Recently someone emailed me, saying that they'd Googled "hippie retirement community," apparently found my 2013 post, I'm 65. Where's my "Aging Hippie" retirement community?, and wondered if my wife, Laurel, and I had downsized or moved into a community.
Short answer. No and no.
A bit of arithmetic, which thankfully I'm still capable of, reveals that if I was 65 on November 24, 2013 when I wrote the earlier post, and today is November 14, 2023, then I must be 75 now.
Bingo! Right on. Nobel Prize in Mathematics please.
I was going to reply to the email message with the reasons why Laurel and I were still living on our ten non-easy-care acres in rural south Salem, Oregon, rather than somewhere seemingly more fitting for our mid-70's ages.
Then I had the bright idea of searching for my previous blog posts on my subject. (Appropriately, they're in the Retirement Community category of this blog in the right sidebar.)
Up popped a 2016 post, Why it makes sense for seniors to postpone living in a retirement community. Though it was written seven years ago, when Laurel and I were a more youthful 68 or so, what I said then resonated just as strongly with me today.
A few excerpts, including what I disagreed with in a retirement community's pitch to move there:
My wife and I are in our late 60's. For 26 years we've lived in a 3,200 square foot house on ten non-easycare acres in rural south Salem, Oregon. We've visited four retirement communities in the northwest, and browsed numerous others online.
It's tough for seniors to decide when to leave a beloved home because it's become too damn difficult to maintain. Various factors enter into that decision: health status, where children and other family members are living, how attached one is to a current location -- all kinds of stuff.
We've mulled over the reasons to stay where we are, and the reasons to move to a retirement community. Our conclusion: it makes sense to keep on living in our home for as long as possible. I like to say, they're going to have to tear my DR Field Mower out of my cold dead hands.
[NOTE: I tore that walk behind mower out of my warm alive hands a few years ago, getting a John Deere X394 mower that I like a lot, being capable of mowing both lawn grass and taller field grass. And it's much easier on my aging body.]
OK, here's what I disagree with.
(1) "There are advantages to making the transition at a younger age." This assumes that seniors know the future. Which, of course, nobody does. I don't know how long I'm going to live, or what the cause of my death will be. What if I moved into a retirement community that I wasn't really wild about because I envisioned myself growing old and infirm there -- then died in a head-on crash with an out-of-control semi on the freeway a year or so later?
My last thought would be, "Shit, I shouldn't have moved, because I could have spent my last year happier in our rural home, rather than in the retirement community, and now I'm about to di..."
Us baby boomers came of age in the live for the moment 1960's. Now we're in our 60's. Planning ahead is fine. However, so is enjoying life right here, right now. Finding the balance between planning for a possible future, and living in the reality of the present moment, this is a central dilemma for seniors.
Our leaning is toward now, a more vibrant reality than could be.
(2) "Being able to enjoy the freedom that such communities offer." Question is, freedom from what? Apparently, Hutkin means, in large part, freedom from home and property maintenance.
But my wife and I enjoy the freedom of living in our own house and making our own decisions about how to maintain it. As noted in the post linked to above, I even enjoy the sweaty, dusty, muscle-fatiguing work our property requires.
Recently I was up on the roof of our house, walking along the edge of the gutters, blowing out debris with a Stihl backpack blower. I would really miss doing this in a retirement community where most of the chores are done by others. It makes me feel free to do difficult, even semi-dangerous, jobs around our house.
[NOTE: a few years ago we had Leaf Blaster gutter covers installed, another concession to aging in place.]
Sure, I realize that there may come a time when we aren't physically able to do what we're doing now. But as long as we are, why shouldn't we keep on doing what we enjoy?
(3) Moving when you're younger and more able-bodied also allows for the opportunity... To be with older and less able-bodied people in a retirement community. This is a fact.
My stock line when we talk with a salesperson who has just shown us around a retirement community is, "Thanks for the tour. You've got a nice place here, but I'm freaked out by how many old folks we saw."
That's meant to be humorous. But I'm also serious.
It's depressing for me to see old people getting around with walkers, and sitting at card tables playing something-or-other on a nice warm sunny day. I realize that this often is what happens with increasing age. But since my wife and I are pretty darn healthy at the moment, and don't feel as old as our driver's licenses say we are, we look upon retirement communities with a decidedly wary eye.
Still do. Interestingly, recently we've been contacted by two of the retirement communities that we toured and put deposits down for standalone houses, Capitol Manor here in Salem and Mary's Woods in Lake Oswego.
When told that a house was available, we replied to both places, "Thanks, but the time isn't right to sell our house and move to your community." The Mary's Wood person agreed with me when I told her that if we weren't absolutely certain joining their community made sense for us, we should stay put.
She said that in her experience, unless an individual, or in our case, a couple, doesn't feel completely sure about moving to Mary's Woods, they won't be happy there. I appreciated that advice.
But she also told me that if we're still in our current home three or four years from now, we should start thinking more seriously about making a move, since around 80 is when many people start heading downhill more steeply, health-wise.
Also good advice.