Living Your Best Life After 50

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One of Janet Wahlberg's passions is genealogy research which she does as a volunteer at the Fenton History Center Research Center.

Contributing Writer
Joni Blackman

When we reach 50 years of age we have something invaluable, experience. We have been through many experiences, good and bad, easy and hard. At 50 years old one also begins to evaluate where you are in your life’s journey. What’s next? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go?

The advice from the experts seems to be straightforward. Embrace your future. Use your life experiences to mold your older years. Stay productive. Eat right and exercise regularly, and finally, keep busy doing what you like.

Making Connections

Most 50 to 60-year-old Americans are working. They are hopefully saving for their retirement and looking forward to enjoying their hobbies, health, family, and friends in their retirement. Fifty-plus-year-old Jake Schrantz is the Fiscal Officer at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. To say Jake beams when he greets you is an understatement. He is genuine, kind and joyful. His first suggestion when asked how he views growing older is “find what you are passionate about, think back to when you were a kid, what sport or activity did you really like? Find that again. What brings you joy?” His passion is twofold, cycling and skiing. He rides a few times a week in the warmer months and volunteers for the Holiday Valley ski patrol during the winter months.

Connections to others are very important as we age. Jake lost one of his closest cycling and skiing friends in 2020. He values his time with others who enjoy the same activities. “After a 3-4 hour ride it’s great to share with the other riders,” says Schrantz, “the ride is as much for exercise and honing your skills as it is to share the experience.”

Jake Schrantz enjoys cycling and the friends he makes pursuing his passion.

Preparing for Retirement

Many are seeing a retirement date in the next few years. If you ask a 30-year-old about retirement, they may or may not have thought about it. Most likely they are trying to get through their day-to-day commitments. They certainly haven’t done much in the way of saving for retirement. However, a 50-plus-year-old is seeing a time when they can retire. How does one prepare for retirement? How does one afford retirement?

Diana Meckley retired from the Resource Center a year or so ago. She took it slowly easing into full-time retirement. “I’m a person that appreciates not having commitments throughout the day. It is the most wonderful thing to not have to rush all the time. I enjoy my coffee on our beautiful patio, watching nature. It’s important to find a good balance.” Like Mr. Schrantz, physical activity is important to Diana. “I need exercise to feel healthy. I go to two spin classes a week and play pickleball at the Lakewood YMCA with great people. We do fun activities outside the Y as well,” said Mrs. Meckley. Part of the balance in Mrs. Meckley’s life is her dedication to the Jamestown Rotary Club. A past President of the Club, and a member since 1990, she is the chair of the Literacy Committee which she really enjoys. Her other passion is hot air ballooning. She and her husband are on a chase crew for Sky Sail Balloons. She said, “it’s such a positive experience for everyone. Most of the balloon riders are celebrating a special event or a bucket list item.”

Of course, by the time one has decided to retire they have hopefully figured out how they are going to financially manage to live without a full-time paycheck. Many retirees work part-time for a few reasons, the paycheck and the interactions with other people. It’s important to not be isolated in retirement. Gary Yager, a financial advisor and insurance specialist with Northwest Mutual, suggests as you get closer to retirement you need to protect the assets you have built up over your life, “there are some risks you need to look at and prepare for. They all involve planning to have enough to support you through your life. Planning on how to deal with the market volatility, inflation, healthcare costs including long-term care and how you want to share your legacy when you pass.” While it seems daunting, it’s important to start planning for your financial future as soon as you can.

Another step one needs to take as they approach the 65-year mark is enrolling in Medicare health insurance. Not everyone needs to enroll. Some individuals remain on employer insurance plans. Ben Lindquist, an Individual and Senior Benefits Consultant at Lawley/Rhoe B. Henderson Insurance says, “it is best to begin the process six months prior to your 65th birthday. Use a local agent or broker. Do not call the 800 numbers you see on TV. Those people don’t know you. It’s not scary when you meet with someone you trust. You have paid for Medicare your entire working life and it is better insurance than you probably already have.”

Enjoying Retirement

Janet Wahlberg is a ball of energy and smiles. She has been retired for a number of years and is in the 70+ category which is just about impossible to believe. She is a retired nurse. “I loved every minute of my career,” she said. One of the suggestions for a successful retirement is to pursue your hobbies. She remarried just before she retired and has been going strong ever since. She loves traveling, genealogy, gardening and reading. She has been very busy this year with an almost full-time volunteer job as the President of the Board of Trustees at the Fenton History Center in Jamestown. She is also active in her church and a genealogy research volunteer for the Fenton. “I am obsessed with getting to the Swedish American Genealogy Conference in Salt Lake City this year. However, one of my goals, when I retired, was to be able to put on a pot of coffee and enjoy reading the paper on my own time, which for the most part I have,” said Mrs. Wahlberg.

Diana Meckley, seen in the front right of this picture, is on a chase crew for the Sky Sail Balloon and is shown here at the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival in New Mexico.

Final Planning

As we age, we need to think about our passing. Gary Kindberg, President of Lind Funeral Home offered his advice, “I often tell people that preplanning is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family. Not because it’s business for the funeral home, but because it fills in many blanks for which your children might not have the answers. To have written down your biographical information and your wishes for the type of service you’d like is very beneficial. The day someone dies, even if it’s expected, can be a most difficult day for those left behind. Having a framework in place makes that day just a little easier. By law, funeral homes cannot charge for prearranging with people. I tell folks that the most difficult part of the process is making the appointment because this is not a subject people want to discuss.”

Jake, Diana and Janet are pursuing their hobbies, taking care of themselves and making a difference in our community. Regardless of your age, as you approach the second half of your life, it is important to make it the best you can. Find your happiness and treat yourself with kindness and respect – you deserve it!