We recently had a chance to chat with Debbie Jacobson, creator and executive producer of “What’s Next?” on Retirement Living TV.

The lifestyle makeover show for middle age, “What’s Next?” shares inspirational stories of men and women who want to make the most of their freedom years. Having achieved the goal of retirement, many retirees, however, realize that the reality is not always as rosy as the dream. After a little freedom, many retirees find themselves asking, “What’s Next?”

This is where the team of “What’s Next?” comes in. Guided by the help of a team of experts in areas of health, wellness, lifestyle and relationships, and career and volunteer opportunities, each guest pinpoints trouble spots, and explores activities recommended by the team to overcome these obstacles.

The creation of “What’s Next?” is very special and very personal to Debbie Jacobson. Debbie’s father had a rough time transitioning into retirement and Debbie, a working mom with four kids and a fifth on the way, had a tough time watching him deal with it. Inspired by her dad’s plight, Debbie, ever the proactive mother/wife/daughter/producer, created and is executive producing the TV series.

Debbie’s father was actually the first subject in the series. And as many of us may be facing similar situations with our own parents and grandparents, we at Pinks & Blues feel that Debbie Jacobson has a very important and powerful message, and even more crucial, solutions.

1. Your idea for “What’s Next?” started on a very personal level with your Dad. Can you tell us a little about your Dad’s journey into retirement as it is connected with your talents and experience?

Well, my dad’s retirement didn’t come in the way he had hoped, i.e. the sort of old fashioned farewell dinner, gold watch, etc. The company he had worked for since he was a young man (Kitchens of Sara Lee) moved to a non-union (right to work) state to save costs and it put my dad out of his job. He was able to work with a couple of other places, but the same thing kept happening – plants were closing to move to states where labor was less expensive. He found that he was getting older and at times it felt like his chances of continuing to work were less and less likely. My dad is a man whose whole existence was built around his job, his value was wrapped in his paycheck , and certainly as my dad. Over the years we all harassed him so much about getting out of the house and going back to work because we thought that would make him happy. He just was disenchanted and had lost all motivation , I guess for fear of rejection or not being able to capture the camaraderie he had at Sara Lee…

And then along came RLTV. I was working on a show for the network (Art of Living) that told stories and highlighted retirees and seniors doing outrageous and/or exceptional things in retirement. Most times activities that were very different from life prior to retirement – they basically reinvented themselves. I started thinking about my dad and how he was so opposite of these people. This was when “What’s Next?” was born… and I really wondered about all the other people who might be in the same situation as my dad. How many other people went into retirement or were already there and life just wasn’t playing out the way they had hoped. Who would they turn to? How would they get through this?

RLTV was so supportive and gave us a chance to reach out ! As a producer, I knew there might be avenues we could help our guests explore that they may be too intimidated to pursue, or just weren’t thinking of a bigger picture. We could help pave the way but pave the way with experiences they could have achieved without us – just to help them realize what might have been right under their noses the whole time.

2. Many of our Pinks & Blues readers are facing the retirement of their parents/grandparents. What are some important red flags to indicate that a parent may need the intervention of a program such as “What’s Next?”

I believe the red flag to watch out for to begin with is really seeing them stuck in the house. Seeing that they seem to be socially isolated – not reaching out into their community. Whether it is sleeping late or watching a lot of television, there is so much more for them outside of the house . The trick is , when you see the red flags, getting your parent to admit that they have an issue and letting go of their pride, just a little, for their children to help them out. And don’t treat them like children – they have so much experience in life and just may have lost their way…

3. “What’s Next” addresses health and wellness, lifestyle and relationships, and volunteer and career opportunities. How does “What’s Next” actually connect a retiree with experts in these fields?

We initially do an over the phone interview with our guest to hear about his or her life as it is at that moment – before we begin our process. We hear where they are emotionally, physically, etc. and work to put experts together that will seem to best serve the guests needs. Whether it is financial, physical, or social, we always hope to find that our guest responds and succeeds with all the options laid out before them. Sometimes it doesn’t go that way, which is fine. My hope is that at least one thing changes for them and improves their quality of life. Beyond that , the idea is that when the show leaves them and this whole “tv” process is over, that they have learned things about themselves and tools to achieve a better retirement. They have earned it and deserve to have this time be the best it can be!!! The experts are with us from the beginning, meet with the guest, explain who they are and what they can offer. If something they suggest doesn’t sound good to our guest, they absolutely have the option to say no. We find this in the case in offering financial help.

4. How has “What’s Next” been received? We at Pinks & Blues have watched segments of “What’s Next” and are so encouraged by even small lifestyle changes that have influenced the positive changes in individuals.

The show has been very well received, actually! So many people respond with how either they individually relate or know someone who is in this situation. People who have seen the shows really get emotionally caught up and really feel the emotion of the lows for the guest, which then triggers the “come on, you can do it!” feeling… it’s a lot fun hearing the different reactions!

5. How do you follow-up on the retirees you profile?

We did a reunion show with all the guests in one room together. That was a lot of fun! Mainly because for most of them it was a chance to realize that they were among their peers who are experiencing the same or similar things in retirement. It became painfully obvious that each individual really thought they were the only ones having a challenged retirement. When we were all together, I told them I was so happy that they had a chance to see one another and experience each others’ stories, BUT there was a bigger purpose being served here. They were really reaching out to our audience and saying, “You aren’t alone – look at us! Now get out there and try something new!”

At the end of the shooting day for the reunion show, there was so much bonding between the guests. Friendships were formed and they all exchanged email addresses to keep in touch. I know, for a fact, that my dad has received several emails from the different guests checking in on him and encouraging him. It really has been so humbling because I could have never anticipated the support that would be shared with one another!

6. And the question of the day… how does one get his or her parent/grandparent to apply to be on “What’s Next?”

For anyone who has a friend, parent, or relative who is really struggling and lost in retirement, they can contact us through the website RL.TV or by calling the network (800) 754-8464.
Thanks for having interest in the show! It is so near and dear to my heart. I am truly proud of our mission and proud to be a part of a network that has such a care and concern for this.

We at Pinks & Blues thank Debbie for her wonderful and inspiring work in helping our parents and grandparents live full, productive and happy lives. “What’s Next” can be seen each Friday at 2pm EST on Retirement Living TV. Be sure to tune in!