Examining decisions when retirement calls

March 14, 2017 3:00 AM
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Today, people are living longer than ever. But there comes a point when it is time to retire. It happens to most of us.

You have worked hard all your life. Fortunately, you own your home; and your savings, income, and healthcare are all in good shape. You can readily afford to retire to enjoy those “golden years.” But, how will you keep yourself occupied? How will you deal with the aging process?

Of course, there are many viable options. You can work part-time, volunteer at a local non-profit, join a book-reading club at the library, engage in light sports, play bridge with friends, become active at your local senior center.

The National Institute of Aging recently studied about 3,000 retirees. As a result, it warns retirement can be detrimental to your well-being. It can lead to depression, boredom, inactivity, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. We retirees need a good reason to get up each morning and welcome the day, looking forward to activities we enjoy. Certainly, don’t allow yourself to become a “couch potato;” that’s bound to shorten your life. We all need to be mentally challenged; otherwise our minds are prone to become idled from lack of use. That can hasten Alzheimer’s disease, and that would be horrible.

Like many others, I too was faced with this dilemma so common to retirees. And, just as did my friend Lucy and my poker mentor, George The Engineer,” I decided to make poker my second career. No question about it, poker provides lots of mental challenge – exercise for the brain.

And, of course, just as I did in the early years to gain knowledge for my working career, I read many poker books and magazines, and attended poker classes at the senior center. I joined a few home games and was soon beating my opponents as I learned the strategies and tactics for winning at poker, and gained experience.

When I moved up to playing in casinos, it took a while, but gradually I found myself winning the majority of my sessions. Learning to bluff made a huge difference. Bluffing is truly an art. I agree with George: If you never bluff, you cannot be a winner.

At George’s poker classes, I also learned about selecting starting hands, and the importance of position. I learned the basics of poker math – the card odds and the pot odds, and the importance of getting a positive expectation with my drawing hands. I find it so much fun to go home a winner. But, I’ve also learned to accept the fact I am bound to lose sometimes.

Admittedly, as I age, I do find myself forgetting things more often than I would like, but that’s what happens as we retirees get older. I am sure playing poker helps to overcome that age-related mental slowing-down.

My physical body is aging too. At the casino, I do make it my business to sometimes take a break from the game and go outdoors for a brisk walk. (This also helps clear my mind. The fresh air is so invigorating!) And, I can use part of that time to ponder the game at which I am playing, to think about my opponents and how best to play against each.

Meanwhile, arthritis and the loss of balance are things most older people must strive to overcome. Several days a week, Lucy and I exercise in the gym at the local senior center, and participate twice a week in exercise classes to improve gait and balance, and to overcome arthritis. (The gym has exercise equipment just right for us older folks.) And it also offers a healthy lunch for those of us who dine there.

Retirement can be fun. Try it, you’ll like it – if you do it right.