Photo by Swaminathan Jayaraman on Unsplash
I’m only starting to get used to this aging thing and all the surprises that hit you up the side of the head, day after day after day.
My newest surprise is a whopper: I’m losing touch with my friends. No, they aren’t dying or getting sick. We’re still in the same city, just more isolated from each other.
Here’s the story.
I’ve always had a large group of people, friends I see all the time. Work friends, interest group friends, family friends, neighbourhood friends. Some are closer than others, but during the last forty years or so, most of us had kids, worked and generally buzzed around doing the same things.
Sure, we came from different backgrounds, had more or less money, and followed different career paths. There were lawyers, union reps, filmmakers, radio hosts, journalists, teachers, writers, and Jack-and-Joans of all trades. But when we saw each other, we shared stories of similar lives, challenges, political views, craziness, kids, whatever.
Now that retirement has kicked in for most of us, the scene has completely changed. Groups are forming around types of retirement lives. My closest friends can now be divided into the following groups:
The Travellers — they are always on the go, seeing the world, visiting far-off families, going to better climates. Vietnam, India, South America, Paris. They hang with other travellers and talk about this place, that hotel, this tour, that beach. If there are more than two or three of them in a room, it’s a talking-brochure conversation.
The Exercisers — these friends are on bikes, at the tennis courts, in the gym, in the yoga studio. They are sweating their way to longevity. You might see them early in the morning on their way to exercise or on a long bike ride. When a small group of them get together, they talk game scores, bike routes, and bike enhancements.
The Slow Life — Almost all my friends have an adequate pension and some savings, so they’ve stopped working and are doing some of the things they’ve always wanted. If they’re not travelling or exercising, they read, cook or live a simple life, slowing down as a day unfolds. They might meet friends for a coffee or go out to dinner. They often say: “The days just fly by. I’m not sure why I’m so busy…. I just am.”
So which life is mine?
The quick answer is, “None of the above.” I don’t have the money to travel. I was “blessed” with bad legs, which was not a hindrance in the past, but now keeps me off bikes and tennis courts. I need a “project,” some kind of work, to make me happy, to feel that life has a purpose. And, oh yes, I have no Retirement Savings Plan as a buffer, so I have to keep making money until I fall into the grave.
I’m a One Person Group now that we’re all in our 70’s.
What bothers me about all of this? As we age, we should be getting closer. We should be more dependent on each other. We should be sharing our lives more often, doing things together, and supporting each other more.
But precisely the opposite is happening. We’re moving away from the large gang into interest groups.
I find myself wondering if I shouldn’t find new friends. People who know they will never retire or don’t want to but worry about what jobs they can get in their 80s. People who are terrified they won’t be able to pay the rent when they get sick. People who need to party in town, not on a beach.
It seems odd and slightly pathetic, that I might need to look for new friends in my 70s. I never heard of this stuff from my parents — but maybe they didn’t bother to mention it… or I wasn’t listening… or things weren’t as complicated as they are now.
In any case, I chalk this aging issue right up there with reading glasses, carpal tunnel, memory loss and everyone’s unique little surprises after 65.
Janet you have described a difficult reality for so many as we age. Quite simply the vast majority of the world’s population does not have the ability to save for “retirement “ and our senior years will be fraught with uncertainty. Friendship is supposed to fill in the cracks, but a sense of our own mortality is a powerful motivation for cramming in as much as we can before we leave this world, hence the conundrum you describe. I like to imagine the new friends you are making however through your extraordinary idea, Radical Resthomes. Your drive and vision will garner you a host of admirers, and from them those musical chairs of yours will fill up and feel abundant again.
I love this piece! I often feel the same way… well written. Bravo