Senior News Line

By Matilda Charles

Why do we retire when we do? The answer isn’t as simple as “I’ll be 65 on a certain date” or “That’s when I’ll have enough savings.” The answer to why we pick a time to retire is fairly complicated.

The Stanford Center on Longevity teamed up with Fidelity Investments to debunk some of the myths about how we decide when to stop working. They based their research on responses from 12,000 participants age 55 and older, so it was no small study. Here are some of the results:

Myth 1 — We don’t retire until we have enough money. That makes sense, but half the participants said their retirement is tied to a specific date, not to the amount of money they’d saved. If necessary they would adjust their lifestyle to what money they did have.

Myth 2 — We want to spend time with our spouse. This might be true for men wanting to spend time with wives, but women would rather spend time with grandchildren.

Myth 3 — We’re struggling financially and regret having to be frugal. Again, not necessarily so. A whopping 82 percent are happy they retired when they did, and 85 percent consider it rewarding. Almost as many said that adapting to having less money is easier than they thought. One-third wished they’d started saving earlier.

Myth 4 — We have to keep working to survive. Over half of the participants said they liked working and felt valued.

Myth 5 — We’re taking advantage of retirement to travel and enjoy hobbies. For one-quarter of respondents, that’s true. The rest replied that they enjoy the free time to do whatever they want — even if it was nothing.

There’s something to be said for doing absolutely nothing, even if it’s on a retirement budget.

Brain games and puzzles can keep our brain cells firing, but now, for the first time, researchers have discovered that if we go back to college, we’ll increase our cognitive capacity — the amount of information the brain is capable of retaining at any one moment. The Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project recruited seniors who agreed to take cognitive tests before they enrolled in college, and then assessed them each year for three years.

The results were strongly positive: More than 90 percent of those who studied for a year, either full or part time, had a “significant increase in cognitive capacity.” Researchers plan to follow those students to see if continuing to study could delay or reduce dementia. It didn’t seem to matter what classes the participants took, or whether they were in person or online. Age, well-being, social connections and gender didn’t change the results.

If we’re lucky enough to have a college nearby and the ability to pay for a class, it’s a matter of calling for a course catalog and an application.  If you prefer free or reduced-cost education, go online to find a FAFSA application (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You’ll learn which grant programs give money to seniors. Another place to start is online at www.aseniorcitizenguideforcollege.com. The site is a guide to colleges that offer reduced or free tuition for seniors. Even if a listing says information about tuition waivers from a certain college couldn’t be found, the contact information is there.  So where does that leave us if we don’t have access to a nearby college? Call the local library and ask about “lunch and learn” meetings. Or, for a real thrill, search for “open courseware” on the Internet, and you’ll find thousands of free online classes from top universities.

(c) 2015 King Features Synd., Inc.

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