Assuming our good health continues, my husband and I will continue living in our home in the leafy suburbs where we've raised our children. We considered relinquishing the flora and fauna for a cute pied-à-terre as some of our empty nester friends have quite happily done, but we are too attached to our home and the neighborhood. We're staying.
We've taken good care of ourselves. We eat healthy most of the time (if you don't count the occasional movie popcorn for dinner and a few other other bad habits involving chocolate) and we exercise. Well, he exercises. I don workout gear and imagine myself running and lunging, burning calories, feeling that adrenaline rush. Then I sit down and pick up a book.
Someday, we could face the decision that confronts many seniors: the need to move to assisted living. Obviously, I hope this will be a long way off, but it's not too soon to start thinking about it.
"Our next home has to feel like home," I told my husband. "I want us to feel good about it. No regrets."
As boomers, our numbers will translate into a huge demand for these facilities. I started to imagine the ideal accommodations for us and our friends. What features would inspire us to sell the old homestead, not with sorrow but with anticipation for the move? What would it take to make us feel positive about making this lifestyle change? What would feel like a home away from home?
A tall order, I know. But then it hit me. You know how they say the college years are the best years of your life? Remember how fast those fabulous years flew by?
What if moving to a retirement facility was like returning to college?
Picture this: a place just for nostalgic 60s and 70s flower children. How much fun would it be to walk down memory lane on the grounds of a facility that simulates the quintessential college campus of our heyday? Direct out of central casting, you've got your ivy-covered halls, your grassy lawn for frisbee throwing, your meal plan in the dining hall. Dorm rooms are furnished with lumpy beds or a waterbed or simply a mattress on the floor covered with an Indian blanket.
Taped to the cinderblock walls are posters of favorite musicians (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues) and movies ("Love Story," "American Graffiti" and "The Godfather") and sports (Dorothy Hamill, Muhammad Ali, Nadia Comenici, and Seattle Slew).
Classes may be taken but they are all pass/pass. You get credit for just showing up on time. Forgot to drop/add? Not a problem; the professors are understanding. Out on the quad there are benches with sensible backs for mid-afternoon bull sessions, with rock and roll music wafting through the air on a sound system turned up extra loud. Former SDS members might stage a sit-in in front of the administration building with demands for greater representation. Assistants are on hand to help them stand up.
How about late night "rap sessions" at 8 p.m. before the R.A. tells us it's time to turn in? Instead of pondering the meaning of life, which we pretty much get by now, we would play "Name that Alma Mater Tune" and give the old brain cells a workout.
My fantasy is all in fun and I mean no disrespect. But when I think back to a time when life was ripe with promise and dreams were yours to follow, I like to think that it could happen again.
Fortune says Santa Fe is the top choice for retirees looking for sunny climes because of its extensive cultural offerings and easy access to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Check out Fortune's other top picks for sun worshippers here.
Fortune says Charleston is the top choice for retirees looking for a small city, because of its rich history, gastronomic offerings and sandy beaches, as well as opportunities to take classes at the College of Charleston. Check out its other top picks for retirees who crave culture without the hustle here.
Fortune says Bend is the top choice for retirees looking for a home in the mountains because of its extensive outdoor offerings, including hiking, biking, kayaking, and golf, as well as its relatively affordable home prices. Check out its other top picks for outdoor enthusiasts here.
Fortune admits New York City is a surprising choice for a top retirement destination, but it defends its choice with hard data: there will be over 1.2 million people over the age of 65 living there by 2025, says the magazine. New York is a top choice for city slickers because, well, it's New York: there's no need for a car or even a kitchen, and you can't beat its entertainment options. Check out Fortune's other top cities for retirement here.
Fortune says Cuenca is a great choice for retirees open to the idea of retiring abroad (it's becoming an increasingly popular option, says the magazine) because of its low cost of living, great weather and modern healthcare. Check out its other top picks for globetrotting retirees here.
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