Yesterday, several of my mother in law's relatives and a former neighbor drove about 150 miles (255 km) to visit the area where I live. Until last August, my mother in law had lived her entire life in the suburbs of New York City. Now, she is some 150 miles away from her lifetime home, and a lot of people downstate miss her.
Yesterday's visitors range in age from 70 to 83. My mother in law is in her late 80's. My spouse and I haven't quite hit 65, but we are heading towards those mid 60's. So we were the young ones of the group, except for when our grown son joined us for dinner.
I could see the differences even five or ten years could make. I don't usually like to make generalizations, but there were differences - not in attitude, not in the ability to enjoy life with a great attitude, but with energy level and health. One person who was supposed to come had to cancel out earlier in the week, because it wasn't going to happen for her. And then a second person cancelled because the first person cancelled. The rest of us were a mixed group - cancer survivors, people with other health conditions, people of varying physical abilities. For one person, getting out of a chair without assistance was an accomplishment. She couldn't have done it a year ago.
It reminded me of something I read recently in an article about retirement planning. There were stages of retirement, this article claimed, and spending patterns would change the older you got.
It seems that some retirement planners divide the retirement years into three "eras":
Go-go (on the go all or most of the time) lots of travel, activities, and so forth.
Slow-go (slowing down)
No-go (self explanatory) not only not traveling, but needing assistance to do what you could once do yourself.
There is some truth to this, but I think it is different for everyone. For example, the 83 year old in the group lives by herself in her home of over 50 years. She flies out from her home in a New York City suburb to visit a daughter and her family in California several times a year. In fact, she's making that trip in August, despite having had some surgery earlier in the year.
Meanwhile, I can't tell you the last time I was on a plane. Oh wait, yes I can. It was in July of 1996.
While we make car trips each year, the maximum hours in transit we will tolerate without a lot of discomfort seems to shrink yearly. And it isn't just long trips of hundreds of miles. Other trips we would have considered in our 20's on a day trip (mileage wise) now have morphed into overnights.
In the go-go years, the planners say, you should plan financially for a lot of travel and/or activities. And then those expenses trend down as you age, while health expenses trend up. And up. And, you lose the ability to do things you once could without assistance. And that assistance costs money. A lot of money.
Again, this fade away may or may not happen to either me or my spouse. But, we really don't want to assume that we are going to fade away in the sunset, going through go-go, slow go and no-go, just because a financial planner tells us that is how we should plan our Golden Years.
But, there is some need to try to plan for the unexpected. I've, sadly, known too many people with cancer diagnoses in the recent past. I doubt that was in their plans. But perhaps it is better not to try to plan for that, and take it as it comes.
All the more reason why we should go-go (in my humble opinion) while we can, for as long as we can, and enjoy every day of the ride. And wake up with gratitude that another day of still go-going has been granted us.
What do you think? Or, have you thought about it yet?