Finding retirement wisdom in New Zealand

What will I do in twenty years? I got some valuable advice on getting the most out of life as an elderly citizen on our trip to New Zealand last year. We stayed in three beds and a different breakfast was run by each couple in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I learned something from every one.

Jane and Lin's beautiful house was on top of the hill overlooking the lake. Lynn was responsible for the fresh, lush courtyard with flowers and shrubs. Former dairy farmers decided to take guests in bed and breakfast as a way to make full use of their large home. They had two children and three grandchildren who lived in Australia so they only saw them once or twice a year. Jean made us hot croissant and delicate omelette pipes for breakfast and set a beautiful table with the dishes and linens she collected from their international travels. She gave me my first retirement advice. "You cannot rely on your children to live near you in old age, so it is important that you have good friends. If you have the right attitude, you can make friends wherever you are." Jean was enthusiastic frightened, he belonged to a bridge club, sang in a choir, and worked for Save the Children. Lynn was a member of the golf club, lions club, veterans club, and business association for bed and breakfast owners. He gave us the second tip of retirement. "You need a structure, commitments and timetables to be happy," he said.

Structure and organization were not high on the list of Diane and Keith, our next bed and breakfast hosts. Their house was somewhat small and comfortably messy. The courtyard with slightly dense trees was on the lateral side. We arrived on Christmas day and the place was overflowing with people. Diane and Keith skipped their sons and grandchildren, but also many other people who needed a place to go for Christmas, new immigrants, a lonely neighbor and a recently widowed friend. We were warmly welcomed in the middle and there were gifts under the tree for us. When we got to know Diane and Keith over the next few days, we discovered that they spent a lot of time with their children and grandchildren, but they expanded their family circle to include many others. It seemed like a great way to enrich retirement.

Bob and Colin were the oldest couple we stayed. They were in the mid-1980s and they already had five great grandchildren. Bob and Colin liked us with their adventure stories on every continent. They were wine experts and spoke enthusiastically about his grandchild's last wedding. They attended barefoot because she was married on the beach. Coleen belongs to a book group. One afternoon during our stay, she packed thirty jars of apricot jam, and then wrote to the editor of the local newspaper about a case she felt. Cullen whistling hymns and The Beatles' songs almost constantly as it worked. She gave me a retirement tip for a cup of tea one evening, "I loved my kids so much," she said, "but I realized it wasn't right for me to share all the details of their lives." Colleen was lively and thoughtful and I would have liked to be just like her in twenty years.

I saw some inspiring examples of elderly people during my trip to New Zealand. If I can get rewarding and positive retirement like my retirement, I don't have to worry about getting older.