Navigating Uncharted Waters: Retirement during a Pandemic

Nov 4, 2020, 13:41 PM

As 2020 comes to a close, many of us are looking forward to a fresh start in the coming year. Uncertainty is all around us and we crave the sense of security that seems to have been lost during this pandemic. However, despite that fear and uncertainty, our members have found themselves learning to adapt in ways they could have never imagined. This bravery and pursuit of hope inspires us here at MOSERS every day. We have all felt the negative effects of COVID 19, and we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year and the impact that it has had on our retired members.

Though retirement is usually a time to relieve stress, our retirees have realized that this year has turned into something less ideal and more disappointing. Members who may have spent years envisioning the freedom of their retirement are learning to adapt to a new normal. Feelings of frustration and confusion have arisen due to the sudden loss of connection with friends, family, and our expectations for this year. As circumstances spin out of our control, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by fear and negative emotions. Learning to alter expectations during this time has proven to be difficult for many Americans, not just retirees, but it is a crucial part of pushing forward.

To cope well is to respond to the threat in ways that minimize its negative impact and to learn how to accept the current state of affairs around us. That is exactly what many of our retired members have done. We reached out to a few of them to see how they have been managing throughout this pandemic. Below are some of the responses we received.

What are some ways that you have been coping throughout this year?

“I was lucky to be able to shelter in place with my family. We listened to the CDC’s initial recommendations as closely as possible and limited outside contact. I kept up my exercise regime and walked with my walking buddy every day while social distancing. I continue to follow those recommendations. I extended my social network by communicating with friends and family with text messages and video conferencing. It gave me an opportunity to reconnect with friends I hadn't seen in years.”

-Debra Green: Jefferson City, MO

”Throughout the spring and summer, I expanded my raised bed gardening and started lots of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from seed. This growing season I was able to raise more vegetables than I ever have and provided my neighbors with fresh produce all summer. My nickname in our cul-de-sac is now, “Tomato Girl”. I have also indulged in my love of reading by utilizing the Daniel Boone Regional Library’s EBooks program. I have read more books this year than ever. For my family on the east coast and farther north, we have utilized FaceTime on a weekly basis to keep in touch, as well as our email communications. Our cul-de-sac has loosely organized a Halloween ‘safe’ event, with driveway fire tables, lawn chairs, and chalked 6ft markings. I have also explored opportunities to volunteer at some public gardens for weeding and maintenance as I am a Master Gardener and this has helped me get ‘out of the house’. I have also taken on a small part-time job every other Sunday cleaning/disinfecting a local salon. I work when no one is there, it provides a good outlet for my cleaning skills and I feel gratified to provide a clean and healthy environment for their patrons.”

-Dory Hamburg: Columbia, MO

“During the pandemic, medical professionals' recommendations have included the importance of being outdoors rather than indoors and, even then, maintaining physical distance from other individuals. Therefore, in addition to my normal routine of running several mornings a week, I looked for other outdoor activities that would allow appropriate social distancing and allow shared time with my husband. Can you believe he does not want to run 5 - 10 miles any day of the week? This summer, we went to a horse ranch in southeast Missouri and rode horses on trails in the Mark Twain National Park. We quickly became smitten by the gentle nature of the horses, Missouri Fox Trotters, and the wonders of the fast walk gait of this breed. The gait is really smooth - you could almost hold a glass of tea without spilling it while riding in this gait. A smooth ride is great for retirees and our, not-so-young-or-supple bones. We have since purchased two of these wonderful horses and are enjoying the glories of trail riding, the outdoors, and learning more about horses, riding and training. “

-Christine Rackers: Kansas City, MO

“The biggest thing I missed as a retiree during the pandemic is my YMCA classes! Although, I took a lot of walks in our many parks here in ST. Louis! 

Now the weather is changing, I have to do virtual classes or exercise DVDs.

Having zoom meetings help too. 

The biggest difficulty that I have is understanding people when wearing masks. I am hard of hearing and rely on lip-reading. 

I lived alone, so I have a small “bubble “of friends that I see on a regular basis.”

-Linda Baker: St. Louis, MO

“There are a few things we've been trying to do as the pandemic has progressed. Since both, my wife and I are high risk for COVID-19 we adopted considerable safety precautions early in the pandemic. We have minimized our contact with other people through online and curbside shopping and drive-through for some meals. We continue to maintain contacts through FaceTime, social media, email, etc.”

-Paul & Marilyn Andre: Columbia, MO

Because I have asthma, I realize I am particularly susceptible to COVID-19. “Your good health is your first wealth” has been a part of my life’s philosophy for years. Early on this spring, I made a conscious decision to quarantine myself in order to maintain good health. I took care of my mother throughout her final illness and watched her struggle as she lost her health and independence. This has made me even more determined to do what is under my control to stay in good health as long as reasonably possible. I start and end each day with prayer and meditation, reflecting on what I have, rather than what I don’t have or what I have lost. This helps me maintain optimism even when things look bleak. I also try to be pragmatic, and at my age, knowing that I have managed many of life’s struggles, I have confidence that whatever comes my way, I can manage. Attitude, I have learned, is nine-tenths of dealing effectively with life’s issues. I still go outside of the house for various services, and I always let providers know how much I appreciate their help and service. This reminds me that others probably endure much more than I have to and keeps life in perspective. I phone friends, write emails, send cards, and so on to keep in touch with friends and family. And I take time—which is one of life’s greatest gifts—to enjoy nature. I live next to a protected stream and lots of woods, which is a great joy.”

-Anonymous Retiree

Do you have any tips to relieve stress?

Continue to exercise even if the track has to be the hallway of your home. Walk your yard or your street AND do your chores. There are a lot of things you can do to get your plants and your home ready for the winter.”

-Debra Green: Jefferson City, MO

I would be lost without my daily exercising. We are fortunate enough to have an indoor treadmill and some weight machines. Throughout the spring and summer, lots of walking and bicycling. I have also made an effort to keep in touch with our neighbors, with small gifts of flowers from my garden or produce or just a note in their mailbox. We are a fairly new residential area and it has been very gratifying to meet some neighbors I didn’t know before and be able to share bits of our lives.”

-Dory Hamburg: Columbia, MO

Mary Engelbreit, a St. Louis artist, has a poster that says, "If you change nothing, nothing will change." So when stressed - try something new!”

-Christine Rackers: Kansas City, MO

“We have maintained and looked for new hobbies etc. to help with the stress of being isolated. We both love to read and have increased the number of books we go through. As an avid nature photographer, I've been able to continue this solo activity. As a new endeavor, I've started working with adult coloring pages and began simple sketching. I don't worry too much about the artistic quality but use them as something other than TV to fill empty time and I can look at the pictures as concrete accomplishments.

In addition to trying to take (mostly) daily walks, we try to target one day a week (usually Fridays) as our get out of the house days. We have been visiting different conservation areas or state parks. We not only get to see new parts of the state but we get out of the house for longer periods.”

-Paul & Marilyn Andre: Columbia, MO

Has the transition to more virtual interaction been hard?

No, I have enjoyed the opportunity to attend conferences I wouldn't have been able to in person because of cost or time.”

-Debra Green: Jefferson City, MO

 “Anything new takes some trial and error. I had to learn how to connect on Zoom to participate in my neighborhood book club and to visit family members. Now my siblings and I Zoom once a week from various locations in the U.S. We are seeing and talking to each other much more than before!”

-Christine Rackers: Kansas City, MO

“In general we have always tried to embrace the advantages of technology. That doesn't mean it's not frustrating to set up something new! We've always done some online shopping, so we've just had small struggles setting up the shopping apps for groceries and other local shopping.”

-Paul & Marilyn Andre: Columbia, MO

Have you taken a closer look at your retirement benefits during the pandemic?

Probably not “closer” but have definitely re-checked the status, passwords, for many online accounts, such as SS, MOSERS, and assorted retirement options.”

-Dory Hamburg: Columbia, MO

“During this time when there is a little more focus on items on the internet, I look at the MOSERS website more often.  While my MOSERS benefit has not changed, having the peace of mind that the benefit is always there for me is comforting.”

-Christine Rackers: Kansas City, MO

I wouldn't say we've taken a "closer" look. We maintain an awareness of all our benefits and feel comfortable reaching out with questions if something comes up.”

-Paul & Marilyn Andre: Columbia, MO


Do you feel MOSERS has provided adequate service during this time?

“Yes, I am satisfied with MOSERS connections and updates regarding Rumor Mill, Board Meetings, etc.”

-Dory Hamburg: Columbia, MO

“Yes, MOSERS continues to keep their members at the forefront of what they do. The added emails after Board meetings are interesting and informative.”

-Christine Rackers: Kansas City, MO

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