish it.
If you have time, visit a senior center or a nursing home. At every one there are residents up in age who no longer have family in the area. Many of their friends may have already died. They have no regular visitors.
How do you find out who these are? Just ask at the desk. The people working there know. Pop your head into one of their rooms, say you were in the neighborhood and was wondering if they had the opportunity to talk.
You can be sure they will be delighted to talk with you. Don't be surprised if they start telling you their life story. You may find you have made a new friend and decide to go back and visit them on a regular basis.
This is one way you can brighten the day of an older person. There are many others. Meeting one and starting a conversation will open the door to the others.
Valuable Information at Your Finger Tips Right Now on the Verge of Being Lost Forever
Every older person you meet or see has a wealth of information that can be useful to you or people you know. They most probably have experienced most, if not all, of the same challenges you have in life. They also may have experienced other challenges you have yet to encounter.
The Problem is You Probably Have Never Known it
They may never have said anything. They may have thought you were too busy or would not be interested in hearing about them.
They may even have experienced a challenge which you are facing right now. They may have dealt with it in a way you never thought of. That way may not only have been the best for them but it also may be the best way for you.
Did you ever ask an older person about their lives and how it was growing up? What about their experiences as an adult? What led them to make the decisions they made?
The Impact of Changes in Their World on Them
Did you ever realize the major changes they have witnessed during their lifetimes and how these changes have impacted them? Here are some examples:
- Many may have been the first in their families to graduate from high school or college.
- Many were born before television was common in every home. The primary activity at night and on weekends was playing games or listening to the radio.
- Most probably the first phone their family had was a party line. That was where two or more families shared the same phone line. The cost was cheaper. They didn't know who the other parties were that shared their lines.
- You couldn't make a long-distance call by entering the numbers. You had to go through an operator.
- No one had any concept of a cell phone that you would be able to carry with you. The first mobile phones were big. The nickname for them was "brick.".
- Their first cars had standard transmissions. (Automatic transmissions were not common.) Few had air conditioning. If they wanted to get cool on a hot day, they rolled the windows down and drove faster.
- Quality was not common in televisions or cars. Televisions had to be repaired regularly. If you bought a new car, you hoped it had few dents or other defects. Auto Dealers would tell you nothing could be done about them. You just had to take it.
- Space travel started during their lifetimes
- The first computers were huge monstrosities taking up whole floors. There was no such thing as personal computers, laptops or tablets.
- Texting, Facebook or twitter did not exist. The most common form of conversation was talking to another in person one to one.
Yes, every older person has a wealth of information. Just think about how valuable this can be for you if you got it from them.
Where is the Ideal Place to Start?
With your own parents and grandparents. Many of their experiences probably have had a major impact on you. It also may have contributed to you becoming the person you are today. Finding out about their lives may also help you understand the reasons why at times you act the way you do.
This information is too valuable for you not to know. How can you get this information? You can get it by sitting down with them and getting an oral history of their lives. The best way is to record what you learn from your parents or grandparents. If you don't have a way to record it, just write it out.
To help you get an oral history, please go to this webpage.
There you will learn how to go about getting this oral history. There even is a link to the questions you can ask your parents or grandparents to trigger their memories. That will help them tell you about their experiences.
Once you have that history, be sure to pass this down to your children and grandchildren. Know they will love to have your history too. It may not be right now. When they're ready, expect them to ask you. If for some reason, they fail to ask you for your history, record it for them yourself.
Not only will your children and grandchildren find this information valuable, their children and all your future descendants will too.
If you're a little nervous about talking to your parents or grandparents about an Oral History, you may want to start with someone not related to you. You may have an elderly neighbor or there may be an elderly person at church who has no family nearby to get their history. Talk to them about it. Ask if they would give it to you. Let them know you are sure their family will love it and you will make sure they get it. They will appreciate it.
Just Picture This
200 years from now, your descendants track their family back to now. They are able to know how life had changed during your, your parents and grandparents' lifetimes. They see the experiences everyone has had and how they impacted their lives. They also understand the reasons they do some of the things they do.
They will be grateful that you started the tradition.
Lifelong Learner? College in Your Future?
Look around. Doesn't it seem like there are many more older people than ever before? Aren't those you see far more socially active than any their age in the past? They are far more vibrant and happier, and even challenge younger people to keep up with them.
Years ago, age 60 or 65 was considered really old. It was considered the last phase of life and everything from that point on was downhill. Many younger people wanted nothing to do with them. That is no longer true.
Now Age 60 or 65 is a Starting Point
People reaching that age may retire but they don't sit back and wait for age and illness to creep up on them. They are full of life and want to experience all those things they had no time for while they were working.
Most still desire to learn as much as they can. They will continue to read and study up to the day they die. Many are going back to school and taking classes they always wanted to. Colleges have opened their doors to them and are very accommodating.
Two Special Incentives for Those 60 and Older to Take College Classes
You may not know this: Here in Tennessee, there are two special incentives for people 60 and older to take college classes. The first is for those 60 to 64. The second is for those 65 and older. Let's look at the incentive for those 65 and older first.
Under state law, a person 65 and older can take courses for credit at state-supported colleges and universities and not have to pay tuition charges, maintenance fees, student activity fees or registration fees.
The colleges and universities can charge a service fee to defray what it costs them to keep records on each of these students. Those fees cannot exceed $45 a quarter or $70 a semester.
In the Knoxville-Knox County area there are 2 state-supported schools – The University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State Community College.
The University of Tennessee charges an application fee of $50 for an undergraduate or $60 for a graduate. Then the charge is $7 per credit. For a three-credit course the charge would be $21. The maximum a person has to pay is $70 in any one semester.
At Pellissippi State, those 65 years of age or older are eligible to enroll in courses on a space-available basis for credit. The charge cannot exceed $70 per semester.
At both schools, the person would have to pay for books and other fees unique to a course or courses they are enrolled in.
Those interested in attending a course or courses at the University of Tennessee can contact Peggy Love. Peggy's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested in courses at Pellissippi State can contact the business office at the school. The email address is email@example.com.
The other incentive is for those 60 and older. They can audit classes at the University of Tennessee or Pellissippi State without paying any fees. The only requirement is there has to be space available in the class they desire to audit.
Auditing a Class
To those unfamiliar with "auditing a course." It means you can sit in on the course, attend all or some of the classes. However, you don't have to do the homework. Nor do you take the tests. In some classes, you would not be able to ask questions.
At the University of Tennessee, the person has to get permission from the instructor to audit his or her class. A special form has to be completed. Information on this can be obtained from Peggy Love. Her email address again is firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Pellissippi State, it does not appear a special form has to be completed. Anyone interested in auditing a course should check with the business office. That email address is email@example.com.
But I Have This Nagging Fear
Taking a class or auditing one may be interesting for you but in the back of your mind there's a nagging fear. You're worried that you won't fit in with all those "younger" students. Don't let that concern you. You have much to offer them. Think about this:
In 2007, Nola Ochs became a Guinness World Record Holder. She was recognized as the world's oldest college graduate when she was awarded a B. A. degree in history from the Fort Hays State University. Nola wasn't done. She continued in school and was awarded a master's degree in liberal arts in May of 2010.
In June of 2015, Doreetha Daniels graduated from the College of the Canyons in Santa Clara, California, with an associate's degree in social science. At that time, Doreetha was 99 years old.
In May of 2016, Alfonso Gonzales received a bachelor of science degree in zoology from the University of Southern California. Alfonzo was 96.
More and more people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties are going back to school. Some want to show everyone they can get that degree that eluded them in the past. Others take classes to learn about things that always fascinated them. Still others have a passion to continue learning.
Most of what younger people in school today know has come from books and classes they've attended. You can help them by relating your real-life experiences.
Get Started Now
If you've always had a desire to attend college classes, don't let your age deter you. Check out what the University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State offer. You may want to see what classes are like and how you'll fit in. So—audit some classes first.
You can get more information about the University of Tennessee by contacting Peggy Love. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about Pellissippi State check with the business office. The email address is email@example.com.
Hidden Gems for You Right Here in Knox County
You may not have heard of them or even be aware they exist. They have a lot to offer you. So, let's help you to get to know about them.
What are we talking about? The senior centers here in Knoxville and Knox County.
Years ago, our local government realized that after giving so much to their workplaces and the community during their work lives, retired people frequently had quite a bit of time on their hands. There wasn't much for them to do or to occupy their time.
So the local officials decided to open senior centers in the city and county. Each center would be a place where seniors could go and meet other seniors. The centers would have a variety of activities for them. They could get involved in those that interested them. In the process, they could relax and enjoy themselves.
Right now, there are eight senior centers in the Knoxville and Knox County. Residents age 50+ can take advantage of what these centers have to offer.
Knoxville-Knox County Senior Centers
Carter Senior Center
Corryton Senior Center
Halls Senior Center
John T. O'Connor Senior Center
Karns Senior Center
Larry Cox Senior Center
South Knox Senior Center
Strang Senior Center
Each center is run by professionals and has a wide range of programs specifically geared to what may interest you. These cover many different areas, such as
- Lifetime Learning Programs
- Art Classes
- Volunteer Opportunities
- Social Activities
The centers also offer health education and screenings. Some have book clubs, movies, special programs, and speakers. The O'Connor Center offers noontime meals for attendees and a cooperative gift shop. There may even be programs where you may have the opportunity to help out as a volunteer.
Some of the programs are free; some have a minimal charge.
If this is the first time you have heard of these centers, drop by the one closest to you. See what it offers. You will have the opportunity to meet new people and may even get involved in an activity you hadn't even thought about. It's fine to visit more than one center. Each offers different programs and services; all are open to residents of Knoxville and Knox County.
If you haven't been to a center for some time, stop by and see what's going on—it may have changed since you last visited.
There is no reason to stay at home alone all day and watch the same shows on TV every day. Get out, meet new people, have fun, and maybe even learn something. Enjoy yourself!
Valuable Information on Social Security Benefits
You may be wondering about your Social Security options. Hopefully, this will give you a clearer picture.
When Can I Start to Receive Social Security?
You can choose to start receiving those benefits at different ages depending on your circumstances. The only difference will be the amount of the monthly benefit you will receive.
Originally a person had to be 65 to get their full retirement benefit. They could have received a reduced benefit starting at age 62. In 1983 Congress passed a law changing that. The age for the full benefit has increased.
Those born between 1943 and 1954 cannot receive the full benefit until they're 66. It increases several months each year for those born between 1955 and 1959. People born in 1960 and later have to be 67.
Your benefit is reduced if you start it before your full retirement age. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your retirement benefit at age 62, will only be 75% of your full benefit.
There is a bonus if you decide to delay receiving benefits until after you are 66. Each year you delay, your retirement benefit increases 8% a year until you reach 70. If you decide to postpone getting Social Security till you're 70, your benefit will be roughly 32% higher than what you would have received at age 66.
Let's Look at Some Numbers
The monthly benefit you are entitled to is based on the money you earned during you working career.
As of February of 2016, the average full monthly retirement benefit was $1,344.70. A person who decides to take the reduced benefit at age 62 would get $1,008.50. A person who waits to receive their benefits until they're 70 would get $1,775 monthly.
Again, these estimates are based on the average monthly benefit of $1,344.70. You may get more or less. You can call Social Security to get a better idea of how much you will receive. Their toll free phone numbers are 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). There is a tool on their website called the Retirement Earnings Test Calculator that can help you with your own personal information.
When Should You Start to Receive Benefits?
That decision is based on your own circumstances. Here are certain things you'll want to consider.
First: Your Health. If you are healthy, it may be to your advantage to delay starting until you're older. If your health is poor, it may be better to start receiving benefits earlier.
Second: Your Financial Situation. Will you need your Social Security benefit to cover your living expenses? If you do, you should start to receive it earlier.
Are you going to receive a monthly pension from your employer? Do you have a substantial amount in a 401k or an IRA? Do you have money set aside in savings to cover your monthly expenses? If you have any of these, it may be to your advantage to delay as long as possible before you start receiving benefits.
Third: Are You Married? Did Your Spouse Earn Substantially Less Than You? If your spouse's earnings were far less and they are going to outlive you, it would be better to delay starting your benefit as long as possible. That way, the monthly amount will be higher.
Fourth: Do You Love Your Job? If you do, can you continue to work at it as long as possible?
As you can see, making the correct decision is important. If you are married, you need to discuss this with your spouse.
The Social Security Administration has quite a bit of helpful information about retirement benefits on their website, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/index.html.
The people at Social Security also are quite helpful. They can estimate for you what your monthly retirement benefit will be at different ages. Call and make an appointment. Go to their office and discuss this with them. The toll-free phone numbers, again, are 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
You Can Even Work After Retiring
What a great time to be a retiree!
If you're 65 today and in pretty good health, you can expect to live till you're 85. Continue to be in good health as you age and you will probably live longer.
You have the opportunity to do many different things during your retirement. Things you couldn't do while you were working. You can even go back to work. The best thing is you can do something entirely new—not the work you did in the past.
Work? Why Would I Want to Go Back to Work?
There are different reasons. Some are:
- Personal Fulfillment
- Supplemental income
- Social activity
- Financial support for other family members
- Keep your mind active
There is no mandatory retirement age in most professions. So there are many options open to you.
Again, you don't have to go back to your old job. You don't even have to do the same type of work you were doing. You have your base retirement income to fall back on. So you can be more selective. You can look for work that satisfies you emotionally rather than work that just provides you an income.
You can also arrange your work schedule to fit in with your retirement. You can work in addition to traveling, doing fun things, and taking part in social activities. You may even want to take some courses and classes to expand your knowledge.
While some retirees work full time, you don't have to. You can look for a part-time job. Many employers have part-time jobs available for retirees.
You may not need additional income. So you may decide to volunteer at a hospital, church, charity, or nonprofit agency.
Two Services Available through the Office on Aging
The Knox County CAC Office on Aging has set up two services to help seniors find work. These are open to residents of Knox County. There is no charge for them.
The first is the Senior Employment Service. Here, they provide job-search assistance, individualized job counseling, semiannual job fairs and workshops for seniors seeking employment.
Most of the employers they work with currently have low- to mid-level full- or part-time work available. These employers like hiring seniors because seniors typically are available to work more flexible schedules than their regular full-time employees.
The second is the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). This is a federal job training program for unemployed low-income seniors age 55 or older who face barriers to employment.
SCSEP places these people in part-time paid community service assignments where they receive on-the-job training. The goal of this program is to give them job-search skills and work experience. This training prepares them to get similar work in the private sector.
To be eligible for this federal program an individual has to have a total family income no greater than 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Each participant works 20 hours each week. The pay is $7.25 an hour.
If you would like more information about either of these programs, please call Kayleen Weaver or Frankie Slay at the Office on Aging, (865) 524-2786, to schedule an appointment.
A Job Fair is Coming Up on Oct. 12
The Senior Employment Service is having its next job fair on October 12, 2016. It will be held from 9:00 a.m.to noon at the O'Connor Center, 611 Winona Street.
There will be representatives from 40-plus companies and organizations there to whom you can talk. Some of the employers attending will be from the banking, retail, food service, transportation, security and health-care fields. Typically, these companies are looking for people to work 25 to 32 hours a week. Most pay more than the minimum wage.
If you are interested in attending this job fair, all you have to do is go to the O'Connor Center on October 12. Advance registration is not required. You also do not have to be a resident of Knox County, but you should be a "mature worker."
Now I'm Retired. What Do I Do?
Last Friday you retired. Now you're wondering what to do. You have 40 hours or more every week on your hands. How do you fill that? At work, perhaps you were a boss. Now the only one you give orders to is you.
Your only plan was to relax, take naps, and maybe even get away on a trip. Well – that doesn't last long. What do you do then? Imagine what you can accomplish for the rest of your life. What will you achieve next? It is your time, your schedule, your passion.
You may have thought you would spend more time with your spouse. Frequently men have a harder time here. They fail to realize that their wives did very well without them throughout their marriages. That won't change when they retire.
Some husbands try to change what their wives do around the home. They observe and feel they see a better way of doing things. Disagreements occur.
To restore sanity, one has to get away from the other. They get out of the home during the day. Since the husband has no place to go, the wife frequently looks for places to spend time. She may increase her involvement with church groups or local civic organizations.
In a very short period of time the retiree is bored and feels lonely. They never believed it would be this way.
How Can You Prevent Boredom from Setting In?
Take some time to figure out what your purpose is. Then start to do things in line with your purpose -- things that you are passionate about. Your world is full of possibilities, new passions to pursue, part-time or volunteer work that is rewarding, people to connect with, and living a healthier life.
You may want to give back and help others. Look at volunteering at churches or with nonprofit organizations. You may also want to consult with small- to medium-sized businesses. One way is to call RSVP, a national resource for senior and retired volunteers. One call (in Knoxville, Tennessee, to 865-524-2786) can connect you to a variety of fulfilling volunteer opportunities that include driving older adults to errands in a provided vehicle, Mobile Meals (known as Meals on Wheels elsewhere), Feed A Pet (pet food delivered to homebound seniors who have pets), O'Connor Senior Center, working with adults on Medicare enrollment issues, minor home repairs and yard work with Project LIVE, fundraising efforts, and much more.
You may have a desire to learn something that you've never done before. Enroll in a class and do it.
You may also be able to teach. For a start, look for opportunities with local literacy groups, mentoring programs, and school reading programs. For more ideas, go to AARP's Life Reimagined site or check out Seniors for Creative Learning at the University of Tennessee Knoxville (meets at the O'Connor Center).
Take time to visit your family more frequently. Before you retired you probably never could visit them during the day. Now you can. If you have younger grandchildren, consider babysitting for them.
If you always wanted to travel, make sure to take trips and see those places you always wanted to see.
While working, you may never have had time to develop friendships. Now, be deliberate about doing that. Look for people in your age group you like and spend time on a regular basis with them. You can meet at a fast food restaurant, a coffee shop, a bakery, or a local diner—any place that suits your fancy.
Get healthier: Wellness classes, exercise, cooking classes, meditation, tai chi, and yoga are all popular ways to get and stay healthy. Classes are also a great way to meet new people or an activity to do with friends. If nothing else, just put on a comfortable pair of shoes and go for a walk in your neighborhood or find a nearby greenway. Get out! Breathe! Move! You'll be glad you did.
A person in relatively good health today can expect to live another 25 to 30 years. You have to make sure your finances will last that long. So you need to plan accordingly.
If finances are an issue, you may have to make adjustments in your lifestyle. You may even find it necessary to get a part-time job. That may have never crossed your mind but may be the only way to make ends meet. Get a job that you are passionate about – one where you're making a difference.
Realize that the older you get the less likely it will be for you to find work. So try to get that job pretty soon after you retire. You may even want to talk to a financial planner to help you make a savings plan with the income from your second career.
We Can Help
The Office on Aging can help retirees get the most out of retirement. We have many programs in which you can get involved. For those who want to volunteer, we offer a wide variety of opportunities. We also work with a broad spectrum of community organizations that you might be interested in. If you want to know more about what we do, please browse this website or call 865-524-2786.
The Graying of Tennessee
Look around you. Have you noticed seeing more gray than several years ago? You actually have.
Forget Senior Citizens. We're Mature Adults
The fastest growing segment of the population here in Tennessee and more particularly, in Knox County is those over 65 years of age. When we were younger, we referred to them as Senior citizens. Now as many of us enter that age group we prefer to be called mature adults.
By 2030, one out of every four people in this area will be in this age group. Did you ever think that would happen?
Three factors are leading to this growing segment of our population.
- First, the Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964. The first of these people turned 65 in 2011. From then until 2029 10,000 Baby Boomers have turned or will turn 65 every day.
- Second, people are living longer. Advances in Medicine have really increased longevity. People are living to a much older age.
- Third, Tennessee and especially Knox County are very desirable places to live. More retirees are moving here to take advantage of the quality of life we offer.
What are These Mature Adults Like? What do They Want From Life?
Age 65 and beyond doesn't mean it's time to sit back in an easy chair and watch others do things. Baby Boomers have a desire to stay active.
- Some have no intention of retiring and will continue to work as long as they can.
- Some will expand their knowledge and take classes to learn things that interest them.
- Others will get involved doing things they like and will volunteer to serve.
- Many look forward to spending more time with their grandkids. They will move closer to them so they can see them more frequently.
- Still others have a desire to travel and will take trips more frequently.
This group is feisty. Fiercely independent, they prefer to do things their way. One great desire is to live by themselves as long as possible.
Quality of life and health are important to them. They have seen how health problems affected others and have no desire for this to happen to them. So they exercise regularly. They eat healthier foods. They have regular health check-ups and follow their doctor's advice more closely.
Avoid Loneliness at All Costs
One objective of theirs is to avoid loneliness. They have seen too many instances where parents seem to have been forgotten by their families. At the same time, they saw their parents and extended family members lose friends as they age. The older those closest to them got it seemed less people spent time with them. Loneliness grew. Any time someone said hello, they would welcome the opportunity talk with them as long as possible. Their goal is to not let this happen to them.
In the back of their minds they realize at some point they may no longer be able to care for themselves and live independently. At that point they may have to move into a retirement center, an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Their hope is to delay this as long as possible and to minimize their length of stay.
The Office on Aging salutes these mature adults. We were created to help them. We have many different programs. We also work with many different community organizations who also help. If you want to know more about what we offer, please check out our website at knoxseniors.org or call 865-524-2786.
Elder News & Views
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