Thursday, October 30, 2008
A historical perspective on retirement
By Anthony Policastro, M.D

As the Baby Boomers approach retirement age, many of them have become worried about funding their retirement. They have seen their net worth drop because of the stock market. They have seen their net worth drop because of the housing market. They have seen their expenses for food and energy increase. Part of their worry is based upon the expectation that retirement age is 65 years old. What most people do not realize is that retirement at age 65 is historically unrealistic. Up until the 20th century people worked until they died or became disabled. Relatively few people were well off enough to actually retire when they got older. Most people died before they were 65 years old. That changed briefly in 1910. At that time, Civil War veterans became old enough to collect their Civil War government pensions. They were able to retire. By the 1930's there were few Civil War veterans left. The average life expectancy was 66 years. The government passed the Social Security Act. It allowed people to retire at age 65 and collect a pension. However, since most of them lived only a few years after age 65, there was not much of a retirement. Around that same time, Blue Cross and Blue Shield began offering health insurance through employers. People had health insurance as long as they stayed employed. Therefore, retiring at age 65 meant you lost your health insurance. That encouraged people to work longer. By the time Medicare began in the 1960's people were living longer. They did not need to stay employed beyond age 65 to get medical care. What should have happened at that time was a change to both Social Security and Medicare. The change should have recognized that people lived longer. It should have raised the age for both Social Security and Medicare. That would have been consistent with using age 65 when the average life expectancy was only 66. That did not happen. For that reason, retirement at age 65 became an expectation. That expectation has continued for the last 40 years. However, we need to realize that it has only been a legitimate expectation for only 40 years out of man's entire existence. There is an additional point to remember. The number one factor for long life is genetics. We tend to die from the same things our parents did at a similar age. We can prolong that if we take care of our health. However, that is the exception rather than the rule. The second biggest factor for long life is meaningful work. That might be paid work. It might be volunteer work. It might be part time work. However, keeping busy is important to a long life. Given all this information, we need to realize that having a large nest egg and retiring for 20 years is an expectation that is not grounded in history. It is also not necessarily the healthiest thing either. As we approach what we consider our "golden years," we need to take history into account. We need to take the importance of meaningful work into account. We must make our decisions accordingly.

Beebe plans masquerade ball Beebe Medical Foundation's 21st Annual Beebe Ball, Venetian Masquerade, will take place Saturday, Nov. 1 at the Baycenter at Ruddertowne in Dewey Beach. Clear Space Productions, in collaboration with the Venetian Masquerade theme, will perform a scene from The Phantom of the Opera. Homemade masks decorated by two classes of fifth-graders from Rehoboth Elementary School will be on display throughout the evening. The Packard Reath Gallery will have photographs from the Serinissima: Venice in Winter photograph exhibit for sale. Elegant Slumming Fine Jewelry in Rehoboth has donated a pair of earrings valued at $6,500 which will be in the Silent Auction. Proceeds benefit the expansion of Beebe School of Nursing. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Foundation at 302-644-2900. Masks are encouraged but not required.

Burton donates to cancer research I.G. Burton is participating in the nationwide "BMW Ultimate Drive" program as an annual sponsor to raise money for Susan G. Komen cancer research. The nationwide program has raised over $12 million for breast cancer research since 1997. BMW donates a dollar for every mile that Bay Road, Milford, showroom visitors test drive a new BMW on Saturday, Nov. 8, between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Participants will also be allowed to sign their names on the BMW "Signature Vehicle" which is traveling across the U.S. as a tribute to those who are helping to find a cure for breast cancer. BMW also offers its "Pink Ribbon Collection" of lifestyle gift items at with 80% of gross profits donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. For more information, call 302-424-3042 or visit

Hospice needs volunteers Hospice patients and their families need volunteers to read to patients, run errands, offer companionship and/or provide relief for caregivers. Training is provided by Compassionate Care Hospice. An information session will be held at Seaford Presbyterian Church located at 701 Bridgeville Road on Tuesday, Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. to noon. A Compassionate Care Hospice representative will be available to answer questions. The session will be held in the lower level of the church. For more information, contact Volunteer Coordinator Susan Graves at 302-934-5900.

Tapman joins Nanticoke Nanticoke Health Services welcomes Tracy Tapman, MT, A.S.C.P. as director of laboratory services. Tapman will oversee a broad spectrum of diagnostic testing and patient care. Her primary scope is to evaluate, oversee and set the standard for all functions within the Laboratory. Tapman's background includes over 13 years of experience in health care. For the last six years, she has been the manager of Laboratory Services at Crisfield's McCready Foundation. She also assisted with the opening of two stat labs and supervised sites on a daily basis. Tapman has a bachelor's degree in medical technology from Salisbury University and is certified with the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Nanticoke offers flu shots Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Occupational Health will offer flu shots to the public at Nanticoke Mears Health Campus (across from Seaford Post Office) on the following dates: Friday, Oct. 31 and Friday, Nov. 7 - 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6 - 4 to 7:30 p.m. The cost is $20. Medicare billing is available with proof of Medicare insurance. Pre-registration is required. The vaccine is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18; it is recommended for elderly and high-risk individuals. To schedule an appointment, call Nanticoke Occupational Health at 629-6611, ext. 8682.

Program to help manage disease The Chronic Disease Self Management Program (CDSMP), developed at Stanford University, has proven effective at enabling people to take more control of their own health. CHEER will begin this program at the Greenwood Activity Center. The program consists of six, two and a half hour workshops. The first class begins Monday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 p.m. and runs through Dec. 8. This class is free but registration is required. For more information and to register, call Cindy Mitchell at 302-856-5187