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Jun-11-2007 04:48printcomments

Retirement Living Reaps Unforeseen Rewards

To retire is not to expire, unless you surrender to a decrepit state of mind.

Seniors walking
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(SALEM, Ore.) - My serendipity life has gone full circle. For three decades I was a healthcare social worker with a focus on the elderly. I would help that group grope with the traditional problems of aging, such as medical issues, distant families, a downward emotional spiral following retirement, and the aftermath of bereavement over a loved one.

Comforting my clients was paramount. Finding them appropriate supports and resources was part of follow-up when desired. Also important: Helping people to adjust their roles.

Then my dear wife persuaded me to buy a home in Salemtowne, a 55-plus community that turns 40 this year. At first I was reluctant. My gut feeling was: Why isolate myself with a bunch of "old people"? The elitist side of me said: "I'm a giver--may it always be so!"

But I honored her wish and moved into Salemtowne in Spring 2005. Slowly but surely I began to get acquainted with my neighbors. They were far more neighborly in ever sense of the word. For an urbanite from the skeptical East Coast, this was a huge surprise.

Across the street, one neighbor helped us install a dimmer light for our kitchen. Another donated a tiny evergreen tree for our garden and actually assisted in the digging.

The neighbors to our right faithfully collect our newspapers for us when we're away doing travel. The neighbor to our left shared valuable info on garden plants and discouraging pests from invading our turf. Yet another lady, a recent widow, gave us advice on how to deal with a gutter run-off of stagnant water (she had faced a similar problem). One of the still-strong fellows down the street climbed a ladder to un-plug a roof drainpipe.

The myriad of flowers and plants is a beautiful sight to behold. Many Salemtowners are excited green-thumbers, determined to sow and reap. We love to stroll the adjacent streets and draw inspiration from the floral displays. Creativity abounds all about.

Our community swimming pool is a boon to all. The clubhouse features billiards and pickleball, which I hope to try eventually. The writers group meets monthly and it surely keeps mental juices flowing when we each submit a vignette from our personal pasts. Many of us have few family members still alive. This renewed "sense of family" among residents fills this important gap. Chronologically--and logically--I admit to getting older.

Nevertheless, our spirit is rekindled.

To retire is not to expire, unless you surrender to a decrepit state of mind.


NOTE: Lee Coyne retired from Polk County Mental Health last year, and is permitting his own mindset to be refreshed. He welcomes comments at (503) 365-7533.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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