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Fixin' Healthcare

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Retirement

Retirement is a concept whose meaning has eluded me. Is it a certain age, the last phase of life, a decrease in functional ability, a group of activities, no need for gainful employment, a different place of residence, mental and/or physical sanctuary, a period of change or some combination of all of the above? My mother believed in retirement but I think it just overtook and overwhelmed my father. They sold the house, packed their bags and returned to the South from the Midwest. Mother felt she was home and did what she always did while my father felt he was on the sidelines and struggled to find something he wanted to do. She lived thirty years and he died within ten years. My wife is a nurse but she was last employed as a nurse thirty-eight years ago, Judging by her activities I would say she retired about the time the children left for college but they remain her primary focus and she stays busy.

A few friends and colleagues my age continue to work full-time but most have stopped and they are busy with various activities, some related to their previously chosen professions. Some retired faculty continue part-time teaching and counseling or special projects. Few retired physicians continue to see patients part-time. The expenses of licensing and insurance are too high, not to mention the administrative hassle they retired to leave behind. There is a clinic on Hilton Head Island, S.C. that makes it possible for retired physicians to provide voluntary care for poor patients. I read about a retired physician in New York state who wanted to work part-time free to serve the poor but the clinic where he previously worked closed due to lack of funds and there was no replacement facility (Peter Applebome, Giving Away Medical Care Isn't Easy, New York Times, 2/18/09).

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