Archives for posts with tag: retirement


By Sandra Cohen and Roger Cormier

Older people often are widowed after decades of a life together. Although each widow’s or widower’s grieving is unique, many, at first, find their life and emotions in shatters. If they seek guidance and support, they are advised that grieving eases up only after the hard work of experiencing painful feelings, letting go of the past and re-engaging in life.


However, each grieving person’s path is different. Their emotional makeup and the nature of their lost relationship combine with consolations, discoveries and sometimes unexpected opportunities. To a newly widowed person, life may feel only sad and scary. After some grieving and connecting, it may start to feel more hopeful. Some invest more in previous interests and involvements like hobbies or volunteering. Others meet someone who becomes their new life partner.

When we are close to someone who suffers the loss of his or her spouse, it is important to impose no general judgments about their feelings, behaviors and decisions. One person may be reconciled to their loss because their partner is no longer suffering after a long, painful illness. Another may fall apart and become angry and bitter because the death cheated them and their spouse of long anticipated plans for retirement.

Occasionally a recently widowed person is attracted to and forms a deep, loving relationship with someone not terribly long after losing his or her spouse. Some of the family and friends might feel such an action was too soon in consideration of the deceased partner’s memory. Others might recognize that the newly widowed person never had a deep, close relationship with the late partner. The new pair deserves a chance to become a happy match.

Some widowed people, very engaging and enjoyable in the eyes of those who know them, always had close friends and much involvement with their family. Although they continue to share and spend time with people close to them, they also continue to miss their spouse every day for years. They could not imagine meeting and wanting to partner with anyone else compared to what they had with their spouse.

Because of our mortality, it is paramount to live every day as fully and lovingly as possible with our partners. It also is important that our life include more than just our partner’s closeness and companionship. Each person and couple work toward their unique, healthy, happy balance. When one of them is left behind by death, the bereaved person needs to work toward a new balance with understanding and support from the other people in her or his life.




By Sandra Cohen & Roger Cormier

We overheard a woman telling a friend she had literally taken a leap of faith off a platform. The friend commented that it also took faith to mount that platform because it was shaky. The literal leap may have been a bungee jump or a ride along a cable above a jungle canopy. However, we found ourselves thinking about figurative leaps of faith that may or may not be physical or visible.


The common meaning of “leap of faith” is believing in a truth without evidence. What struck us about the leaper above is that she believed and took a risk that at the end of the bungee or cable ride her adrenaline rush would pay off in a safe and very memorable outcome.

Whatever your age and stage of life, you probably have taken leaps of faith. In fact, such leaps are what enable us to grow older rather than just get older. Whether or not your leaps were physical and dramatic, they were by definition risky because the desired outcomes were not assured. In fact, the last state could have been worse than the first.

The shaky platform referred to above struck us as much as the woman’s leap. It seems that whenever we take a leap of faith, we do so from the platforms of our lives, which always are a little shaky. Even a fairly stable life platform does not prevent our legs from shaking when we feel invited or even compelled to leap into the unknown.

As we move into 2016, it may be the right time to consider our next leap of faith. It may have to do with our work, relationships with others or with ourselves, our health, travel, encounters with nature, or a long held dream or a brand new interest.

If you have not taken a leap of faith in a while, ask yourself why. Recall the feelings and outcomes of a previous happy leap.

Choose a leap that you feel optimistic and excited about.

Gauge how much resolve you feel and how much encouragement and support you need. Get feedback and backing from someone who is familiar with the shakiness of your platform and will celebrate with you when you land.

If you feel more like a procrastinator than a risk taker, accept the side of you that may feel like postponing your leap, but affirm the side that wants to move ahead and broaden your world.

Take one leap at a time. Get familiar with your changed world before taking your next leap.

Whatever your age and current attitude and outlook, as you entertain a possible leap of faith, remember the exhortation: Do what you have to do, with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.

Happy leap and happy landing!


Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

As we grow older, we hope to grow wiser. One of life’s lessons, that two heads (or hearts or souls) are better than one, remains important in later life. These examples suggest the many wise ways we can grow by putting our heads together at any age:

-Life partners: Why do we tend to match up for life with someone who is so different from us? After infatuation comes the hard work of building a relationship with some-one whose personality and idiosyncrasies, and perhaps to some extent values, often conflict with our own. What a relief it is when we discover that compromising with or even adopting some of our partner’s perspective can add to the quality of our life. This can be helpful in countless ways from hanging pictures on a wall and choosing vacation destinations to handling adversity and opening ourselves to life’s simple joys and deepest mysteries.

"Just married"

“Just married”

-Family: An old saying reminds us that we can’t pick our family. We are born into it. From sibling rivalry to differences in chosen values and lifestyle, most of us are closer to some family members than others. Whether we’re best friends or have contact only at family events, we can learn from each other in matters of cuisine, culture, career, child rearing, politics, hobbies, retirement planning and more.

In families, there are ties that bind. Families often come together out of common love for an older relative to make difficult elder care decisions. Blending diverse perspectives and concerns often leads to mutual enlightenment, a truer picture of the elder’s best interests and more successful decisions.

-Friends: There is no deadline for forming and nurturing friendships. Many older adults have lifetime soul mates and continue to make friends at advanced ages. How do your friends complement your interests and needs? How often do you visit or communicate by phone, e-mail or mail? How much untapped potential is there for encouraging, advising and entertaining each other?

Friends come and go throughout our lives. Many people in their 80s and 90s have lost, in many cases outlived, most of their friends as well as families. Yet they sometimes welcome new friendships as if there were no tomorrow. As we often hear, all we really have is our present moment.

Memories by definition are from our past, and anticipation reminds us of our uncertain future. Friends can share some of our memories and aspirations, but more importantly, they can engage us today. They can help fill us up, go the extra mile or rest in the shade. They can help make us whole and receive what we have to give. The same is true for family and life partners, as well as people we work with or serve. Two sets of heads, hearts and souls are better than one.


By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

In the words of Desmond Tutu, “Without forgiveness, there is no future.” Why and how do we forgive and free ourselves of pain from our past?

Studies have found that people who forgive are happier and healthier. Yet forgiving can be one of the most gnawing and difficult challenges in our lives. A Gallup poll found that while 94 percent of respondents feel it is important to forgive, 84 percent said they need help to do so.


It’s easy for most of us to forgive someone who accidentally bumps into us on a crowded bus. It is hard to imagine forgiving someone who has abused, betrayed or left someone bereft of support during vulnerable times. The amount of damage, pain, humiliation and feeling of indignation and powerlessness that such behavior causes naturally adds to the innate difficulty of practicing forgiveness.

Here are some quotes that offer some helpful insight into the process.

Alan Paton: “When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.” Regardless whether forgiveness benefits the person being forgiven, and without respect to an offender’s remorse or changed behavior, the forgiver can find healing, release and a freer present and future.

Lewis B. Smedes: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Another factor that makes it hard to get off the starting block toward forgiveness is the previous degree of intimacy, trust and perceived loyalty in a relationship.

William Blake: “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” Violation of such bonds can level us and leave us feeling painfully vulnerable for a long time. But forgiveness is not necessarily synonymous with toleration. If the person shows remorse or attempt at improved behavior, it may be time to forgive the other person and then terminate the relationship.

Forgiveness can release both the offender and the offended to grow in mutual respect and caring. Close, longtime spouses, family or friends often reach the point where a gentle, forgiving reminder is enough to abort or prevent yet another annoying or hurtful behavior.

It is just as healthy and freeing — and sometimes harder — to forgive ourselves, when needed, than to forgive someone else. Chances are that something in our mind, heart, soul, behavior hungers for such a tender look from our forgiving selves. Maybe today we are ready to gaze upon ourselves and/or someone else with such tender forgiveness.

Resources: (inspiring stories of forgiveness) and “Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness” by Dr. Fred Luskin (available in hardback, paperback and as an e-book).

By Sandra Cohen and Roger Cormier

  Many people, starting in their fifties, feel challenged by not just whether or not or when to retire, but with the very concept of retirement.

Starting in the twentieth century, Americans began to have the luxury of retirement, meaning working for one company for a very long time and then stopping work completely. For the majority of that century many Americans had employer and government income and medical coverage to fall back on, but the average retiree lived only a few years after retiring at 65.

That’s changing fast. The average retirement today is more than 20 years, because many are retiring earlier and living much longer. While some people don’t choose to retire until their seventies, many are completely retiring, retiring in stages, or cycling between full, part-time and no employment in whatever order they choose. Leisure is becoming more a choice than an automatic occurrence at a certain age.

Ken Dychtwald, internationally recognized aging specialist and founder of the Age Wave in the San Francisco Bay Area, found in a survey that Baby Boomers want to cycle between work and leisure (48%), never work for pay again (17%), work part time (16%), start a business (13%) or work full time (6%). Keeping mentally and physically active and connecting with others drives the 83 percent who want to work even more than having health benefits or more money.

If you are in the second half of your life, you may be asking yourself not so much whether you want to work but how you want to balance work and leisure. Work for you may mean some combination of paid employment, volunteering and hobbies. Leisure may mean travel and learning as well as time with family and friends and entertainment.


This picture can sound rosy but, like all things in life, we’re faced with mixed blessings. As we live longer, more of us face chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. By the middle of this century fourteen million Americans are expected to suffer from Alzheimer’s and tens of millions of older adults, including debt-ridden Boomers, may live in poverty. Right now millions of retirees spend as much as 40 or more hours a week just watching television.

Medical breakthroughs, resolution of the impending Social Security and Medicare crises and other impossible to predict changes can improve the outlook for a vibrant, secure and choice-filled second half of life. However, in these changing, challenging times, each of us needs to discern what we want, what is realistic and how to achieve our work and leisure dreams as individuals and people in community.

If you discover and go for what will enliven you in your mature decades, you will need support from people who are close to you and from kindred spirits. Don’t just envision your future. Share it and commit yourself to working for change to make your and others’ “retirement” dreams come true. Here are some resources to help your envisioning and connecting:

“The Longevity Revolution: As Boomers Become Elders” by Theodore Roszak (Berkeley Hills Books, 2001), “Too Young To Retire: 101 Ways To Start the Rest of Your Life” by Marika and Howard Stone (Plume, 2004), and


By Sandra Cohen and Roger Cormier

Ever since he received an emailed invitation to a round-numbered high school reunion more than two years ago, Roger resisted participation in such an event. His excuse for not attending was geographical unfeasibility. However, he enjoyed reports about it, reconnected with a few former classmates via email, and found himself intrigued by the prospect of fine tuning travel plans earlier last month to be at this year’s non-round reunion. And so it happened.

Following are some values he experienced from the reunion luncheon:

*  He was surprised by how easily he got over everyone looking far older than the yearbook photos on their name tags.

*  Although he had not stayed in touch with any classmates for decades and none of his high school compadres attended the luncheon, he found everyone at his table to be vibrant and happy to share common interests and experiences, in this case largely about the challenges and joys of international living and travel.

* He was glad to be reminded that anyone can lead an interesting and contributory life, whether they are perceived as movers and shakers or more reserved and seemingly less involved at an earlier time in their lives.

* He is grateful for the opportunity to look back over and feel good about his career accomplishments and contributions, and for the appreciation that several classmates expressed for the meaningful yearbook that he had co-edited and that has served as a resource for reunion planning.


When something triggers a review of and/or reconnection with a part of our past, we can gain such values as these:

* Reconciliation with a regret, an estrangement or negligence that has carried over to our current life.

* Inspiration to appreciate and contribute more to our own personal and the greater world.

* Reconnection with people, purposes and talents that may reinforce our best intentions for ourselves and the spheres of our interest.

* Renewed appreciation for our accomplishments and contributions to some extent made possible by what people and institutions in our past gave to us.

Roger left the reunion luncheon with some tips about how to use the MagicJack phone for international communication; more travel destinations to consider; a new sense of pride about how he carried forward developing talents from high school to his career and now to such retirement involvements as writing this blog; and a good feeling about the rich, vibrant lives his former classmates continue to live.

Living in the past deprives us of a meaningful current life. However, revisiting parts of our pasts can renew our appreciation for all that has been given to us, all we have given back and all that is to come.

Cohen & Cormier

Sandy Cohen, R.N., B.A.; Roger Cormier, M.A., M.Th.

A while ago we saw a puppy on leash gingerly walking along a reservoir path with eyes and nose tuned into the pleasant surprises along the way. Suddenly, two dogs also on leash lunged at him with ferocious barking and hissing. Both sets of owners kept the threatening dogs away from the startled puppy, who then continued along the path after his owners commented that this was his first frightening encounter.

As he rounded the next bend, he first passed walkers who were gleefully hanging Christmas ornaments on a leafless tree. After the puppy checked out the tree decorating, he saw a bigger puppy on leash who laid on the path to signal his friendliness to the younger puppy. After playfully schmoozing, the younger puppy moved along with continuing expectation of whatever he might encounter.

Looking forward

The holiday season is all about expectations. Positive human expectation is preceded by hope and followed by anticipation. The combination of hoping for, expecting and anticipating longed-for gifts, events and experiences provides satisfaction even before the moment arrives that fulfills our inner promptings. How often have we felt that our anticipations are almost as satisfying as our experiences and their outcomes!

Conversely, we may find ourselves expecting and anticipating what we dread. Unlike the puppy, we are not naive to threatening or disappointing experiences. It is reasonable to be alert to setbacks, losses or things that might cause us harm.

The problem comes when pain, suffering and dashed dreams cause us to let go of hope which sustains us. The holidays are a time when we can step out on our path along life’s reservoirs of refreshing waters, and reach inside and all around us for renewed hope. We may be short on companionship and support, or clarity about where we fit in and can contribute to our troubled world. If so, we can allow a puppy or toddler, or perhaps a seasonal communication from someone special, to rekindle our hopefulness.

Robert Kennedy’s words come to mind: “There are those who look at things as they are, and ask why … I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” This can relate to our personal lives as well as the world in which we live.

Star Guides Sandy Cohen, R.N., Roger Cormier, M.A.

“Finding your own way to grow older”

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By Sandra Cohen, R.N., and Roger Cormier, M.A.

  What image do you have of aging? What is your attitude toward your own aging? Do you have expectations or plans for your later years? Or is it something you just don’t manage to think about?

    Living one’s aging is as individual as every other stage of life. But following are some factors that seem to affect many people as they approach and live through their later years:

  · Values and goals. We create our unique blends of interests and activities. Often, one value shapes a life. Some love their work so much that they never retire. Others love interaction with their family above all else. Still others structure their life according to their religious beliefs and affiliation or a single passion like music or environmental preservation. The blend can change as values and circumstances change. For example, someone forced into retirement by disability might discover a passion for painting outdoor scenes.                                                                                                                

  · Unfulfilled dreams. Responsibilities, narrow vision or timidity may keep us from going after a long held dream. When we reach our fifties, many of us become more aware that our  lifespan truly is limited. Some of us make big    changes to follow our heart while we still can. For example, one of our colleagues gave up her business and personal possessions to act on her long held dream to serve the people of a small nation in the Pacific Islands. Now, after more than ten years, she has returned to the U.S. to be closer to her family and to start another business.

  · Loss and renewal. Think of elderly people you know. They have lost some beloved people and their health and abilities have declined. Some of them have grieved their losses and joyously reengaged their lives. Others may have become bitter and disengaged. The way you handle loss now is likely the way you’ll respond to it in your later years.

  · Support system. Whether we rely on many, few or just one other person for day-to-day support, it’s important to believe that there are others who can enter our lives and make a difference. This conviction is important as our lives change in old age.

  · Spirituality. Amidst the ups and down of living, we hunger for inner connection and peace. These values, like all else in life, ultimately are gifts. There is no more important way to live now and to prepare for later years than by making time now to open ourselves to our inner strength, promptings and consolation. Daily time in a quiet corner, garden or other sacred space can put us in touch with what’s old, new and timely as we move through our changing lives.

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  Sandy and Roger continue providing seniors and boomers advice, resources and inspiration on this blog which takes over from their “Growing Older” column prized by countless readers since 2003. Sign up below to receive our free blog posts. Contact us about our blog at or 510-457-1098. Your comments about the blog are welcome!