There are so many things that are of interest to me and needing my attention and honestly, I’d rather be swinging in a hammock and sipping iced tea than focusing on them. This is what summer does to me. I feel entitled to move more slowly, ease into my day, and linger with the twilight before giving up and going to bed.
This experience is paired with the astonishing awareness that time is passing, oh, so quickly. My week starts on a Monday and within seconds, it seems it is already Friday. Weekends look clear on my calendar, but are filled with events (including naps!) and errands that never seem to get done during the week.
With the best of intentions, I make to-do lists that I eventually find buried under other papers and end up recycling, since few got ta-done. I am easily distracted by going through boxes of old papers and photographs, only to find my back aching from sitting too long and my memory banks overflowing with recalling events from long ago. Newer memories are still being made, but not at the rate the old ones seem to have accumulated.
I had house guests recently that allowed me the joy of showing off where I live. Northern California has destination points, fine dining, exquisite photo opportunities, and lots and lots of music and art. It is anchored by San Francisco Bay, not to mention that jewel of a city. In taking folks for a drive through these areas, I got to relive 40 years of memories.
I laughed (mostly to myself, but occasionally out loud) as I drove through neighborhoods where I had lived, noting changes in storefronts and architecture while filtering it all through the lens of past adventures. There were still places that remained relatively unchanged, and other areas that seemed totally foreign to me.
Sharing all this with friends who had never before seen San Francisco or the Sonoma Coast was a delightful experience. I realized how much information I had accumulated. I realized how much I like to talk about people, places, and events associated with different locations. I realized just how much I love where I live.
Because my guests were of similar age, we discussed the changes we will need to make in the next few years. Inevitably, the question of where to live came up. Try as I might, it is incredibly difficult for me to find comparable geography to where I live now. Geography isn’t the only criterion needed for deciding where to live as I age. But it plays a huge role.
Since children and grandchildren are not in my picture, I don’t feel any pull to move closer to them. But I understand why those who do have extended family would want to be close. This variable is a double-edged sword, however. The older we get, the less able we are to move. It is far more likely that your children and grandchildren will be moving, potentially leaving you in a community you haven’t had time to grow roots. For some, this may not be problematic, but for others, it may result in isolation.
There are three losses that we have to face as we age: loss of place, loss of person, and loss of purpose. I have already dealt with loss of persons dear to me. I am fortunate to have a strong sense of purpose that I hope and trust will carry me through my elderhood. But the sticking point for me is loss of place.
Having lived in my home for 22 plus years, and having lived in California for 40, I cannot imagine leaving this state. I have taken trips to Washington State, Montana, Arizona, and New Mexico to see how they “feel”. And while each state has its benefits, it also has drawbacks. Finding that sweet spot is challenging.
I figure I have one or two more years where I could move my business and myself to a new location. In doing this, I would need to exert far more energy in making friends, establishing contacts, setting up a network of friends and support than I have done in years. This actually weighs more heavily on me than the economics. It is not that I couldn’t find a cheaper place to live, it’s that I would pay a high price for saving a few bucks.
The danger most of us Boomers face, and the fear so many express to me, is outliving our savings. If what I read in financial guides is true, none of us have saved enough. That raises the ugly specter of becoming a bag lady, or having to move in with others, (possibly even family). For those who have been prudent, it may be less enervating, but it is still a factor affecting quality of life.
You can find all kinds of calculators online to help you determine how much money you will need as you age. I wish there were something similar to support all of us in determining the quality of life we want as we age. That is why I am starting Five Pillars of Aging. It is important that we look at finding purpose and meaning to carry us through the years after we have “retired”. It is essential that we develop skills that will help us adapt to the changes aging brings. It remains key that we maintain levels of engagement physically, cognitively, socially, and spiritually. Inevitably, we will face our mortality. For some of us, that will bring awareness to the spiritual aspects of our lives. Each of these is a pillar that provides a foundation for us as we age. Believing that I have enough, I am enough, and there is enough lies at the heart of this. And that is good enough.