Retirement reasons to be thankful: helpful organizations and businesses

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Welcome to day 5 of my week-long series on retirement reasons to be thankful -- an optimistic antidote to all the dismal news on retirement planning.

So far, we've seen these retirement reasons to be thankful:

We know how to age well
The internet brings the world to us
We know how to generate lifetime retirement income
Efficient products and services

Thankful reason #5: Many organizations and businesses want to help
There are many nonprofit organizations that are focused on helping senior citizens live long and prosper, both individually and collectively. A generation ago, these organizations either didn't exist or were much less robust than they are today.

Here are just a few:

AARP is the 800-pound gorilla for seniors. It provides services to individuals in the areas of insurance, discounts on travel and other goods and services, and a vast amount of consumer information, in addition to its lobbying efforts on behalf of senior citizens collectively.

Civic Ventures provides inspiration and advocacy for designing the best second half of your life.

Elderhostel provides us with the means to travel inexpensively with like-minded people.

The YMCA offers reasonably priced exercise programs and facilities.

In many areas, there's a plethora of local services available to help seniors, such as senior citizen centers, dial-a-ride services, and meals-on-wheels programs.

Many for-profit businesses have also sprung up to help the boomers into their retirement years:

-- We can buy inexpensive hearing aids, eyeglasses, walkers, and other devices that enhance our ability to enjoy life.

-- In-home health care and concierge services are available to us so we don't need to leave our homes to get the help we need.

-- Companies that offer home medical alert systems, such as Life Alert, or products for the memory-impaired, such as shoes with built-in GPS, are springing up.

-- Planned communities focusing on the needs of seniors are available in most areas of the country.

-- Numerous companies, including restaurants, movie theatres and department stores, offer discounts to seniors.

-- There are even matchmaking services for seniors who are looking for friends or life companions.

And many of these resources are at our fingertips through the internet, as described earlier this week. With all these services available at the click of a few buttons, we have no excuse for not taking advantage of services that can improve our health, enhance our social interactions, protect us from fraud and abuse, and help us be more efficient consumers.

The good news in this week's series of posts shouldn't gloss over the fact that we do face significant retirement challenges. Most likely we'll need to work longer than our parents, and we'll have to try harder to make ends meet in our later years. But at least we have tools and strategies available to help us with these challenges -- and we have a lot of company! I wouldn't have it any other way.

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure and Fulfilling Long Life and Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck.