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Jewish Journal

Retirement and Reality

by Michelle K. Wolf

August 4, 2014 | 10:20 pm

During our vacation in Alaska, my husband and I keep meeting older couples who are retired, and seem to spend most of their time driving around the country in an RV, going way for weeks, even months from home. They share their adventures and travels with a laugh, saying how much they are enjoying their retirement. They are generally in good shape health-wise, and seem very content to spend as much of the time as they can on the road, even driving from Colorado or Ilinois all the way to Alaska. One couple said that Alaska is their "50th state" after visiting all of the other 49.

It's hard to imagine us having that kind of time or financial resources with a 19-year-old who has significant disabilities. Right now, we are able to take this great 10-day vacation thanks to Camp Ramah of California, plus our wonderful 1:1 aide, but it's a temporary solution.

First there's the issue of being able to afford retirement, which seems out of reach with our high expenses and my need to work part-time for many years. Next, there's the vexing problem of finding a place for our son to live away from us in a few years. Even if our son is able to find the right housing to meet  for his needs, both in the level of care and in having a Jewish environment, I would feel very nervous being out of driving distance from him for more than a week or two.  

So, maybe we would end up taking him with us? He likes traveling in almost any form of transportation, looking out of the window while listening to music. But, it would be a very different kind of retirement road trip with 3 people, especially with someone who has limited mobility.  Lots of places we've been visiting have gravel, or dirt paths, often slick with rain. Not too easy to navigate with a walker or large stroller. Just getting on and off a bus takes extra effort and time.

In the meantime, we've got a few more days here in Alaska with more moose to see, and more fresh salmon to eat. As Scarlett O'Hara famously said, "I'll think about it tomorrow."

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