Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mental Exercise

Who says retirement has to be boring? Just because you no longer “work” for a living, there are so many exciting things to do now that you have extra time. Actually, some people feel busier in retirement than they were when they worked!

We all understand how important physical exercise is, but not to be overlooked is the importance of mental exercise. One very interesting program that we are fortunate to have in Ashland, Oregon is called OLLI. Now that’s a funny name, but it stands for:

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Here’s a quote from their web site:

Eager to continue learning? Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University offers intellectually stimulating classes and social functions for adults who want to know more about the world and the people who inhabit it. Volunteer instructors, most often OLLI members, share their expertise and passions in areas such as literature, art, history, science, natural history, politics, games, health, music, writing, film, theatre, dance, technology and travel. All this at a very modest cost of only $100 per academic year to members. Classes are noncredit - that means no tests and no grades!”

There are also OLLI’s at the following colleges and universities, so I hope you’re lucky enough to live near one:

Aquinas College
Auburn University
American University (D.C.)*
Arizona State University*
Berkshire Community College (MA)
Boise State University (ID)
Bradley University
Brandeis University (MA)*
Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo (CA)*
Carnegie Mellon (PA)*
Casper College (WY)
Clemson University (SC)*
Coastal Carolina University
Colorado State University
CSU Bakersfield
CSU Channel Islands*
CSU Chico*
CSU Dominguez Hills
CSU East Bay*
CSU Fresno
CSU Fullerton*
CSU Long Beach*
CSU Los Angeles
CSU Monterey Bay
CSU San Bernardino*
CSU San Marcos*
Dominican University (CA)*
Duke University (NC) *
Eckerd College (FL)*
Emory University (GA)*
Florida International University
Florida State University
Furman University*
George Mason University (VA)*
Granite State College (NH)*
Hampton University (VA)
Humboldt State University
Indiana State University
Iowa State University
Johns Hopkins University
Kennesaw State University (GA)*
Louisiana State University
New York University
Northwestern University (IL)*
Oklahoma State University
Pennsylvania State University
Rochester Institute of Technology (NY)*
Rutgers University (NJ)*
Saginaw Valley State University (MI)*
San Francisco State University (CA)*
San Diego State University (CA)
San Jose State University (CA)
Santa Clara University (CA)*
Sierra College (CA)*
Sonoma State University (CA)*
Southern Oregon University*
Stony Brook State Univ. of New York
Temple University
Texas Tech University*
Towson University (MD)
Tufts University (MA)*
UC Berkeley
UC Davis*
UC Irvine*
UC Los Angeles*
UC Riverside*
UC San Diego*
UC Santa Barbara
UC Santa Cruz
University of Alabama in Huntsville*
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa
University of Alaska at Fairbanks*
University of Arizona
University of Arkansas
University of Cincinnati
University of Connecticut
University of Dayton (OH)*
University of Denver (CO)*
University of Georgia
University of Hawaii at Hilo
University of Hawaii at Manoa*
University of Illinois
University of Iowa
University of Kansas*
University of Kentucky*
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts – Boston*
University of Miami
University of Michigan*
University of Minnesota*
University of Missouri – Columbia*
University of Montana
University of Nebraska*
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
University of Nevada, Reno
University of New Mexico
University of North Carolina Wilmington*
University of North Dakota
University of North Florida
University of Oklahoma
University of Oregon*
University of Pittsburgh (PA)*
University of Rhode Island
University of Richmond (VA)*
University of South Carolina Beaufort*
University of South Dakota
University of South Florida*
University of Southern Maine*
University of Southern Mississippi*
University of Texas at Austin*
University of Texas at El Paso
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
University of the Pacific (CA)
University of Utah*
University of Vermont*
University of Virginia*
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin, Madison
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Vanderbilt University (TN)
West Virginia University
Widener University (PA)
Yavapai College (AZ)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Walk On!

Retirement hard on your waist line? Spending a little too much time at your computer or in front of the TV? Walk away those retirement blues! And enjoy the benefits of a regular exercise program that is easy and inexpensive, and can be performed in almost any kind of weather.

Your first and only serious investment is a good pair of walking shoes. Here in Ashland, Oregon, we are fortunate to have a great shoe store called Rogue Valley Runners. Despite the name, they also are a great resource for walkers. Here’s a quote from their web site:

“Here at Rogue Valley Runners, we are committed to properly fitting each foot that walks or runs through our doors. Every employee is trained to talk with you about your specific needs, concerns, or goals ensuring you that the shoe that you are fitted for is the right shoe for your foot. We also offer a free video camera/stride analysis service at the store to help with your footwear selection.”

Don’t be afraid to spend around $100 for a good pair of shoes. They will last you at least 6 months to a year. You can also add orthotics, either the over-the-counter kind, or custom ones that a physical therapist can fabricate for you.

Your second investment might be an inexpensive pedometer. I got one for my couch potato husband a few months ago, and he loves the challenge of trying to meet or exceed his goal each week by counting those steps. If that’s the kind of motivation that gets you out there walking every day, then you can buy a pedometer at any department or discount store that has athletic equipment. I bought one at BiMart for under $4.00.

Of course it’s a good idea to consult your physician or physical therapist before initiating any kind of exercise program to make sure you don’t have any medical condition or disorder of your joints or muscles that would make walking contraindicated.

One way to insure your continued participation in a walking program is to enlist a fellow walking buddy, or join a group of walkers. The Rogue Valley Mall has a dedicated group of walkers that stride out in all kinds of weather (it’s nice to have air conditioning in the hot Medford summers as well as shelter from winter rain and snow), and enjoy a cup of coffee together afterward. It’s a great way to meet new friends, and stay in touch with old ones.

So far Mark has lost 6 pounds of holiday flab, doing very little else in terms of changing his eating and drinking habits, just by walking every day. He figures he burns approx. 100 calories in a 30-minute walk, so with everything else being equal, that would amount to almost one pound a month, or 12 pounds in a year. And Mikey the Border Collie is ecstatic to have regular walks to look forward to!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Be fit in retirement

One benefit of escaping the 40-hour-per-week grind is having more time to attend to physical fitness. Haven't you often looked at those trim, sprightly people streaming in and out of the gym and wistfully said to yourself, "If only I had more time to work out..." Well, now that you're enjoying retirement, you do have the time!

That's the good news. The bad news is, you're feeling guilty that you are wasting these "golden years" of retirement. Those lengthy aerobic workouts and the washboard abs are not spontaneously just happening.

How do you develop a fitness program that becomes part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth? For most folks, it means joining some kind of health club or spa, like Gold's Gym (, 24-Hour Fitness (, or Curves (

Two very popular clubs who specialize in programs for Ashland, Oregon retirees are Baxter's and the YMCA. Of course, before embarking upon a new exercise program, you should probably check with your physician or physical therapist to screen for any medical conditions that would make an exercise program contraindicated. You might also want to hire a personal trainer to help you set up your program and give your workout a structure.

One advantage of "The Y" is the great variety of programs and classes that cater to seniors. To To name a few: Best-Bones (to help guard against osteoporosis), water exercise, Tai Chi for Better Balance, and Senior Circuit as well as Low Impact Aerobics, spinning (and I don't mean something you do with wool!), and Yoga which can be wonderful for older adults.

In addition to the many benefits a regular exercise program bestows upon our physical bodies, it can also be a social outlet, and a fertile source of new friends. Retirement can mean a new type of social isolation when we no longer have our daily work contacts, so joining an exercise class can meet that need as well. Plus, it's just a lot more fun to work out with other people.

In short, find something that you can do every day, and above all - Have Fun!

Let me know your favorite technique for keeping your exercise routine fresh and fun.

Reverse Mortgages

Such challenging times for those of us who thought we were retired, or about ready to retire, and then discovered our stock portfolios decimated. So now we find ourselves scrounging for other ways to raise passive income. Starting a new career or returning to a previous one is not an option for many of us.

One promising area for homeowners is the Reverse Mortgage. This is a product that allows you to access the equity in your home without taking on a new payment like a Home Equity Line of Credit, or Second Mortgage. Basically you take out a new mortgage, and the interest accrues as with a regular mortgage, but you don't have to pay this interest until you sell the home. That's a very simple description of a complicated instrument, but if you intend to remain in your current home for at least 5-10 years, and you have a big chunk of equity in it, you might want to consider this idea. The ceiling on the amount you can borrow has recently been raised, which opens this type of mortage up to many people.

Of course the first place to start is by talking to a Reverse Mortgage specialist in your area. I found Tricia Smith of
to be extremely helpful. She has offices in Medford and Ashland, Oregon.

The second step is to arrange for a session with a HUD-approved agency that offers counseling. This is required in order for you to take out one of these loans, and is very helpful in helping you understand all the fine print. And since these 3rd party agencies do not make any money from the loan, they have no vested interest in talking you into anything. Reverse Mortgages are not for everyone, and you need to clearly understand if it meets the needs of your individual circumstances or not.

The fees are hefty, especially the insurance policy you pay to FHA, but this is a way to make sure that you or your heirs never end up "upside down" when it comes time to sell your house. FHA insures that the amount you owe will never exceed its fair market value. So while you may not have a lot of equity left when you sell your house, at least noone will owe money as is the case with some mortgages where the property has declined in value. But be prepared to pay for this peace of mind!

The following are nation wide agencies that can profide face-to-face OR phone counseling:
1) AARP - 1-800-209-8085
2) National Foundation for Credit Counseling - 1-866-698-6322
3) Money Management International - 1-877-908-2227