Last week, I was sitting quietly in the bistro of my retirement center, munching on a cheese and tomato pizza, when one of the residents breezed in, ordered a ham sandwich and swooped into the chair opposite me at my corner table. She used to be in show business so she always leaves a little trail of star dust where she walks, her step light but confident. Being in her presence is a little like watching a horse race: I’m pressed to the rails, my eyes glued to the action and near enough to be caught up in the excitement.
“What have you been up to?” I asked as she cracked open a bottle of water, giving me time to smooth back my hair from the electricity of her presence.
“Up to?” she shrugged. “Oh not much. I’ve just come back from rehearsing for a video the retirement center is making. We tape tomorrow.” She went on to describe her costume and the music she was lip syncing, some song popular in the charts but one I’d never heard of. Already I was blinking from the star dust.
“Video? What video.”
The woman stared at me as if I’d spoken Farsi. “A video to advertise the center, of course. They’re trying to attract a younger crowd, 50 and up. They want people to think about retirement living at an early age.”
When I thought about what she’d said, it made sense. Retirement decisions aren’t like choosing a burial plot. Done carefully, they can open new vistas. One woman I’d talked to earlier had bemoaned the fact that she’d waited so long to make her decision. She was reveling in her new life. She loved no longer having to cook, clean or scoop leaves out of the gutters. Now, she spent her time choosing from competing options: exercise classes, the quilting group, the book club, the writer’s group, the afternoon teas, the in-house theater, the pool, the sauna, the beauty salon, the massages … not to mention the accessible transportation to outside amenities.
I laughed where I heard the list. She was right of course. This place feels more like a spa than a retirement center if you are healthy enough to enjoy the activities. And if circumstances change, the center changes to meet your needs. That’s comforting.
As baby boomers retire, the adult retirement industry is changing to welcome them. People who imagine vinyl corridors lined with people sleeping in wheelchairs might want to dust the cobwebs off their imagination. Life can be a blast. Just ask my star dust friend.