My precocious parents retired early at 55 and moved into a New Jersey retirement community (sorry, “55+ active adult community”) by 58. I shouldn’t have been as surprised since our house mantras were “There’s only so much time!” and “Always be prepared.” Like a cross between an anxious military and a group of boy scouts, our family was always early and could adapt to most situations. I just didn’t anticipate dealing with this move while I was still in college. The housing market was hot, though, so my parents made the plunge into active adult living a week before I turned 21.
Lest you think I would regress into an angsty teen and despair about my new home, don’t worry. I also took the plunge into active adult living that summer. I went to the pool with my dad, worked out in the fitness center, and tried to delight as many older men as possible in my skimpy clothing. It amused me, and I made some friends. I also tried to learn how to play bridge, played bocce, and even walked in on bunko to see what the fuss was about. I would’ve attempted mahjong, pinochle and canasta, but I knew those older women would just end up taking my nickels and dimes.
My main new friends were Murray (an 80 year-old newlywed to Phyllis!) and Vinnie. Murray and Vinnie always make it a point of coming over to me at the pool and talking to me. One time Murray took an hour to relate most of his life story. Vinnie tried to give me life advice. He instructed me that I was to obtain three things in college—a job, a husband, and books. In that order. He also told me that if I was ever “down there” with a guy and he started getting fresh, I was to bite.
While I was home this past week at the retirement community, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine came out about sexuality in older adults. Turns out 73% older adults aged 57-64, 53% of adults aged 65-74, and even a quarter of adults 75-85 are still gettin’ it on. As humorous or frightening as this may sound, it actually makes sense.
Thousands of retirement communities are home to older adults in the US. Most of these communities have age restrictions (no children under 19) and committees organize activities to keep everyone busy. Our retirement community contains over a hundred single-family homes and about thirty duplexes. We do not have “assisted living” facilities, which is a transition from independent living to a nursing home. The center of activity buzzes around the clubhouse, the pool, and the tennis and bocce courts. The pedestrian friendly streets lie in a large oval to create a sense of inclusion. So basically, it’s like college for older adults. You’re surrounded by people your own age, your children are gone, and most likely you’re retired from a daily job. Email lists fill inboxes and bulletin boards fill up at the clubhouse. Widows, not resigned to live lonely lives with cats and televisions, meet other widows. Just like college students, older adults start fraternizing and get frisky. Thus, the sex and reports on increased STDs in older adults in the news.
The moral? Don’t despair that the best years of your life are over if you enjoyed college. There’s a chance to relive the experience after you retire.