With the New Year comes a cavalcade of resolutions, most of which will be broken before the champagne corks can be found and thrown away. Beyond resolutions are issues that plague many retirees and their families. These are not matters of exercising more or eating less; they are fundamental changes that are being forced by circumstances seemingly beyond our control. The toughest ones have to do with money.
Living on a fixed income in a society where the economy appears to be broken is tough on many levels. Sometimes we have to explore alternatives that can be clouded in misinformation, like reverse mortgages or tapping into life insurance policies. As difficult as these possibilities are, they pale in comparison to re-evaluating financial relationships within the family.
With our dad, we reached a point where he could no longer afford to take the family out for dinner or purchase gifts extravagantly. He had always been the great benefactor, but late in his life, the money was starting to run out.
The transition from his treating us to our treating him took several years and a great deal of delicate family negotiations. On his end were issues of pride; on ours were concerns that he needed to conserve. Happily, we arrived at a place where Dad could be a magnanimous receiver. Whether in restaurants or holiday giving, he learned to accept our generosity as a gift to us; we were being blessed by the opportunity to express our gratitude for all he had given us.
Each of us defines who we are by things we do. But each of us is also a person in transition. Jesse Jackson expressed it perfectly, “God, is not finished with me yet.” So it is that even roles as clearly defined as child and parent evolve over time. When that happens in an atmosphere of openness, love and understanding, it brings both parties to new and rewarding places.
The fact is, for most of us, the price of generosity can become burdensome as our retirement years lengthen. But that does not mean we do not have value to give. We just need to learn to give differently. When we offer our loved ones an opportunity to give to us, we are bestowing a gift as well.
What and how we give and receive is part of who we are and how we care. It changes as we do and that isn’t wrong or less, rather it is the natural order of things. Whether it is the seasons or our lives, embracing change always makes it easier.
Perhaps in this New Year there is an opportunity to teach two of life’s most difficult lessons: the sharing of burdens with those who care and graceful receiving.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident.