I’m not sure why, maybe because I was a single gal well into my thirties, but my thoughts about life in old age have always focused on living in community, that is, in close relation to other people. There is some irony and even some anxiety around these fantasies. I’m not the most social being on the planet, often the first one to leave a party, and I definitely need solitary time after extended interpersonal contact. But I’m convinced that it’s not practical nor healthy to live independently (AKA alone) after a certain age. Even as a partnered couple; it’s still better to have a trustworthy support system nearby. I’m not sure what age is “the right age” to transition into “senior living,” and I haven’t been able to settle on one shining vision of “what’s next.” So I just keep mulling.
I’ve already considered many options. Several compatible people living in one house, like Joan Mendlicott’s Ladies of Covington. Having a modest cottage in a small walkable village where I can manage alone, but be connected with people as I carry out the necessary tasks of living and enjoying myself. Occupying a rental in a senior living complex where services and recreation are readily available, without needing to drive anywhere. Not sure. Not sure. Just not sure.
There are loads of articles citing “the best places to retire,” but I’m not looking for a place; I’m deciding on a life style. Enter my friend, Marianne Kilkenny, who calls herself “The Grand Nudge,” but in reality is a trailblazer who helps individuals and groups create innovative models for living and aging in community. She founded the Women for Living in Community Network and facilitates Women Living in Community conferences. (Please note that the name of the organization is women for living in community; it does not preclude the Y chromosome from being in the mix.)
I’ve participated in Women for Living In Community Conferences and have been actively exploring the community-living models burgeoning in and around the Asheville, NC area. I think the “pocket neighborhood” concept fits me best and might have jumped straight ahead with finding or initiating such a project, but the economic downturn put my husband and me in the situation where we would have had to sell our home at a significant loss in order to move forward. Just as well, I suppose, because there are more thoughtful ways to proceed than jumping willy-nilly.
“The Grand Nudge,” wisely recommends we begin simply, by exploring within ourselves before looking out. They remind me of the process I used as a career counselor helping people find their best-match employment opportunities. Let’s use the power of community by sharing our individual thoughts on this aspect of the senior lifestyle decision. Do you think you’d like to live in community? If so, how would you answer Marianne’s questions below?