“The Golden Years are not so Golden”
The lifestyle that many of us sees when we get older and retire, may not be the actual way we will be living. For most persons retirement means freedom, a freedom from taking orders from bosses, from waking up early during the week, and from competition and criticism. Seniors are free, but free to do what? (Bradford 46) Senior citizens face many hardships once they reach retirement and head into the “golden years.” Senior life may not be all that it is made out to be. People are not living like they are young having the times of their lives. Most of them face problems socially, medically, and economically.
To some seniors all this freedom may come as a shock. All of a sudden there is time to do everything and anything they ever wanted. Some seniors can keep themselves socially active in the community, as long as transportation is available. But what happens if transportation is not there? As Jennifer Lenhart states, “the region’s outer suburbs it is not just school-aged children who are using local transportation, it’s grandma and grandpa, too.” For seniors having no means of transportation, weather it’s from being forced to sell there car, to having there license taken away, many problems arise. Lenhart reports, “Social Service agencies say they’re trying to help, but resources are already stretched thin, leaving little extra to pay for senior citizens and the transportation networks needed to help these older residents navigate there outlying suburbs.” (Lenhart B01). Transportation isn’t the only social drawback when reaching one’s golden years.
Another social barrier in retirement years is being in the presence of a disabled person, or someone who is confined to their house. According to Grace Weinstein, if a senior citizen is confined to a home or disabled, others, such as family members would be affected greatly by this (Weinstein 72). He also states, “Its comes as a great shock: how quickly a families resources, financial and emotional, melt away when an older person requires long-term care. Weinstein also points out that at 80% of the people needing long-term care receive it from family and friends, and help in paying for these services is virtually non-existent. Dr Roger Weise notes: “as the advancing years take their tool on senior citizens physical, mental and emotional health, a role-reversal takes place as parents find themselves being cared for by the very children they brought into the world” (Krause 1). In the absence of other family members, the senior may choose, or be put automatically in a nursing home, or go though a concept called assisted living. There is, however, a substaintially large difference between the two. Nursing homes provide skilled and custodial care on short-term or long-term basis over the entire 24-hour day. Assisted living consists of group housing for older adults that is managed by professional and offers not only rooms but also safety, security and help with activities of daily living (Norrgrad 82). Assisted living residents consist mainly of older people who need meals prepared and a safe place to live to people who need help with bathing and medications (Norrgrad 82). The elderly are not always put into these type of situation. But as with aging, there are concerns brought with a persons’ general health. Their health plays a major factor in living the golden years.
One of the most common illnesses, when someone gets older and has nothing to do, is either getting a case of minor or major depression. According to Joseph Gallo, “Older adults often deny feeling sad while exhibiting other characteristics of depression. Other characteristics may include a lack of personal care.” (Gallo p820). Minor and major depression both has an effect on morality. Tests conducted with the American Medical Association showed that there is an increased morality risk for major depression, than minor. But other factors such as smoking and drinking also play a role with morality. Although no one who retires wants to go through all of this. It can be prevented through regular check-ups at the doctor. Although, now that the person is out of work, how would they afford to stay healthy and still live productively?
The answer to that lies within HMO’s and social security, both ways that retired person can still afford to live productively and stay healthy. But if they are receiving social security, which according to an article in Business Week on May 10, 1999, “about 80% of the recipients of social security are very dependent on it,” how can they still afford to stay healthy. That same article also points out that in 1997 the average Social Security retirement benefit was only $756 a month, and the average check to a 65-year-old was $815 a month (Business Week p26). That amount of money may be able to help a retired person get by, but there is still the cost of HMO’s and health insurance. Recently certain Medicare companies started to change their policies for customers. According to an article in The Washinton Post, “Popular companies such as BlueCross BlueShield will begin charging Medicare beneficiaries $600 a year in parts of the region where it now charges them nothing to join” (Hilzenrath A01). That same article also points out that some HMOs say they are requiring members to dig deeper into their own pockets because the government is not paying them enough to care for Medicare beneficiaries. The same article also explains the cost increases the retired would most likely be experiencing with these new policies. Some new prices would include a $50 increase for ambulance service, $50 per day for the 30th to the 100th days spent in a skilled nursuing facility. A $500 increase for each mental health hospitalization and a 10 percent increase in the cost of inpatient transplant services. What this ultimately means it that for the same health care and services, the retired people will be spending more of their much-valued money.
It seems that retirement should be a time when a person can finally relax after years and years of working. This point in a persons’ life should be enjoyable and everything they want should be fulfilled. They don’t have to worry about being late for a job, or waking up at the crack of dawn just to get there on time. Retirement should be about relaxation. However, many factors can change this relaxed, ideal lifestyle. Disabilities and isolation can change the way a person lives entirely and lead to a number of illnesses such as depression. Depression cannot only be harmful to oneself, but also to one’s family. Health related problems can also be another factor in an unhappy retirement. If your health is bad, you will be spending more money on HMOs, which is exciding in costs, which will leave your pockets emptier. In conclusion, the “golden years” of retirement may not be as golden as we think they are.
Bradford, Leland P. and Martha I. Retirement: Coping with Emotional Upheavals. Chicago, Nelson-Hall 1979.
Gallo, Joseph J and Peter Rabius. “Depression without Sadness: Alternative Presentations of Depression.” American Family Physician. (Sept 1, 1999) v60 i3 p820. American Academy of Family Physicians 1999
Krause, Karen Cullotta. “Growing demand for Senior Citizen Services finds a Solution.” Chicago Tribune Final Edition (February 13, 1994): Tempo Northwest.
Lenhart, Jennifer. “A needed lift: Seniors who move to area to be near family find that without transportation, they’re isolated.” The Washington Post. Final Edition (Nov 8, 1999): B01
Norrgard, Carolyn. “Assisted Living.” Clinical Reference Systems: Infotrac. (July 1, 1999) p82. Clinical Reference Systems 1999.
Weinstein, Grace W. “Help Wanted- The Crisis of Elder Care.” Ms Magazine. (Oct 1989) p72-79.