Moving is never an easy activity. When you’ve retired and are planning the rest of your life, it becomes more of a burden—both physical and emotional. On a psychological scale, moving, divorce and death in the family are a three-way tie for being the most difficult of life’s occurrences.
We were quite young (it’s all relative!) 17 years ago when we relocated 75 miles away from where we had lived on and off during our married lives. We figured that distance would allow us to visit old friends without a problem even though there is no public transportation between here and there. In spite of this, we think we planned well. We’ve cut down on the number of trips we make, but some of our old friends have checked out, so that number is down also.
We retired to a lovely little town in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with a medical center a mile to the west, a music conservatory a mile to the east and our church outside of town to the south. We had an umbrella organization in the church—and we met like-minded caring people, some of whom had done the same thing we had. The conservatory provided world class music at low or no cost; and the regional medical center served a four state area, so even medical needs were covered. We were and still are all set.
Now, to get into the community. Retired. Time. Where to start? We were used to “brollies” when arriving at new posts overseas. In embassies new employees and their families are immediately immersed in their new lives. This time around with retirement, however, we had no dogs to walk or kids to play with other kids on the block. You know how animals and kids facilitate meeting new folks.
By subscribing to the local paper before ever moving to our retirement location, we were able to get a flavor of the territory. After arrival, we joined every organization in which we were interested. Our little city has about 26,000 inhabitants, so there was a club or group for many different pursuits. For such a small place there are a plethora of volunteer opportunities.
Early in our time here, I did a short stint at the Habitat for Humanity office, but it put me in touch with others only by phone. I needed more personal contact. By taking up the fiddle again, I encountered more than enough togetherness with various genres of musicians. It was a wonderful opening into a lively community of and for all age groups. That translates into “get out your old flute or clarinet and join the community band!” Or, learn to play the instrument you’ve always wanted to play.
This is a small enough place so citizens’ needs are known. When we arrived here, the Coalition for Racial Unity was doing great work bringing various disparate groups together to build bridges rather than walls so a diversified community might be created. The NAACP is active and vibrant. Politics were lively—even before Trump entered the scene! Clubs for many interests exist. The police department is proactive and reaches out to the people they serve. As they say, “It’s all good.”
Many friends have opted for continuing care retirement communities. They say it’s the best gift you can give your children—peace of mind. There’s no need to worry about the old folks as they are cared for. A group of friends you haven’t met yet is there waiting to meet you. These are nurturing places striving to meet all seniors’ needs. Not everyone can afford such retirements, but the people who do move to senior housing seem to enjoy their new villages.
We still like to live with different generations. We’ve watched little boys next door grow up. We’d never lived anywhere long enough to watch neighborhood kids become adults. We’ve seen long-time residents on our street enter nursing homes and younger people with little kids take their places. We find it hard to believe that people look on us as the “elderly couple,” because we’re not feeling that as much as we probably should.
Speaking of the “aged,” I have learned what to say to nosy people who want to know how old I am. Recently, I overheard a woman announce that she had 85 years of experience piled high and deep (her PhD). When age is shared that way, people will automatically recognize that we know a thing or two. Just be prepared to hear, “You don’t look that old.”
So, if you’re moving, don’t forget you may need an umbrella organization in your new location. Take along that PhD. You may have to use it once in a while. Retired. Time. Both such good things. Enjoy them. And, watch how quickly those neighbor kids morph into adults.