If all goes well, El Cajon residents Rex and Christiane Beckham soon will be spending six months in Ireland, then six months in Germany, then who knows where.
“My wife and I are getting ready to retire,” Beckham said Saturday. “We’re going to do a lot of traveling, and we’re looking at our options.”
As part of their retirement research, the Beckhams joined thousands of others at the one-day Successful Aging Expo at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“We need to look at our retirement income and start to live within those means now, while we’re still working, to see if we can manage that,” his wife said.
People thinking about retirement also should look for ways to declutter and downsize, she said. And they need to prepare ahead for ways to keep themselves occupied after they’ve left their full-time jobs.
“It’s really important to prepare for that change,” she said. “It’s huge.”
After six years at the Town & Country Resort in Mission Valley, the aging expo moved to the fairgrounds this year to make more room for guests, speakers and exhibitors. The event grew from 140 booths last year to 245 booths this year.
“We’re trying to give people the tools they need,” said consultant Beth Reynolds, who worked with sponsors The San Diego Union-Tribune and Sharp Healthcare to organize the event. “There’s a lot of interactive information here.”
Exhibitors ranged from health services to legal firms, from hearing-aid sales to real estate agents. Longtime San Diego television meteorologist Pat Brown offered travel tips, newspaper columnist and radio host Richard Lederer delivered a talk titled “The Gift of Age,” and experts in other fields shared their wisdom.
Carlsbad resident Charles Ables said he was there to learn more about long-term care, an important issue for many older families.
He and his wife, who uses a wheelchair, have made some modifications to their home, and they want to stay there as long as they can. He was collecting information from an organization that helps disabled people stay independent.
“Long-term care is a big issue for us,” Ables said. “It’s great to have everything like this in one place.”
Medical marijuana dispensary Torrey Holistics also joined the participants for the first time, providing a booth and a speaker to discuss the latest developments in the use of cannabis for healing and pain relief. Gray-haired guests lined up three deep at the counter to ask questions about cannabis laws, dispensaries and consultants.
“Our booth has been busy all day,” employee Aleks Kirilenko said.
Gerontologist Diane Darby Beach talked to a room of 50 or more people in the Mission Tower building about the four keys to a healthy brain: nutrition, social connections, mental exercise and physical exercise.
“Your brain is a muscle,” Darby Beach said. “It needs to be exercised. Your brain craves novelty.”
Getting out of the house, maybe for dinner with friends, could be one way to cover all four of those brain-boosting activities.
“We as human beings were made to interact with other human beings,” she said. “If we get isolated, we get depressed.”
Recent research shows people continue to grow brain cells all their lives, she added, so new activities have a positive effect on people of all ages.