When I'm 64: Aging in America: Ohio Retirees Find New Challenges

DCB- It's 11:00 in the morning at the Sarasota Senior Friendship Center. A small squad of dancers shuffles and taps their way across the hardwood floor. Before joining them, a petite blond woman runs up with a revelation.

Vivian Paul- Wednesday's my birthday....and I'll be 79. And I don't think I look bad for 79.

DCB- As a matter of fact, she looks great.Cincinnati native Vivian Paul has earned the nickname of "Bubbles" because of her effervescent personality, which is the result of the new life and network of friends she made by moving down here after her husband died. She excuses herself and joins the aerobicizers who step and spin under silver garlands and cut-out cardboard snowflakes that hang from the ceiling - a reminder that the Februarys of their past were quite different from this....

Bob Burkardt- Going on vacations in February from out of Ohio, it was kind of like dying and going to heaven. It was quite an easy move.

DCB- Bob Burkardt made that easy move from Akron in 1991. Bob's a retired surgeon, but he keeps active in the medical field by doing volunteer work at the Senior Friendship Center's health clinic

BB- There are about 40 or 50 of us in this unit who volunteer our services and the idea is mainly to help people who may not be able to afford medical care for a long-term condition, like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression are more common as we age.

DCB- Sarasota is a living postcard of the good life in Florida.On its shiny surface, you can see sailboats cruising through blue waters. BMW's hug palm-lined causeways.The city has a great deal of cultural activity too, thanks to money from the estate of circus entrepreneur John Ringling, whose name graces an art museum and an art school.

Janet Gillen- Sarasota is a beautiful city.... it's a very wealthy city. That's what most people see.

DCB- Information specialist Janet Gillen helps connect Sarasota seniors with social service agencies.

JG- There are many, many seniors here who are below poverty level and who do need assistance. A lot of people live primarily on social security, which can range from 4, 5, 6, 700 dollars a month. And that's all they have to survive on. They do need services from the community.

DCB- The Friendship Center offers some of those services as well as a wide range of activities. Public Information officer Peggy Palmer has seen many Northern transplants come through the Center, many of whom are happy to escape the cold weather, many of whom are thriving. But many others have found some unexpected surprises in paradise.

JG- The high cost of prescriptions is one of the key things that we see a lot here. We have husbands and wives who choose which will take their medications, because they have over $500 of medication costs each month. .... They work out what they can, because they can't afford the costs of their prescriptions...which is devastating. There are people who retire on as little as $700 a month, which is not enough to provide a roof over your head, food and meet your medical costs.

DCB- Another surprise can come in the unexpected loss of a spouse. Information specialist Janet Gillen has personal experience.....

JG- My husband retired from the Cincinnati School Board... he was an administrator there.... we moved to Florida. In less than two years I lost him to cancer. I still had a son to raise, so in about a year's time I had to go back to work. So, you never know what's going to happen. So, you have to be prepared... you have to be open to new things and new challenges.

JG- The Friendship Center's Peg Palmer is a Baby Boomer. She's getting the sobering opportunity to see what may well lie ahead for her and other members of her generation.

Peg Palmer- Aging is kind of.... something people don't want to think about...don't want to talk about...and don't want to really pay attention to. And I think the Boomers especially are into the immediate now, indulgent kinds of things...and ...it can be an incredible shock, I think. I don't know what it's going to be like for us, honestly. It's going to be a different world than we've ever imagined!

DCB- After lunch, a band composed of local seniors runs through a repertoire of pop standards. Among the musicians is drummer John McGregor from Bay Village who moved here 19 years ago. These days, he's happy to be part of the afternoon combo, serenading the couples on the dance floor, holding each other close. Holding onto a new lifestyle...new opportunities...while trying to hold off new economic challenges. For INFOHIO, I'm David C. Barnett in Sarasota, Florida.

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