Age Wave conference examines retirement

When it comes to the 50-plus crowd’s retirement bucket list, Columbus resident Judy Kiesow offers some simple wisdom: Just do it — and don’t wait long if you’ve already made reasonable plans for a goal you’ve long held dear.

Too many elements, including unforeseen health changes, eventually can unfortunately delay those experiences if you’re not careful, according to Kiesow.

“But you need to make sure to have some sort of retirement (activity) plan,” Kiesow said. “It may not perfectly all work out, but you need to have that plan.”

This is some of the basic wisdom she will share as part of a local panel that will be part of the free Age Wave Conference slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 17 at Mill Race Center, 900 Lindsey St. in Columbus. Registration is limited to 70 people by June 10.

The event, a team effort involving Mill Race Center, Thrive Alliance and the Bartholomew County Financial Literacy Coalition, will examine everything from elements of caregiving — related to spouses, grandchildren, you name it — to the idea of what a keynote speaker will call “aging in community.”

That speaker, cultural anthropologist Phil Stafford, is retired director of the Center on Aging and Community at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community in Bloomington. In his message titled “Livable Communities,” he is expected to focus mostly on aging within a variety of relationships, according to organizers.

These senior topics are timely since Mill Race Center’s 50-plus population segment is by far the county’s largest demographic at nearly 35 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, and also the fastest-growing segment. By 2030, one out of every five people living in Indiana will be 65 or older, according to population projections released by the Indiana Business Research Center.

Bob Pitman, retired executive director of Mill Race Center, was a catalyst encouraging community leaders to begin to focus on the impact of such topics and stats as long ago as the early 1990s.

Harriet Armstrong is among the upcoming conference planners because of her leadership position with the local financial literacy coalition.

“What we’re looking at first off is understanding the age demographics in the county,” Armstrong said. “And we’ll be looking at aspects such as what are the older population’s resources.”

Dan Mustard, current Mill Race Center executive director, will offer a demographics overview.

As another part of the event, one topic will look at what is termed the “cost” of caregiving, which could mean those who have had to quit a job to care for aging parents or other relatives or even to raise a grandchild, according to Armstrong.

“There may be legal hoops that some people need to jump through to get some of the needed and available resources for help,” Armstrong said.

She added that, overall, the conference is “chance for people to get the ball rolling” on retirement-related issues. Mill Race Center leaders have preached for years that retirement planning even regarding hobbies should begin well before a person reaches age 65 or whatever point in life he or she has decided to stop actively working at a career.

Conference panelist Kiesow clearly believes in that. But she said she also regrets that she didn’t attend a number of Mill Race Center retirement resource gatherings before she herself stepped down from a staff position at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church downtown. She mentioned that much of her current volunteer work now at Mill Race Center revolve around healthy aging within relationships built through everything from pitch-in, homemade dinners that she organizes to a Dominoes group that she and Donna Richardson just launched.

“These are fun ways that people in retirement can make new friends,” Kiesow said, “and not have to be lonely.”