The Old Folks’ Home

Several years ago, I wrote a column about living my best life, where I shared my grand plans and visions for the future. I’d move back to south Florida, purchase a condo in a swanky little 55-and-over community, drink cocktails by the pool every Friday afternoon and whistle at the Cabana boy as he walked by. (Or something like that.)

I’d yell at the young folks who were visiting their grandparents as they traipsed through the property. “Get off our sand!”

I’d lead Zumba or Walk-at-Home classes for the other residents every Tuesday and Thursday morning. I’d offer writing workshops once a month. And I’d sashay off to afternoon tea at the women’s club and enjoy the early-bird dinner special on the weekends

As fate would have it, I purchased said condo a couple of weeks ago, and I must say, it’s a pretty sweet gig. A host of amenities—pools, tennis courts, and a library among them— the intracoastal is basically in my back yard, and the ocean is only a couple miles away. There’s even a dog park on the property where owners hang out in the evenings, sipping Chardonnay and swapping stories of Fido’s latest adventures.

A couple of days ago, I worked my way through a rather intimidating stack of unpacked boxes by pondering my many blessings and good fortune that I live in such a community. Just outside, I could hear laughter at the pool. Soon enough, I’ll be out there too, I thought as I took a break from unpacking and glanced out my window.

Except that as I looked out, I was struck by a rather peculiar scene. A scene that there’s simply no way to sugarcoat.

Everyone at the pool was old.

That’s right, I said it.

Shocked, perhaps even stunned by this revelation, I processed its implications and reached the only possible conclusion I could find. I’m living in a retirement village. The old folks’ home, if you will.

My first thought was one based in fear. What if all those grand plans and visions had misled me—what if they’d pulled off the most impressive bait-and-switch since the invention of false advertising? What if I was doomed? Would my hair turn grey overnight? Would I need a walker by morning? Was gerascophobia clouding my judgment?

I decided to play devil’s advocate, and reminded myself that I’m not retired, nor am I old.

At least I don’t think I’m old… right?! I’m still a couple years away from 60, after all—and plenty of people will tell you that 60 is the new 40. (No matter that they’re likely all 60 and over.)

Other people say we’re only as old as we feel. While I suppose that’s true, I’m feeling a little melancholy (aka not as young as I used to be) about the whole thing.

Yet in my heart, I knew the bottom line was much like everything else in life. Any given situation becomes what we make of it.

Ultimately, I will define the lens through which I see my life, whether it’s in a swanky over-55 community or old folks home. I’ll decide whether to enjoy cocktails by the pool or invest in a hearing aid and a walker. I’ll choose whether to be the life of the party or a stick in the mud.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here enjoying my swanky new community—and if you hear someone yelling, “Get off my sand!” don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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