Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Contemplating Hip Replacement

This article in US News and World Report caught my attention today as I’m sitting here in pain rather than gardening. I have osteoarthritis and have been a candidate for a hip replacement for over a year. I keep putting it off, praying for an alternative—like healing. The idea of a doctor cutting off my leg bone and replacing it with a metal prosthesis just doesn’t set well with me. I don’t like pain and I’m not good at taking time to exercise. I also build muscle very slowly, which means that I don’t see a lot of progress when I do exercise. And when I read all of the movements you can’t do after replacement, the rebel in me says, “No way!” So I keep stalling. Guess I have some of my mom’s syndrome—“wishing will make it so…”

In addition to just NOT wanting the surgery and the long recovery time, there’s the question of which procedure to use (assuming I do it, of course). Two surgeons have been recommended by just about everyone in my area. One is a traditional surgeon who uses the prosthesis that grows into your bone. Recovery time: 4-8 months! The other uses a minimally invasive technique that promises faster recovery and less pain. Recovery time: 2-4 months. But this procedure uses an adhesive to set the prosthesis. I’ve heard of people having problems with this, either with breakdown or allergic reactions.

Since I’ve recently returned to school, the recovery time is very significant for me. I put off making an appointment in the spring, and now can’t get in to see either surgeon until August. That means if I do the surgery, I’ll miss a quarter at school. But I’m not sure I can wait another year. Last year I wanted to try to get stronger and lose weight before doing the surgery. I didn’t do either. So now I’m in a real mess.

I think another part of my problem is that I still think of myself as 35. Far too young for such a surgery! The reality is that I’m 60 and my body parts are wearing out, largely due to my lack of care for them in the past 30 years. Yes, there are consequences to poor health choices in middle age. And I’m reaping them now.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Will You be Able to Retire When You Want To?

According to MarketWatch, the consensus these days is that many Americans will need to work long past age 62, the age at which many people retire currently, in order to finance a retirement that is increasingly likely to last until age 90 or beyond.

But there are several reasons why that plan won't pan out for many people.

The biggest barrier may well be health. In a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute earlier this year, 50% of the retirees surveyed said they left the workforce earlier than planned, and 54% said they left due to health problems.

Then, there are other reasons beyond our control:
  • 33% of those retirees in the EBRI study said their company downsized or closed,
  • 25% said they had to care for a spouse or other family member,
  • 22% said they left due to work-related reasons,
  • 14% said they left because of outdated skills.
Just as significant, many people simply don't like their jobs -- and the thought of tacking on another five or 10 years in the workforce is anathema.

A lucky few, though, have jobs that provide income and a sense of purpose and meaning, and they're happy to stick with them. A new survey of people ages 44 to 70 calls that type of career an "encore" career -- and finds that those lucky few may number in the millions.

An estimated 6% to 9.5% of Americans ages 44 to 70, or as many as 5.3 million to 8.4 million people, are working in what are called "encore" careers -- careers that provide not just income but also purpose and meaning. The remaining 80 million Americans ages 44 to 70 are either slaving away in careers without purpose (half of them pine for an encore career), or taking it easy, living a more traditional retirement.

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