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Baby Boomers: What it means to be retired

Ask any retired person what it means to be retired, and they may say it means taking a nap any time of the day. Or they may say it means going to bed whenever and getting up at the crack of noon, if wanted. And it could mean just watching TV at all hours of the day.

I’ve spent more time watching TV as I have discovered stations that show the classics. “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Dick Van Dyke,” “M*A*S*H” and “Gunsmoke” are my favorites. I enjoy going to the computer to look up bios of the old TV stars. I pick up interesting facts that mean nothing to anyone else.

Did you know that Dennis Weaver (Chester on “Gunsmoke”) was fifth in the 1948 U.S. Olympics’ decathlon tryouts, winning the 1500 meters? (Bob Mathias ended up the winner. Mathias won two Olympics, the first at age 17.) Remember Weaver walked with a stiff leg throughout his time on the show. (When I hurt my leg in the Army my pals started calling me “Chester.”)

After Weaver left Ken Curtis came on the show as Festus. Curtis was a famous singer and once replaced Frank Sinatra on the Dorsey Orchestra. He also sang as one of the Sons of the Pioneers.

When watching old shows I look for movie stars before they became famous. I saw Robert Redford playing a convict on “The Virginian.” Harrison Ford was seen playing a killer on “Gunsmoke.” Burt Reynolds got his start on “Gunsmoke” playing a blacksmith.

But not all retirees retire from work. Thirty-eight million people over age 50 belong to the American Association of Retired Persons, today just called AARP. This name change was because of so many of their members still working. Many pick up part-time work or they volunteer to keep themselves busy.

And many retirees need the company of others. As one older woman stated as she was asked if she was still going back to work after she and her co-workers won a lottery, “I have to go to work, that’s where my friends are.”

A friend of mine was lost after he retired. He ended up volunteering at the public library — the only male among a number of females. He loved the work as the ladies were always bringing in homemade treats.

I have talked to a number of golf friends who work at a golf course to get tee times at a reduced rate. Some have found an apartment complex where they become caretakers while getting discounts on their rent.

Bob and Andrea Marohn, from Brainerd, downed-sized and moved into a town home. Bob built the homes and keeps them maintained. Andrea, a hairdresser, has decreased her work load and works as she wishes.

The busiest retiree I know has to be Alan Bohme, a retired chemistry and physics teacher from the north side of Chicago, not the suburbs.

“My students spoke 46 languages and came from 50 countries,” he says.

Alan and his wife moved from Illinois to Backus, where he subs at both Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes schools. Alan also gives talks on the Roaring ‘20s, the Holocaust, gangsters of Chicago and astronomy. In whatever he does, one can see that Alan Bohme truly loves being retired.

My friend Vi, a retired scholarly woman, works but an hour every now and then. She then has a reason to get out and be with friends and people her own age.

A number of colleges are offering classes at reduced to free tuition to the retirees. The retirees are not looking for advanced degrees, but are looking at just increasing their knowledge and enjoy being around younger students.

I work part time with young men. We get along until they play what they call music. I tell them it isn’t music that they are listening to, but they don’t listen.

A special on TV showed the lives of different retirees, showing a retired CPA who worked as an EMT at age 65 where he volunteers at a fire station.

“I was looking for some kind of work where I wouldn’t have to wear a tie and the job would be about giving back to the community. I loved being at the firehouse where I found the people there were like a community,” this retiree said.

Many retirees are looking for a community, a place to go where people know your name and enjoy your company.

Older baby boomers grew up with the idea of helping others, giving back to the community. Our young adulthood started with the words of President Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for you country.”

Many of my fellow college friends either went into social work or teaching. We were not looking at making a lot of money. The generation at that time was looking for satisfaction with their work. Some of those who went into other careers, upon finding themselves retired, want to give back and end up volunteering.

Or they may go out and get a job that they always wanted but they couldn’t go into the career because it didn’t pay enough. An example of this might be the number of retired English teachers who belong to writer’s groups or find themselves finally working on their novel or a book of poems.

Life expectancy has been increasing. Finding ourselves retired from our careers, but really not ready to stop working. My dad tells about many of his fellow workers retiring, taking a long trip with the wife and then just sitting around at home. Retirement seemed to mean that you didn’t do anything; you just sat around.

And, yes, we need to get out and exercise. I have developed a program that helps us older boomers. Buy a basketball hoop and ball. After you shoot and miss you chase the ball. This builds up your cardiovascular health.

After you get to the ball you have to bend over to pick up the ball. This helps with your flexibility, strength and balance. Then, of course, you have to run back to the hoop and shoot again, missing, and starting the exercise all over again.

Modern medicine has helped many of us live longer. A small number of my classmates have had open heart surgery. For me, it was surgery on Tuesday and going into Target to buy bandages on Saturday.

Years ago, after a heart attack one would resign themselves to staying at home and not doing much. Today we know that we need to get out and lead a normal life. And exercise and getting out just help in the healing.

Being older and retired means that young women will smile at you more often. I say to myself, “Oh, that young woman noticed me.” In reality she is saying to herself, “Oh, look, that older gentleman looks just like my grandfather.”

When I was teaching, a few years ago, a seventh-grader asked my age. I put out my chest and pulled in my stomach expecting something like, “You don’t look that old.”

Instead, I got the reply, “Mr. Engstrom, you’re the same age as my grandmother.”

Today they say that 60 is the new 40. That many retirees do not think of themselves as retired; that just means they now have the time to do what they have always wanted to do.