Booter Blog

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital Gazette

I remember my father repeating the old adage, "We grow too soon old and too late wise."  The older I get, the more I understand the truth of those words.  With age comes a broader and deeper perspective on life, human relations and our place in the universe.  I thought of this a week or so ago when I re-connected with an old friend and former Annapolitan, Bill Whitehead.  A few years back, Whitehead moved from Annapolis to Nashville to be with his aging father, Floye, now 92.  At 60 years old, Whitehead is not the typical boomerang son! Here's the story.  Bill's father grew up a sharecropper's son in Alabama.  After serving in  WW II, Floye moved his family to Nashville, where he spent 35 years working...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital Gazette

Thankfully, and with a little luck, the 2012 presidential election will be over in two days – with a decision sometime Tuesday night.   Many thought much of the 2012 campaign would be about "senior issues" – such as strategies to "save" Social Security and Medicare. However, both President Obama and Governor Romney assured later-life Americans that reforms essential to the survival of these two entitlements will apply only to those under 55 years of age. In the words of Governor Romney, "Nothing changes for current seniors or those nearing retirement."  At that point, both sides turned to other issues.  Result: Two of the issues most important to retirees or those planning for retirement were taken off the...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital Gazette

It all began with a talent contest at Bentwaters Royal Air Force base in Ipswich, England in 1958.  One of the competitors didn't show up, and the organizers needed someone to fill the empty slot.  Roland Leone, an enlisted airman in the US Air Force weather service, had a habit of singing Frank Sinatra favorites in the shower.  His USAF buddies liked his singing, so they "volunteered" Roland to fill the empty slot.  Roland not only belted out a great rendition of Sinatra's "When you're smiling," he won the contest! But that's only half the story.  The other half:  Roland, now 77 and living up the road in Bel Air, not only crooned Sinatra songs, he sounded like Frank Sinatra – and he still does, a talent...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital Gazette

Several readers have asked, "When do the bonus years begin?" If you think about it historically, life expectancy was 47 in 1900. So, from the perspective of history and demography, the bonus years are all those years after 47. Still, many people begin thinking about their bonus years in their 50s – prompted by ads on TV, their financial advisor, their physician or their children. It’s not a physical or psychological thing; it’s a cultural thing. Like many others, it happened to me when I came home one day to find that the US Postal Service had delivered a large envelope, personally addressed to me, from the American Association of Retired Persons – now known simply as AARP. The package included a letter, a membership form, and the current copy of Modern Maturity, the...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital Gazette

We are less than a month away from an election where issues affecting those in their bonus years hang in the balance.  These include: tax reform – especially what is to be done about so-called "death taxes" and the taxation of capital gains and pensions, issues of great concern to retirees who are receiving payouts from pensions and investments to fund retirement living; spending priorities – especially the need to balance the budget to restore monetary stability so necessary for those living on fixed incomes; and another is, entitlement reforms – especially the reform of Social Security and Medicare to avoid insolvency that now threatens the two most important social programs for Americans in their bonus years.   The...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital Gazette

An old business school riddle goes something like this:  If there are five frogs on a log and one decides to jump off, how many are left?   The answer: Five.  The reason: Deciding to jump is not the same as jumping.  The number of frogs on the log is reduced to four only by execution, by the "action" of jumping – not by "deciding" to jump. Annapolitan John Kelly is a man who learned his business school lessons well, and he continues to execute on his plan even in his bonus years, having just completed his 67th circumnavigation of the Sun.  A reader who shares biking and photography interests with John told me several months ago, "You have to meet John Kelly.  He is the most intentional, focused, versatile...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital

It was late one Friday evening – this was nearly 15 years ago. I had just returned to Annapolis from a week-long business trip. Going through the mail that piled up over the week, I found a FedEx package from my uncle Walt. Walter Copper, well into his bonus years at 90, is the brother of my mother. He was a B-24 pilot in WW II, a proud member of what Tom Brokaw calls “the greatest generation." After the war, he and his wife Barbara raised a family and were actively involved in the lives of their kids and in the larger community. When I opened the FedEx, I found 108 double-spaced pages of Uncle Walt’s completed autobiography. In the foreword, he said he wrote it for his kids and grandkids, so they could know the history of their family, how their grandparents had...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital

Every so often you meet genuinely special people – people who make you say, "I would like to be like them." Mary Sue and I met two people like this shortly after we moved to Annapolis in 1993. I'm referring to Graham and Libby Gutsche, who were married in 1948 and will soon celebrate their 64th anniversary. Though the Gutsche's have more than 20 bonus years to their credit – Graham is 87 and Libby is 84 – they have slowed down only a little while their passion for life and enthusiasm for helping others remains undiminished. Because I see them only intermittently, I asked Libby what they are doing now, she said, "We just keep on keeping on." Keeping on, indeed. Graham was a physics professor at the Naval Academy for 42 years. In his "spare time" he was a founding elder of...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital

For the past few months we have written each week about Marylanders in their post-60 bonus years, seniors fully engaged as editors, nurses, volunteers, philanthropists, home builders, coaches, music directors, cooks, mentors, even Olympians – including several seniors working into their 80s. Whether you consider the stories we have covered or think about people you know, you have to ask yourself: How in the world did the idea of retirement to a life of leisure and amusement ever come to be viewed as desirable? More astonishingly, how did voluntary disengagement come to be something to seek…and something to be valued, and to be proud of once attained? How many times have you heard friends or acquaintances – puffed up with pride and an apparent sense of accomplishment – say...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital.

Presidents of the US, like the rest us, also retire. In fact, polls show that about half the American people would like to retire Barack Obama on November 6th – and the other half would like Obama's retirement to be delayed four years. This weekend, however, is special. You see, President Herbert Hoover, who died 11,553 days after leaving the presidency, held the record for the longest retirement. Yesterday – on Saturday, September 8 – President Jimmy Carter chalked up 11,554 days since leaving the White House. From a bonus years perspective – where we spotlight productive work performed by men and women living through their post-career years – both presidents are motivating examples. Reason: In each case, these retired presidents, one a...
Mary Sue and I, along with the Sailing Club of the Chesapeake, spent Saturday as guests of Ambassador and Mrs. Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, at the Russian dacha on the Corsica River. We sailed from our home on Lake Ogleton on Saturday morning into the Severn River and across the Bay into the Chester River and up to the dacha at Town Point on the Corsica where we dropped anchor in the early afternoon. The Ambassador, who gave generously of his time and opinions on a range of issues during a tour of the historic home and surrounding grounds, hosted an evening of Georgian dining, good conversation and lively music. We returned late today. For a wonderful weekend: Spaseebo balshoye.

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital

Physician Alexis Carrel, recipient of the 1912 Nobel Prize in Medicine for pioneering work on vascular suturing, organ transplants and the aging of cells, famously said, “The aging man should neither stop working nor retire. Leisure is even more dangerous for the old than for the young.” That also applies to women, according to Mary Grierson. Born in 1929, the year of the Great Depression, Mary is now 83 and still working – and loving every minute. Mary has been a practicing nurse for 61 years – and married for 61 years. She told me, with a wink in her eye, that she would have been married longer, but "in the old days, the nuns wouldn't let us get married during nurses’ training. We even had hours. They were like house mothers in a...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital

The ancient Scriptures say "everything has its season." But Jeanne Kelly – who lives in Tracy's Landing with her husband Larry while devoting her bonus years to advancing the performing arts among older adults – says there is at least one exception. "As long as you can breathe and speak, you can sing. The gift of song is a life-long gift. When it is cultivated, it benefits both you and others, especially in later life." Jeanne Kelly is a remarkably interesting and gifted woman. Her name will be familiar to many in the Annapolis area because she served as conductor of the Women's Glee Club at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1987-95; she also conducted the Georgetown University Concert Choir. Also a performer, Jeanne made her professional operatic debut with the Washington...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital

My 95-year-old mother, who is making the most of her bonus years, living independently in a condo on the West Coast of Florida, is a font of wisdom. Not long ago, she said, "You know you're getting old when half the names in your Rolodex end with MD." Our son, her grandson, in his 20s said, "Grandma, you know you are getting old when you know what a Rolodex is." Despite myths to the contrary, many good things happen to you in your bonus years. For most, these include more patience, perspective, knowledge and wisdom. Still, there is no doubt that declining health and health-related events are evitable facts of later life. That's why so many names in our address book are physicians, clinics and pharmacists. Sometimes health problems come out of the blue and hit us between...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital

"People say I am a miracle, but I am just an ordinary old man." Those are the words of Japan's Hiroshi Hokestu, age 71, the oldest competitor in the 2012 Summer Games in London – and the oldest Olympian in 92 years. Hokestu-san is in London with his horse, Whisper, to compete in an equestrian event called dressage. Dressage is an Olympic sport that is the equine equivalent of ballet, where the rider, clad in top hat and tails, takes the horse through a series of steps that looks like the horse is dancing. Whisper, a 19-year old mare is also a senior, like Hokestu-san. After all, 19 in horse years is 66 in human years! It's true that most Olympians are high-performance human beings in perfectly-sculpted bodies – mostly teen-agers or twenty-somethings. Still, over the...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital

It's a dolls' house.  Not the kind your daughter received from Santa on her third Christmas.  The dolls' house I am taking about is in the historic district, near City Dock.  It's a house full of dolls.  More than 500 dolls!  Old dolls, new dolls.  Porcelain dolls and cloth dolls.  Dolls with sweet faces and dolls with character faces.  Kewpie dolls and Cabbage Patch dolls.  But mostly Victorian dolls – the kind with a porcelain or bisque face, puckered lips and period clothing.  More importantly, each doll has an interesting history, actually several histories: One about how it was acquired; a second surrounding the era when it was popular; and another, perhaps, about where and by whom it was manufactured...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital.

It's a beehive of activity. People scurrying here and there to catch a bus or join a work group, attend an exercise class or go to a computer class. Those who can walk are helping people who have trouble walking. There is a constant buzz and chatter as people trade information and tell stories. And everywhere you look there are volunteers, most of whom are also seniors, who run the show, day in and day out. I'm talking about the Annapolis Senior Activity Center. The center serves a 200-300 seniors a day – a diverse group "all aging together," according to senior Julia Crowner. Her friend Rosilyn Cypress added, "We love the volunteers; they are like a daily dose of good medicine." With only two paid staff, director Becky Batta and her jack-...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital.

He was Indiana state swimming champ in the 100 yard butterfly. He graduated cum laude from Harvard with a degree in economics. He is now a cook in Annapolis. I'm talking about Craig Sewell, the owner-operator of A Cook's Cafe – and a cook on a mission that does not include retirement. Though he passed his 60th birthday a year or so ago, he's a runner who has completed four marathons – including the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon. He also swims 1-2 miles a day, participating in Masters competitive swimming, a national program with more than 50,000 members to promote health and fitness in adults. He is clearly a man whose life is disciplined by focus, resolve and patience – virtues I have long admired. I first learned of...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years commentary in the Annapolis Capital.

There are two views of aging in America. In one, a 70 year-old woman drives another to the doctor. Across town, a later-life adult takes an even older neighbor to do her grocery shopping and then helps her bring the groceries into the house and makes sure they are properly stored. When arthritis keeps a home-owner from installing his new storm windows, two volunteers go out to get the job done. This is the view from the ground, where people are "aging in place," where real people live, work and play. There is another view. That of the hand-wringing analysts and "big thinkers" who tell us that boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day for the next 18 years; that the number of Americans 65 years or older is about to double – from 35 million...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years commentary in the Annapolis Capital.

"Wait, wait! Don't tell me," as they say on the popular NPR variety show. And for many, lifestyles in the bonus years are, indeed, a surprise waiting to happen. But for others, what we have been is what we shall become. Indeed, for increasing numbers of Americans, the years following retirement only amplify the values of family and community, of cultivating and selflessness that defined their pre-retirement lives. Some actually take a "time-out" either before or immediately after the retirement event to make sure their new-found gift of time is managed intentionally – and not sacrificed to mind-numbing relaxation or aimless busy-ness" as Parkinson's Law (tasks expand to the time available) takes over. A case in point is the purpose-...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years commentary in the Annapolis Capital.

The idea of "leaving a legacy" is a popular bonus years theme. It came to mind a couple of weeks ago as I was driving past Severna Park High School and noticed the sign outside the sports arena. It reads, "The Andy Borland Field House." Because I had a casual acquaintance with Andy Borland long before he had buildings named after him, I decided to give him a call to see if we could meet for coffee to chat about his bonus years' life since his 1998 retirement as a teacher and coach. Andy Borland is a bear of a man – a Jesse Ventura shape with a Yul Brynner hairdo and a convivial twang that points to his birthplace in Durham, North Carolina in 1939. Katie, his wife of 49 years and mother of the Borland's three daughters, taught English as a...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years commentary in the Annapolis Capital.

I received an interesting email last week from a reader with the following comment: "It's inspiring to read about people who continue to work, volunteer, take care of grand kids and do good things in their 'retirement' years. But I know there are people who want to do nothing. I know this is true because I am one of those people." And my new friend is not alone. Opinion surveys of later-life Americans reveal that about one of five (20 percent) want to retire to a life of rest and relaxation – often including lots of golf or tennis, as long as legs, shoulders and elbows permit, or perhaps messing about in boats or fishing off an old bridge. And even though social engagement is the healthy alternative for those in later-life, simply enjoying life...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years commentary in the Annapolis Capital.

Meet John Fry (USNA, '48), an interesting guy for many reasons, not the least because the former naval officer who spent much of his first career in the Pacific also had a second career in the US diplomatic corps as a Foreign Service Officer, where he served in Brussels, Stockholm and a stint in the White House Office of Science and Technology. John, retired in 1988, is now in his third career, serving as the 85-year-old editor of a literary jewel that is invisible to most Annapolitans. I am referring here to Literary Lite, an enjoyable quarterly publication, now in its 15th year. Literary Lite is sponsored by the Residents' Club of Ginger Cove, published by and for the residents. Its co-editors are Marjorie Bradford, Pat Wichmann, and Tim Wooldridge. Literary Lite...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years commentary in the Annapolis Capital.

In 1986, when John "Rusty" Porter was 54 years old, he and his wife, Virginia, an elementary school principal, moved to Annapolis. Last April, the Rotary Club of Annapolis recognized Rusty with its "Service Above Self" award, the highest honor for community service that it confers on non-members. With Rusty now closing in on 80 years, I thought his bonus years story was compelling. So I gave him a call. "Rusty," I said, "this is Phil Burgess. I would like to write about how you have spent your bonus years in community service." After some give-and-take, Rusty agreed to meet, so I said, "What about tomorrow?" The "tomorrow" I was referring to was a Monday, but Rusty said, "Tomorrow really doesn't work for me...

Unabridged from my Bonus Years column in the Sunday Annapolis Capital.

“It’s better to wear out than rust out.” That is the message of Bonus Years, a weekly commentary that will appear in this space each Sunday. With America’s 78 million boomers turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day for the next 18 years, Bonus Years will tell stories of people, places and issues that challenge the conventional "rest and relaxation" idea of retirement, focusing on individuals and institutions in the Chesapeake Bay area. Indeed, between now and 2030 the number of Americans age 65 or more will increase from just over 41 million to 71 million, and most Americans who retire at 65 can expect to live 21 more years – and nearly half will live to be 90 years or older. America's later-life men and women are doing amazing...
  Why Boomers Will Delay Retirement The US retirement age is rising.  Following a steady decline in the retirement age after WW II, the new Census shows that the average retirement age has been increasing since the mid-1990s – from 62 to 64 for men and from 60 to 62 for women. According to an analysis of these data by Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and by BooterNation.com several factors account for the new trends toward later retirement, including: ŸImproved public health and longevity which means individual performers are more likely to stay at the top of their game for an extended period into later life, many of whom want to stay engaged in their work or profession; An information economy that values the knowledge, connections...
  Steve Jobs/Apple Commercial-Here's to the Crazy Ones 
A Later-life Morality Tale An old prospector shuffled into the town of El Indio , Texas, leading an old tired mule.  The old man headed straight for the only saloon in town, to clear his parched throat.  He walked up to the saloon and tied his old mule to the hitch rail.  As he stood there, brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.  The young gunslinger looked at the old man and laughed, saying, "Hey old man, have you ever danced?"  The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, "No, I never did dance ... Never really wanted to."  A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger ...
Billy Graham has written his valedictory.  He calls it, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (Thomas Nelson, released October 15, 2011).   I was prompted to read it as I watched an interview with his son, Franklin Graham.  Graham the younger reported that his father, now 93 years old, said that he was taught how to live, and he was taught how to die – but no one ever taught him how to grow old.  In a Huffington Post/Religion commentary on November 1, 2011, Billy Graham himself wrote "…no one ever taught me how I ought to live my latter years." It is noteworthy that one of the most anchored and reflective human beings on the planet has been struggling with the challenges of later life.   For that reason...
Psychologist and Holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl wrote persuasively about life's meaning, suggesting that living a life that matters depends on what we give to the world (work, deeds, creative activities), what we take from the world (e.g., in terms of relationships or experiencing things – both artifacts and the natural world) and how we struggle with the inevitable stresses and tragedies of life.   That Steve Jobs gave a lot is widely understood and appreciated.  That he prized the world, including artifacts of man, is beyond dispute.  But perhaps the most important indicator of Steve Jobs' life of meaning is to be found in how he dealt the stresses and tragedies of his own life…turning nearly every one of his own life's tensions...
The positive and game-changing impact of Steve Jobs' life on how we live, work, play, learn, move around and even govern is truly inspiring.  Most of the comments following his untimely death tend to focus on his vision and his machines…as they should. Both were and are unequaled. Yet, some of the most interesting insights to Jobs the person are found in his highly-regarded commencement address to Stanford graduates on June 12, 2005.  It was there that Jobs told three stories – each the story of an unexpected journey and how Steve Jobs, at each stage of his life, responded.  These included (1) dropping out of Reed College before he was 20; (2) getting fired, at age 30, from Apple, the company he founded; and, less than 20 years later, (3)...
Welcome to BooterNation.com, the web site for Reboot! What to do when your career is over but your life isn’t. BooterNation.com is a destination for individuals who want to keep up with the latest facts and data describing changing trends, habits, and practices of later-life Americans, especially booters who continue to work as a way to improve quality of life for themselves and their families. To advance this objective, BooterNation.com will curate interesting and compelling stories of booters who choose to work in some capacity – paid, in-kind, volunteer, Samaritan or enrichment work – during their post-career years. We will spotlight those who choose a path that involves work, to help others and repair the world – rather than the conventional path of...

Reboot!

What do you do when your career is over but your life isn't?

Phil Burgess

Making later-life work

It’s better to wear out than rust out.”  That is the message of Reboot!  While American culture glamorizes the “Golden Years” of endless leisure and amusement, Phil Burgess rejects retirement, as he makes the case for returning to work in the post-career years, a time he calls later life.