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A time to be old (06/19/2005)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Don't count the years - count the blessings.

A lush, daylily scent lifts from the row of yellow blooms, appearing in a tousled, reckless state, left to grow at will. Last winter surpassed intentions, as several autumn chores went untended.

The deck steps have begun to appear as though meant to go unstained. Tattered bushes in disarray whither at the end of the garage, near death.

She bides her idle time out on their deck with a book as dull as life has become. She seems to have exhausted her curious enthusiasm for more informative reads - nature journals, newsworthy chronicles, and environmental subjects. She ignores the phone's rude echo, likely another telemarketer.

She struggles to divert her attention from the northeast corner of their home, where siding had been torn off, unsightly and unfinished for weeks. Not much hope now!

Scams are out of hand against the vulnerable, which include those in their senior years who harbor fears and needs which may overwhelm their sense of good judgment.

They appear out of the blue, strangers claiming to be carpenters, blacktop crews, roofers, and tradesmen, who happen to "notice" that your home needs their expertise. They connive for a large sum of money up front, beginning what appears to be work one day, and then scamper off into the sunset the next (with moola for stickin' it to ya).

An article by Sid Kirchheimer, in the June AARP Bulletin, is aptly entitled "Deviled Nest Eggs." Disturbing in content, it conveys the message "buyer beware!"

Financial experts generally concur that people over 65 or in poor health should not consider a long-term annuity as a lucrative investment. AARP senior attorney Barbara Jones cautions that folks in their declining years "may need fast access to their money for medical care or other emergencies."

"Some kinds of annuities don't allow withdrawals for 15 years or more - and if money is taken out earlier, a hefty ‘surrender charge' can be as high as 22% on the amount withdrawn."

Several financial planning firms and insurance companies have been sued for duping billions of dollars from retirees, through free seminars, enticing them with low introductory rates of return for the first year.

Adam Bold, chief investment officer of the Mutual Fund Store reports, "They may pay 12% in the first year, but then it goes to a floating rate, usually the minimum of about 3% - what you'd get with a CD."

Then comes the clinker! Concerning those in their "olden years," that landslide of income they were planning on in retirement doesn't kick in until after their life expectancy is over. "Sorry, you should have read the fine print!" Who ya gonna call?

Restrictions, risks, and bad choices taunt the loving wife of forty years, bent over a monotonous romance novel, eyeglasses resting on the tip of her nose. Trills of colorful songbirds at her husband's feeders penetrate a wayward preoccupation.

Their health insurance premium took another hike. She hasn't told him; his blood pressure has been sky high. Should she have looked into disability social security sooner? Her final paycheck weighs heavily on her years of hard work.

The penetrating oven buzzer announces dinner for two, the small meatloaf indicative of those leaner portions they now find more practical for waning appetites. She shuffles into the warm kitchen, calling his name, straining to straighten her curving posture.

Arthritic knuckles are quick to remind her that she needs his help. He dutifully lifts the casserole dish from the oven to the table, facing the buffet lined with smiling family photos, their grandsons safely home from Iraq.

Through another night's silent redeeming slumber, that nagging whimper remains the passive bed partner - that need of one for the other - a time to be old.

Somehow she envisions that in the end there's only yourself. "Just me and my shadow," she sighs. She turns, full-faced to a round moon, and wallows in consistencies...

at peace with the day...with her time to be old. 


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