The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
I never once thought I’d live in a 55-plus retirement community. During my 40-year career in communications, I’ve lived or worked in New York, Chicago and, until recently, San Francisco. Big cities, an abundance of culture, amazing restaurants, great nightlife.
I’d been retired for 18 months in San Francisco when my wife and I realized that we had almost become misfits in the city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful place, but it seemed most everybody was half our age, we didn’t share many of their values and we had few real relationships. There was little sense of community for us. We were surrounded by thousands of people but still felt isolated.
We looked at and visited other cities as possible new destinations but felt the concerns would be similar. On a whim, we decided to look into those “active adult communities.” We had made fun of them in the past. You know: shuffleboard and bingo with Agnes and Bert, ‘60s tribute bands, dinner at 4:30, lights out at 8:30. God’s waiting room, people called them.
Instead, we found beautiful vibrant communities filled with people from all over the country and all walks of life. Doctors, teachers, policemen, small business owners. They were interesting, active, social. We immediately felt a connection with them, maybe because we shared similar experiences. We raised families, overcame obstacles and disappointments that weren’t part of the original plan, struggled with careers and sometimes health and somehow made it to this point in one piece.
What we discovered at these communities was a better way to retire. We found a sense of common purpose absent from other places we had lived. People seemed to have good values and genuinely care about each other. You were no longer defined by your former job title. Now it was about connection and community. It’s “we” over “me.”
So we sold our city apartment and bought into a newer, active adult community in the Sonoran desert north of Tucson. We haven’t looked back. We’re busier and more social than ever. Clubs, classes, events, activities — 150 softball games a year for me, visual arts by my wife. Every morning we walk out our front door and say hi or chat with dozens of neighbors — married couples straight and gay, singles and people of all ethnic backgrounds and political persuasions.
We were lucky if we spoke to that many people in a week in the city. Turns out we’re no longer outsiders in the general community. True, we’re age-restricted, but we enjoy our community of peers. We find them much more interesting and diverse in thought and background than our former urban neighbors.
I saw a quote recently that said: “Every person is defined by the communities they belong to.”
Thankfully, we found our community. Pickleball anyone?