Writing Your Post-Retirement Checklist

Sure, you’ve always wanted to learn French or take your grandchildren to see the house you were born in. But time has always gotten in the way. So often, we have so many things on our “have to” list that we completely disregard our “want to” list.

Retirement is the perfect stage in life to check off all of those “want to’s!” And writing down a checklist of all of the things you want to do after retirement is the perfect place to start.


Include big things and small things.

Some of the things on your list should be things you’ve only dreamed about up to this point in your life. A trip to Ireland. Writing a book. Setting a personal athletic record. But some of the items on your list should be small, too. Things that you can accomplish in a day or an afternoon. These things could include watching an entire TV series that you love, visiting a local tourist attraction that you haven’t ever been to, or writing a letter to an old friend. Big or small, what you put on your list is important.


Share your list with others.

One of the big perks of writing a list out rather than keeping an ongoing one in your head is that other people can keep you accountable. If you tell someone about your goals, you are more likely to keep the momentum to achieve them. And if your friends and family know what you want to accomplish, they can help cheer you on and give you positive reinforcement when you take a step in the right direction.

Sharing your list is also a nice way for you to share more about yourself with children and grandchildren. Perhaps you want to try amateur photography but never told your children that you loved snapping photos as a teenager. They will learn more about you while you are learning all of the wonderful things that you can achieve when you put your mind to it.


Make time for your list.

We know that this won’t be the first list that you’re making. And we also know that there is a good chance that you didn’t complete everything on lists from years ago. Nothing will ever get done if you don’t make the time to do it. Retirement opens up a huge chunk of your schedule that was filled with going to work from (for most) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday. You now have the time to focus on achieving goals and making memories that you didn’t have time for when life was busier.

One trap to not fall into is having so much time that you always think you can “do it later.” To avoid this, add weekly goals that will get you closer to checking something off. For instance, if your goal is to learn French, you could look up local conversation clubs one week, and then try one out the next week. Setting these small goals will help keep you productive… even if your productivity is all in the name of fun!


Focus on the good you’re doing.

Making lists is good for you. And we have this article from Psychology Today to back us up. List-making helps you work through problems, prioritize what is important in your life, reduces stress, and help you outline needed steps in order to get something accomplished. In retirement, some people feel a loss of control that comes with a loss of self, which appears after they no longer identify themselves by their career. List making can help you get some of that feeling of control back, so that you can start to enjoy your retirement rather than wondering what to do with all of your free time.

What AARP Has to Offer Locally

When you think of retirement, one name comes to mind. Well, other than Sherwood Oaks, that is!

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a group created specifically to provide resources to and lobby for anyone over the age of 50. The company is a nonprofit that aims to protect the rights of retired persons. But they also have a lot of fantastic resources on a local level that you may not be aware of.

If you visit Pittsburgh’s local AARP page, you will be overwhelmed with the amount of information at your fingertips. Information is broken down by:

  • Museums
  • Jobs
  • Volunteering
  • Educational Resources
  • Fitness
  • Restaurants
  • Coffee Spots
  • Parks

The site also breaks down activities so that you know which are “good for grandkids” or “arts and entertainment.

Next, you will find that AARP gives you all of the information you need to get around Pittsburgh, whether it is by taxi or rental car. They even tell you where you can take a local driver safety course so that you know you’re still able to hit the open road safely. With AARP and your many transportation options at Sherwood Oaks, the world is your oyster.

Need to find a pharmacy? AARP has you covered here, too, giving you contact information for local caregiving companies, doctors, attorneys, home health care services, and other local businesses that you may be interested in. You can even sign up to get a state newsletter, so that all of this information can come to you rather than you searching for it.

If you’re planning a day trip or looking for a great place to take the family to eat, you have all of your options laid out for you on the site! You can also find out what discounts in your area you are eligible for as an AARP member. Some recommendations they make for local entertainment:

  • Carnegie Museum of Art
  • Hartwood Acres
  • Kennywood Park
  • The Capital Grille

Log on and start exploring our local AARP site today.

10 Critical Questions to Ask Before Entering a Retirement Community

Choosing a retirement community is no small task. There are a lot of factors to think about – from your own comfort to how much your new home will cost you. Having a good idea of what moving to a retirement community will do to your financial situation is vital, and it often helps to involve your financial and legal advisors in the decision.

Here are 10 important questions you and your team should ask a retirement community before making your decision.


What does the Disclosure Statement say?

Each retirement community in Pennsylvania, and most other states, must publish a “Disclosure Statement” annually.  The Disclosure Statement contains critical information including a financial statement, general organizational information, a description of fees and an agreement for services. This is the first place to look to get a general idea of what the community offers and how much it will cost.


What does the service agreement say?

The service agreement contained in the Disclosure Statement will detail the services and fees. When reviewing the agreement pay special attention to:


  • What Types of Services are offered?


Exactly what services are available and what services are included at no additional cost? Services and fees vary widely in CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities) since the statutory definition of CCRC is quite broad. Additionally, in Pennsylvania there has been a flood of communities applying for and receiving CCRC licenses due to some tax benefits for the provider. Make sure you are aware of exactly what’s being offered and are comparing apples to apples.


  • What are the fees?


One of the most important questions about services relates to the potential for future fees. Do the charges to the resident remain stable if the resident needs to move to the community’s nursing or assisted living sections? Since charges for these services are substantial, make sure you are clear on exactly what future charges apply, and consider every possibility for the type of care you may need in the future.


  • What are the requirements for entry?


Some communities have a type of insurance product that provides prepayment for future services. This is typically known as Lifecare.  Some Lifecare communities require residents to be in good health upon admission or to pay additional fees if they are not, and then require added help for this pre-existing condition.  In addition, a refusal to admit disabled residents may have Fair Housing Act implications.


  • What if you run out of money?


Some Agreements in non-profit organizations provide for financial assistance if a resident runs out of money through no fault of their own.


  • What are the tax implications?


There is a possibility of an income tax deduction for medical expenses since part of the fees in some communities are considered prepaid medical expenses. Has medical deduction information been provided to residents in the past and what has been the amount? Who pays the real estate taxes?


  • How can a resident terminate the agreement?


How and when can a resident terminate the Agreement and what are the financial implications?

  • If a refund is due, who gets the refund – individual estate or trust?

The community should be able to adapt this section if needed by your client for estate planning purposes.

A typical condition for a refund is that the unit is resold. Is this realistic given the market and occupancy of the community?

If a you terminate an agreement, how long do you or your survivors have to move out of the living unit? This can be a big issue if you have only out of town family.

If a prospective resident has already signed an agreement there is a possibility that they may be able to rescind the agreement. In Pennsylvania agreements may be canceled within seven days of signing with no penalty. When can a community terminate an agreement?


  • What dispute resolution process is available?


Who has the final say? The community or a third party?

Is there a “no retaliation” provision for residents who complain?


Who controls the community?

Non-profit communities operate approximately 80% of CCRCs nationally. Hence the term “ownership” is not really relevant.  However, non-profits can be single site or larger multi-site organizations. Who is on the board? Family members of the managers or independent directors? You may want to review the IRS Form 990 to find out. Try entering the organizations name into the Guide Star website atwww.Guidestar.org.


What is the financial strength of the community?

Review the financial statement that should be included with the Disclosure Statement to see if the community has assets, operating income and other signs of financial stability. A lot of debt is fairly typical – not necessarily a deal killer. However, the relative age of the community and its occupancy over the years are critical elements.


Is the community accredited?

There are several accreditation bodies for CCRCs. The Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC) is probably the best. They look at the finances, governance, planning and the community’s process improvement efforts. However, do not let this deceive you. The CCAC only visits a community once every five years. You need to pay attention to all of the critical factors in this list and not rely solely on the CCAC.


What is the community’s Center for Medicare Services “Star Rating”?

If the community services include a skilled nursing facility (this is a plus as skilled nursing facilities are able to provide higher levels of care) the quality of the services offered as rated by Medicare can be researched bygoing towww.medicare.gov/NHCompare. Medicare rates all skilled nursing facilities into one to five star categories. Seek four stars or above. Especially important are the staffing levels as compared to the state and national standards. Staffing can be viewed directly on the CMS website above.

What is the resident satisfaction?

Ask a resident who lives there if he or she likes the services and the community. If you don’t know anyone living there, ask the community if they do regular resident satisfaction surveys and what the results have been.


How do the community’s services fit in with the prospective resident’s long term care insurance program?

Some communities have programs that discount their fees in return for residents maintaining long term care insurance policies.


What have the fee increases been over the past 5 years?

Relatively high or low fee increases deserve further investigation.


Finally, how does the community look and feel?

It goes without saying that you should visit the community. Many communities have extended visit programs and we recommend taking advantage of these if they are available.

Tips for Living a Longer, More Fun Life!

We all want to make the most of our time, and that is especially true when we spend our time doing things that can help us live longer in the long-run. Luckily, you’re probably doing a lot of things that benefit your overall health – so great job! But just in case you need some more ideas, or a reminder to do those small tasks that have big benefits, here is a list of things you can do to raise your chances of celebrating your 100th birthday. Some of them are pretty fun!

Get PLENTY of sleep
You probably already know that this one is good for your health, but did you know that more sleep could lead to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attack? That’s definitely motivation to hit the hay.

Brush Your Teeth
Yep, dental health and life expectancy are tied together. Having poor oral hygiene can make a LOT of things go wrong in your body. That’s why it is important to brush and floss regularly, take good care of your dentures, and visit your dentist as-needed.

Go to Your Doctor
Don’t just visit your dentist, make sure to see your doctor, too! While receiving medical care is easy at Sherwood Oaks, it is important to ask your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have. And be sure to follow his or her instructions!

Eat Naturally
Try to remove as much unnatural food from your diet as possible. And cutting back on sugar. This means lots of fruits and veggies, and farm-raised meat. Avoid TV dinners and other foods with plenty of preservatives.  Despite their name, they are not added to preserve your health.

Control Your Weight
A healthy weight is a great foundation for a healthy life. It’s important to have both a healthy diet as well as a form of exercise that you can have fun doing.

Have a Support System
Having emotional support is just as important as a balanced diet or regular exercise. Having people you can cry and laugh with increases your chances of living beyond the average person.

Think Hard!
Keeping your brain active through puzzles and reading can help keep your brain strong. Time to re-read your favorite book!

Meditation has been shown to have a ton of positive effects on your health, which includes reducing stress.

People who travel more often have less stress. Less stress = a better and longer life!

Keep it Spicy
In the kitchen, that is. Choosing to cook with spices rather than flavoring things with unhealthy options like butter means flavorful food without all of the bad side effects.

Spend Time with People Who Make You Healthy
You are more likely to keep up with your good habits if those around you are encouraging or even take part in these habits themselves! Having a group of people who motivate you can do great things for your health.

Get a Pet!
People who own pets live longer than people who don’t. Which is great news, because pets are adorable and make loyal companions! Having a pet can help alleviate the feelings of stress and depression also.

Eat Nuts
According to the Huffington Post, a study has shown that people ages 55 to 90 who incorporate nuts into their daily diet had a 39% lower risk of early death, especially walnut-eaters!

Doing good for others means good things for your health. People who volunteer live longer than those who don’t!

To quote Star Trek – live long and prosper!

Self Defense: What Retirees Need to Know

Retirement and moving to a retirement community like Sherwood Oaks means leaving behind the worry of maintaining your busy career as well as maintaining an oversized house. But retirement can also bring a lot of new worries into your life.

You may worry about money and how you will pay for your living expenses now that you no longer have a steady stream of income. You may worry about what to do with your free time. You may worry that retirement living may lead you to have a more sedentary lifestyle. And, more than likely, you will be worried about your personal safety.

Violence against senior citizens is an unfortunate reality. Strength and endurance make seniors a target of violent crime, including assault and battery. Luckily, Sherwood Oaks is a safe and secure community. But you can rid yourself from some of the fear that comes with grocery shopping at night or eating at a restaurant in a new part of town with one thing: Self-defense.


Take a Public Self-Defense Class

Self-defense classes are a great way to get a workout while taking control of the safety of you and your family. You might not think that retirement is a good age to start looking into self defense, but it’s becoming a trend in that age bracket. While pricing and class content vary by where you go, there are plenty of options available to you in and around Pittsburgh. Here are a few places to check out:


Carry a “Weapon”

Pepper spray is extremely convenient to carry around, and an inexpensive investment in your safety. Most can clip to your keyring and come with practice canisters so that you can get a feel for what spraying the pepper spray will feel like before and if you ever need to use it.

You may actually already be carrying a weapon and not know it! “Cane-Fu,” a self defense class that teaches seniors how to use their regular old canes to protect themselves in a scuffle. Beyond that, they also learn how to make their canes more effective in a fight by choosing the right materials.

A weapon that just about everyone has if they are out in public? Keys. Place your keys so that they are sticking out between your pointer and middle fingers so that if you get into a dangerous situation, you won’t have to shuffle around looking for something to defend yourself with.


Don’t Put Yourself in a Bad Situation

Try not to walk alone at night or in areas that you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, and if you need to park somewhere, make sure it is well lit. It’s not silly at all to ask a friend or your son or daughter to accompany you to the store if you have to run out at night. Make sure that your hands aren’t completely occupied with groceries so that you have a hand free to defend yourself if something would happen.

It’s good practice to know whether or not your cell phone has an easy way to access 911. Some have a designated button, while others reduce the amount of steps you need to take in order to dial out in an emergency. For instance, on an iPhone, you can slide to unlock your screen and then immediately click on “Emergency” to activate a keyboard to dial 911 on.

We are always looking out for the safety of our residents. If you ever have a concern about you or your spouse’s personal safety, please make us aware.

Continuing Education for Retirees

If you’ve always been a lifelong learner, that feeling doesn’t go away once you hit retirement age. It’s very common for retirees to want to pursue continuing education. According to FinAid, “Nontraditional students age 30 and above represent 14.4% of undergraduate students pursuing a Bachelor’s degree.”

But did you know that you can possibly accomplish all of your learning goals at little or no cost to you?

Waivers, Scholarships, and Grants

There are three different ways that you can have the burden of student loan debt be lifted off of your shoulders. Waivers completely do away with your tuition costs, meaning that you are attending classes for free and won’t have to pay the money back. According to US News, “Approximately 60 percent of accredited degree-granting educational institutions offer tuition waivers for older adults, according to a November 2008 survey by the American Council on Education.” You don’t have to pay back grants or scholarships, either, but they usually only cover part of your tuition. All of these options will require you to apply, and it’s important to apply early. Start looking for options several months before you plan on attending classes.

Alternatives to the Traditional University

In addition to attending classes at a regular university, you also have the option to attend a lower-cost community college, take classes online, or audit a class for no credit. Community colleges can offer the high-quality lessons that universities can, depending on the school and program, and come at a fraction of what you would pay to attend traditional university.

The website Get Educated provides a lot of resources for adults looking to take online classes. It helps you find schools, find the degree you want to pursue, and shows you many options for getting yourself through classes with financial aid. Locally, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh promotes learning after retirement and offers up resources of their own. AARP also offers online classes and lectures for someone who has interest in learning more but doesn’t want to enroll in a full program.

Do Your Research

The best thing you can do for yourself is to think about what you would like to learn, research which local institutions or online schools offer your program, and then find out how much financial aid you may be able to receive. A Senior Citizen’s Guide to College offers a list of Pennsylvania schools and the type of financial aid they provide to retirees.

Sherwood Oaks supports our residents’ decision to advance their learning, and in March and October, we have our own brand of continuing education for our residents. Speakers come in to discuss various topics, and the events have become a favorite of residents.

You’re never too old to learn something new – so start doing your research today!

Weight and Retirement: What is Healthy?

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, “People who are close to retirement age show the highest rates of weight gain and obesity.” Why is this, what is normal, and how can you prevent post-retirement weight gain?

Reasons for Weight Gain

Just at any point in our lives, we can gain or lose weight for a variety of reasons. Some people with physically active jobs may be doing less activity than they are used to. Others have different eating habits or schedules after retirement. Some people turn to eating – or lose their appetite – when they move from the home they are used to, or feel a sense of loss of self when they no longer have a career.

For some, weight gain or loss is completely a medical issue. An injury may keep them from physical activity or medication can cause a weight gain. And don’t forget that our metabolism changes as we age also. Even though each person is unique, there is a general level of health and fitness that is considered healthy for your age group/height/gender.

Where You Should Be

The CDC offers two solutions for finding out if you are at a healthy weight: Your body mass index (BMI) and your waist circumference. Your BMI calculates the amount of body fat you have, while your waist circumference says if you have a high amount of dangerous belly fat. Belly fat is tied to a number of obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes.

There are many BMI calculators available online, including this one from WebMD. All you need to do is enter in your gender, height, age, weight, pants size, weight loss goal (you can choose to maintain) and activity level. You will get a number as a result, and this is your BMI. It will tell you whether or not you are in a healthy range. But… what if you aren’t?

How to Get There

We are very interested in keeping our residents happy and healthy! That’s why we regularly provide information like:

But did you also know that we also have a nutritionist on staff, who you can talk to about your diet and any special needs you have. We also have a tablet in the dining room that gives you our menu, including nutritional information. And soon, nutritional information will be available online. No matter where you stand on the scale, there is room for improvement on your health!

Have the Safest Summer Picnic Ever

Memorial Day weekend kicked off one of our favorite seasons – picnic season! There aren’t many things better than getting together with friends and family for food and fun. But with summer comes a lot of danger, also. Especially as you age. Don’t let a fun family get-together turn into an emergency situation. Follow these simple tips for fun in the sun.

  • Make sure the venue is friendly for everyone

If you or other picnic guests need a venue that is wheelchair-friendly or provides a lot of shade, be sure to take that into consideration when you are making your reservation. If you are a resident at Sherwood Oaks, we have a picnic area for you to use, and can even cater your event! There are picnic tables, grills, and outdoor games for your use, or you can move the event inside to our Oak Lodge Great Room in case of rain.

  • Make sure perishable items are stored in a cooler

If you are taking meat to grill to an offsite location, make sure that it is kept cool on your journey so that you don’t end up with very sick picnic guests! If you will be grilling close to home, keep these items in the refrigerator until you’re ready to plop them on the grill!

  • Use a food thermometer

The best way to make sure that your meat is cooked to perfection is to check its temperature with a food thermometer. Here is a handy guide from the food network to help you make sure that the burgers you are serving are safe for hungry picnic-goers.

  • Remember sunscreen!

Don’t try to get a nice summer tan. The higher the level of protection, the better! Review our guide to making healthy decisions this spring and make sure you’re covered!

  • Bring hand sanitizer or wet wipes

The great outdoors involve a lot of dirty things. Even if you don’t realize it, getting your hands dirty could be very dangerous if you sneak a chip or piece of watermelon. To help keep germs at bay for everyone at the picnic, be sure to have antibacterial wipes or liquid hand sanitizer nearby, just in case you don’t have immediate access to a sink and soap.

  • Drink plenty of water

Dehydration is a major risk for seniors, so it is important to drink plenty of water when you’re going to be outside for extended periods of time. If you don’t like water, try adding some flavoring to it, or flavor it naturally with fruit!

  • Find shade if you need it

If you feel like you are getting overheated in the sun, move to the shade or go inside to enjoy some air conditioning. Heat stroke can come on quickly and be extremely dangerous to your health. Your family and friends will understand if you have to miss out on some of the fun to cool down.

  • Make up a first aid kit

A simple first aid kit will have you prepared for a wide array of situations that may pop up, from mosquito bites to minor cuts. It’s smart to keep these handy:

      • Band aids
      • Insect repellant
      • Antiseptic cream
      • Extra sunscreen
      • Bug bite cream
      • Larger bandages
      • Cloth tape and sterile gauze
      • Tweezers
      • Disposable gloves
      • Ibuprofen or another pain reliever
      • Ice packs
      • An antihistamine
  • Know your medicine

Some medicines have an adverse reaction when you spend time in the sun. Your skin can become inflamed and red, looking almost like a sunburn. In photoallergenic reactions, these symptoms can end up being very long lasting. Don’t take the risk. Check the labels of your medication and ask you’re doctor if you aren’t sure about how any of your medications will react with the sun.

With your health in check, it’s time to pack that picnic basket with hot dogs and potato salad!

Make New Friends and Keep the Old

It was probably extremely easy to make friends when you were younger. First, you interacted and bonded with those you went to school with. Then you met coworkers that you found common ground with, and eventually you became buddies of the parents of your children’s’ friends.

But as we age, it can become more difficult to make friends – especially if retirement takes us away from the area we are familiar with. It can feel awkward to introduce ourselves to others, and we may miss the groups of friends that we’ve held dear throughout life.

At Sherwood Oaks Retirement Community, we like to think that we nurture friendships between our residents. New residents are met with a Welcoming Committee, who invite them to join current residents for a meal, in order to help them feel more at home. Several times a year, Sherwood Oaks also has a welcome dinner for new residents, which includes the CEO, members of the management staff, and residents on the resident association board.

Soon after residents move in, they are contacted by our newsletter staff, who will collect information about their life, family, career, hometown, hobbies, etc., to be printed in our newsletter. Often, this gives residents something to bond over, whether it’s where they grew up or if they somehow have a mutual friend or acquaintance.

We provide a wide variety of activities and social events that we encourage our residents to take part in. One advantage of choosing a retirement community is that yes, it is a community! A community that specifically focuses on the needs and wants of residents in your age group.

Old friends are also always invited to come and visit at Sherwood Oaks, and even take part in activities. These people have shaped your past and will continue to shape your future. You can also go off campus with friends easily, as we provide transportation to local shows and shopping malls.

Some tips for making friends at Sherwood Oaks:

  • Invite others over to your patio home for dinner or a game night
  • Accept any invitations that come your way
  • Be active on campus and consider picking up a hobby
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and show them your personality
  • Try a new activity and ask someone for help with it

Transitioning from Independent Living to Continuing Care

With every stage of life comes a lot of new changes – and retirement is no exception. While retirement can be a time of freedom and relaxation, when medical issues make independent living difficult, residents may need to make the decision with their family to move to continuing care. Here are a few common questions residents and their families have when the time comes to transition from independent living to continuing care.

 1. What kind of conditions usually cause someone to move to continuing care? 

This typically happens when a resident is no longer safe living in their independent living patio home. Reasons for this could be frequent falling, forgetting to take medications, or a progressive neurological disease, to name a few.

2. Does someone at Sherwood Oaks discuss residents’ options when it comes to moving from independent living?

Our medical staff, in conjunction with the resident and resident’s family, are involved in the decision about when/if the resident needs to move to a higher level of care.

3. How does the process go when one spouse is ready for continuing care and one is not? 

In this situation, the spouse not in need of continuing care remains in the patio home, while and the spouse needing more care moves to the next level.  By being in a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) they can see each other every day without worrying about finding transportation.  They can have their meals together and attend activities together.

4. Is the resident’s family involved in the process?

Yes, they are involved in any decision dealing with a resident’s continuing care.

5. Does a doctor need to state that someone needs to be moved to continuing care? 

Yes, our medical staff will do a functional assessment in order to see what the resident’s capabilities are and if they need a higher level of care.

6. How does a daily routine change when someone is moved to continuing care? 

They have assistance from RN’s, LPN’s and Nurse Assistants for whatever needs they have, 24/7.  The staff also takes over ordering, storing and administering their medications.  They may need help bathing, scheduling and getting to doctors appointment, all which Sherwood Oaks will do.  They are provided three meals per day and daily activities including occasional off-campus outings.

7. What if a resident doesn’t want to be moved to continuing care? 

They can appeal the recommendation to our CEO. 

The decision to switch from independent living to continuing care is an important one that needs to be discussed with residents, family members, staff members, and health professionals. Talk to your healthcare provider at Sherwood Oaks to discuss your options for continuing care.