Monday, January 25, 2010

An open letter to American retirees

I was reading an article in the New York Times on Sunday about the Tea Party movement here in America. This movement is comprised largely of conservative, slightly overweight women in the 65-80 age bracket with questionable fashion sense. At least that is what I gathered by the picture that accompanied the article. These women apparently have a fair bit of time to kill between doctor’s appointments and have chosen to focus it on protesting big government and the exploding national debt, both of which grew excessively under the Bush administration, and protecting the Constitution, which also came under attack during the Bush administration, all of which they are understandably pinning on President Obama.

The previous evening we had dinner at a diner in a country town just south of us and a couple of elderly women shared the next booth and had a loud and lengthy conversation about who it was that paid for their hearing aids, Medicare or Medigap. At the end of the meal it was still undetermined but whichever it was, I decided that they hadn't paid nearly enough. These two experiences, the dinner and article, converged to remind me that I’ve been meaning to compose an open letter to American retirees.

Dear aging Americans,

Retirement is a cherished gift. It's a bit like that super-deluxe racing bike you lusted after as a kid in the department store window. Only this is something you had to save up for your entire life and now that you've bought it your body's gone wonky so you can't properly enjoy it. Nevertheless, you want to make the most of it. So, honestly, paint-by-number? Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul? And tea parties?

I have done some traveling in my time and have noted that not all aging world citizens spend their retirement in the same manner. In case your choices of activities reflect a failure of imagination, I have included below some ways that retirees in other countries are spending their golden years:

New Zealand: Hiking the Milford Track.

Australia: Passing me at a clip on the climb up Ayer’s Rock (20 years ago -- they are too culturally sensitive to do the climb today). Today they are lobbying to save the pig-footed bandicoot.

Tibet: Fighting for human rights and democracy.

Bolivia: Roping alpacas.

Italy: Being president.

Finland: Winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Brazil: Tanning.

United Arab Emirates: Buying islands (2008).  Going bankrupt (2009).

Swaziland: Dying

Perhaps that last one was a poor example. Here are some additional tips on things of a more general nature.

On perfume: a little dab will do ya.

Your gastro-esophageal reflux: don’t need to hear about it.

Medicare Part D: I feel your pain. I don’t get it either. Sadly, neither may your physician.

On driving: If you’re confused, you should really pull over to the side of the road before stopping to think things through.

Express lanes at the grocery store: apply to you.

Childlike voices: are for children.

Tipping: 15-20% is standard.

Your children: really do love you.

Obama: is American (Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959).

Muslin: is a fabric.

African-Americans: vote.

God bless: us all.

It won't be all that long before I am joining your ranks so please, pave a nice path for me and set up some road signs. I may not remember any of this by the time I get there.

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  1. Oh - and one of the favorite pastimes of Austrian retirees is to climb on their roofs (not sure why) to then fall off and die in droves. They are also fond of doing their own electrical repairs. Hmm...what happens if I touch this red wire.... Zzzzzzzzzzzt!

  2. I thought tea parties were what small girls had with their dollies and imaginary friends and possibly a tolerant stray cat or two dressed up in doll's clothes.

  3. Badger, what is it with Austrians and their fascination with the beyond? Personally, I liked the piste groomers the best.

  4. I'm personally looking forward to being a cantankerous old git. If you can’t mill about all afternoon in the post office, or try to pay in vouchers for 20 minutes at the self service express till when you are retired, when can you?


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