The Defy Aging Newsletter

Anti-aging psychology, holistic health, and wellness

a biweekly e-mail newsletter for helping you think, feel, look, and be more youthful and live with purpose.

July 10, 2008 Number 191

This issue:

John Erickson's Vision of a Better Way to Retire


Consider whether your aging fits with my Energizer Bunny model or John Erickson's itch and maintenance phase model of retirement.


I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing John Erickson, Founder and CEO of Erickson Retirement Communities (and Retirement Living TV network). Mr. Erickson revolutionized retirement living 25 years ago when he converted an abandoned college campus in Maryland into a retirement living campus. Until then it was believed that people wanted their own cottages and that communities with more than a few hundred residents would implode. The community was quite successful and Erickson now has 22,000 seniors living in 20 communities.

Rather than paraphrase Mr. Erickson, let me quote an excerpt from my interview with him on Ageless Lifestyles Radio:

"This is where we have a serious problem in America. We give people really, really bad information about aging. The reality is the single-family home is probably the single biggest killer of the elderly in our country today, because, number one, it isolates people as their neighborhoods change around them. Number two, people try to drive from their suburban environment way too long and that’s a recipe for a bad accident. They try to drive in their suburban environments after dark when they know they can’t see well. They’re sitting in a place that was designed for raising families, with 35 cubic foot refrigerators and SUVs and humongous grocery stores, and all of the sudden you’re down to two people living in a house that’s oversized. And then the thing that causes even more damage is the unrealistic attitude about how well you can maintain the house. And so you have guys still climbing on ladders to clean their gutters, and inevitably, between snow, ice, ladders, there’s going to be an accident. It finally overcomes you. And the concept of hanging on to this castle because it has memories deludes people into believing that memories are more valuable than experiences. What really happens is they wind down–just the same as you quit exercising, is you quit the social structure–you have atrophy. And that atrophy leads to depression and that’s what kills people, more than the disease. You can defer the disease issues with good management for many, many years. But if you don’t have a sustainable social structure and an environment that gives you the dignity that you want to feel inside, and if that’s trapped to how far you can drive in your car or how many contacts you can make in a week, it just is not sustainable. So that’s why I think we give the senior market in America all the wrong information."

Mr. Erickson divides retirement into the "itch phase" in which we want to do things, go places, and try new things, and the "maintenance phase" in which we want life to be more convenient so we can focus on whatis most important to us.

My vision of aging is to be like Energizer Bunnies on alkaline batteries. (Alkaline batteries last longer and die quickly.) Role models include the centenarians in the New England Centenarian study. Most didn't have a single disability until at least age 95, they averaged one prescription medication, and many, when they died, died from an acute illness.

So which model is right? I say strive to be an Energizer Bunny but also be honest with yourself and if you find you have a regular battery rather than an alkaline battery, be realistic and consider Mr. Erickson's model and the options it implies.


Except for the dying part, getting older is so fabulous, I love it….everybody I know is better older. They are more relaxed, they’re more mellow, they’re more alert as a friends, they have a confidence…. You really do acquire a kind of ‘I don’t give a damn’ about what people think, which is so liberating. I love this age now.

~Candice Bergen


I don’t get no respect. I told my landlord I wanted to live in a more expensive apartment. He raised the rent.

~Rodney Dangerfield

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