My custom retirement community

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I have two friends who moved into retirement communities/assisted living (meaning that, if necessary, care is available to them either in their homes or in separate facilities) in the last few years. In each case, they live with their husbands in very nice apartments on lovely grounds and can choose among a myriad of activities, including swimming, lectures, trips and much more.

I visited one such facility and came away very impressed. I haven’t seen the other place, since it’s some ways from the city, but have heard about it and must admit to a certain amount of envy.

There’s always something to do, always people around to do those things with, to eat with, to socialize with — or not, if the desire for solitude strikes.

One friend, who likes her new digs a lot, admits to wondering who these all these old people are. And a small part of her feels a bit like it’s the “last chance hotel.” But on the whole, the positives outweigh the negatives. She’s a former college professor and already involved in teaching classes and leading groups, and she’s meeting a whole slew of interesting and like-minded people.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Upper West Sider. This is my hood, the place I’ve been since college, (and in one apartment for over 35 years), and the place I want to end up. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. But I like the idea of people and activities being so close at hand.

Even though New York is full of things to do every minute of the day and night, it can get harder to get up and do them as one ages. Or maybe I mean, as I age. There are times, too often lately, when my apartment’s cozy sofa calls me to just close my eyes and nap. There are movies to see that mean taking a subway or bus, and sometimes it feels like a bit more than I want to do that day. There are places to go that on a very hot or very cold day can seem a step too far. There are museums to visit that my knees can object to and say “no way today.” And there can be loneliness, even with a partner. Friends move or get sick. Making new friends at an older age isn’t as easy. In college there were always friends; when raising children, friends came with the territory. But not any longer. I’m not the sort to strike up conversations on buses, and I don’t mind eating lunch out alone. I even prefer to go to the movies alone, as my seat preference is not to everyone’s liking.

But I’m human, and I’m finding it harder and harder to strike up new acquaintances and feel connected to new people as I did when I was younger. That’s why these retirement communities seem so ideal (and I admit I must be idealizing them). Just the idea of having people around when you want company and activities seems a perfect way to live.

Of course, I’m not going anywhere. First of all, I cannot afford a retirement community. This is all pie in the sky. Second of all, I’d be lost without my UWS vibe. I know I live in a bubble, but it’s my bubble. My liberal, exciting, vibrant bubble.

This is where I fit in and so while I may continue dreaming of the perfect retirement community where I can loll in the pool and perhaps never step off the grounds, the Upper West Side is where I intend to spend and end my days.

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