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Is Grandma a crack addict?

By Barbara Whelehan ·
Friday, January 6, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

As you prepare for retirement, are you more concerned about money -- how to convert your savings into a lifelong income stream -- than about the radical change of lifestyle you will experience when you quit your job for good?

Apparently, many retirees are having difficulty coping. The January issue of Investment Advisor reveals a startling statistic: The percentage of seniors treated for abuse of multiple substances, such as cocaine and alcohol, increased threefold between 1992 and 2008.

That stat comes from the book "Naked Retirement" by Robert Laura, who believes baby boomers should set aside money concerns and reflect upon everyday life in retirement as part of the retirement planning process. He would like to change the current financial focus to a more holistic approach to help people adjust to the realities of retirement.

The dark side of retirement

I wrote Laura and asked him for more information about that scary statistic. Substance abuse among older people tripled from "what to what?", I asked. He replied, it climbed from 13.7 percent in 1992 to 39.7 percent in 2008, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Wow. That's huge. Does he think this is because people are unprepared for the reality of retirement?

His answer:  "Drug abuse is growing among retirees, particularly baby boomers since they were the first generation to engage in the widespread use of recreational drugs and the first group for which a wide variety of prescription medications were readily available and culturally accepted as treatment for nearly every ailment. Baby boomers are also at a critical stage in life where stress can mount due to natural aging, bodily dysfunction, grief and loss, and the financial strain that often stems from caring for both aging parent(s) and adult children/grandchildren."

My take: Money considerations are still important. If a retiree is going to abuse drugs, he or she had better amass a huge nest egg because such habits aren't cheap.

But seriously, Laura says people should have conversations about retirement with family, friends and co-workers. They should mentally prepare for the event.

My husband and I talk about retirement all the time. Just last weekend, we were playing golf at a municipal course that happens to be situated next to a small airport. It's a cow pasture; the fairways are in terrible shape. The ball lands on a bad lie 99 percent of the time. It's impossible to enjoy playing in such a situation, and I was having a bad round. To top it off, air traffic was heavy with the wealthy flying in one after another in their small planes from their holidays in the Bahamas. We happened to be downwind of the fumes, the noise was deafening, and all this added to my frustration.

"I know what our retirement is going to look like," I yelled to my husband. "What?" he replied, not because he wanted to know, but because he couldn't hear me. "Never mind," I yelled over the din.

We're going to be clipping coupons and playing cheap golf while the 1 percent enjoy the high life. But I honestly don't believe we'll have any trouble adjusting to it mentally or emotionally.


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1 Comment
Naomi Mannino
January 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

Seniors also have to watch out for prescription drug abuse and the over-prescription of anti-depressants. You tell your doctor you are depressed about your health, finances, life changes or being alone and boom: Prescription!