In the new French “comedy,” All Together, Jane Fonda’s character, Annie, asks, “we plan out so much of our lives, so why didn’t we plan for this final time?”
My husband and I loved this film, but the elephant in the room needed to be discussed, so we hunkered down for a serious Q and A: Where will our parents live in their final days? (Better yet, where will we live?) Should we start planning for the future, now? What if one of us gets sick? Why does this have to be such an impossibly depressing topic?
In this next chapter of our lives, when the nest is empty and daily face time at the office is not required, most work can be done in cyberspace, and the where-to-live options can make you go a little nutty.
We reviewed what our friends were doing and then we made of list of what we needed to consider to make a decision (at some point).
After all, we have so many friends who are thinking of changing up the living formula. It’s our generation’s “hot topic.” Those who have the means are adding on to the suburban home, and then some are getting a pied a’ terre in a city like Manhattan or Burlington, Vermont.
Most others seem to be wrangling with their real estate tax burdens and are feeling forced to move to nearby communities that soften their pain-–say, moving from Westchester, New York to somewhere in Connecticut. But that means changing communities where friends aren’t within walking distance any longer. That means making new friends and figuring out new routines–-sad for some, an adventure for others.
And still others are making that vacation home their permanent home. Why not? If you love Martha’s Vineyard, sell the house back home and live on the island full time. Or maybe that country cabin in Vermont or that cottage in the Hamptons will become the primary residence.
Where are those kids gonna settle? Many of us want to stay near them but hey, those kids are in their 20s, and who knows where they’ll end up? Chasing them around the country…not realistic!
Build it and they will come: We’ve got friends who made their new primary residence so inviting, that their kids spend every weekend there! Bedrooms are reserved for the kids and girlfriends and enticing amenities were added on. (The big lure — video golf and a well-stocked wine cellar.)
How about the boomers who just want to have fun? Some friends of ours just bought a place in Florida–the wife is retiring at 63 years old. She said she will be playing golf and bridge, and she’s earned it — worked for 40 years and she wants to play and read. Her husband is thrilled.
But I’m not talking about “what” to do when you retire…this musing is about where to do whatever “what” is.
Here’s what we whittled down our boomer questionnaire to:
- What can we afford?
- Where are our kids/family going to be? Will they visit us if we move there?
- Where are our friends? Can we convince our friends to move there with us?
- If we get sick are there good medical services nearby?
- If one of us died would we want to stay there?
- Can we do our favorite activities there: cultural and recreational?
- Do we prefer warm weather or cold weather or both?
- Is there easy access to some stimulation: a nearby university or an institute of learning, and an active athletic community?
- Is there an airport nearby?
- Will there be opportunities to work or volunteer, if we chose to do that, in the community?
So upon reflection we came up with a conclusive “short list” of answers that seemed to suffice for now.
- We will live in the same village as our friends.
- They will be within walking distance from our home so we can watch a good movie on one another’s couch and walk home in our PJ’s.
- We won’t be lonely–we’ll walk to our coffee shop, where in the morning we can find conversation and see familiar faces.
- We will take courses nearby where we can learn something new and stimulate our minds.
- Our house will not be too big so the upkeep will be affordable.
- We will be able to work out of our house.
OMG, this sounds like where we live right now! No wonder we can’t bring ourselves to sell the house of 25 years!
This is one overwhelming topic. It’s no wonder our aging parents are struggling with this issue–it’s exhausting and it just seems easier to stay put.
Footnote: My sleep was restless after this unsettling conversation and this is what I dreamed of:
I dreamed we were living in a large hotel–maybe it was a beautiful old home with a fantastic group kitchen, a group reading room, and a group exercise area. This home was filled with our closest friends. It was a delightful old-age commune. Does this sound like assisted living with friends? It sure does…and sign me up!