Insights of Retirement Living

I am 25, young by many standards. I have been married for 4 years, have a beautiful daughter and a lovely home in the Shenandoah Valley. Though I am an average 25 year old by most many standards, my outlook on life may be different than some. I have always aspired to race through my working years, save money and retire. Getting old is suppose to be something to run towards and look forward to. The retirement years are suppose to be golden. My observations show otherwise.

I work at a retirement community in Stuarts Draft, VA. The community has 120 Independent Living units and 40 beds for Assisted Living. As you can imagine, I am around seniors all day, everyday, and one thing I have learned is that getting old is not fun. The TV ads for most retirement communities show lovely, smiling couples strolling down the beach on a warm, summer afternoon, a group of men playing golf, and the happy multi-generational family gathering on the lakeside. The perfect pictures for the so-called golden years of life.

I am not sure what marketing company or consultant writes these ads, but they clearly do not work on a regular basis with the elderly. The golden years, what a joke. Aging is difficult and is certainly not for the faint of heart. Before you wish away your youth, keep in mind what is ahead, the aches, pains, hearing loss, stiff joints, loss of independence and confusion is just around the corner.

Yes, seniors like certain activities. Bingo is a stereotypical senior game, Bridge is also common. Take note, long walks on the beach under the hot sun does not make the top 10 list of seniors actives. Why? Put simply, because its hot, arthritis pain is worse in the humidity, bathrooms are not easily accessible, and there is no shade. Bingo suddenly sounds much more appealing. How about the multi-generational family photo opp at the lakeside? Works well as long as your loved ones are all still alive and well. At some point you begin to out live your friends, your brothers and sisters, even your spouse. Your family picture has fewer smiles and cheery faces as each year passes.

I am not saying there are not seniors taking walks on the beach or golfing. I am simply saying that it seems like the aches and pains of life catch up with seniors and change the activities they enjoy. Suddenly, sitting indoors, in a comfortable seat, putting puzzles together is much more appealing than aimlessly meandering through thick, hot sand with no real destination in mind. At some point swinging the gold club causes more pain than it is worth.

I mean no disrespect, on the contrary the respect I have for the aging population has soared since working at Stuarts Draft Retirement Community. Aging is hard. It hurts, every day. It takes someone strong to wake up every morning and get out of bed despite their screaming joints. I imagine most 25 year olds would simply lay in bed and waste away if they had to face what seniors do on a daily basis. The younger generation races around seniors with little to no respect for their endurance, perseverance and the determination they have to live every day.

I caution you, don’t race through life with the golden years in mind. Live every moment as if it golden, then you will never miss the best things in life. No, getting old doesn’t look fun, but the smile of an elderly person, sitting on their back porch in the tall, white rocking chair means so much more knowing the determination that is behind it!

David Brenneman