Graduating seniors


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GRAYING NEW YORK

BY MARCIA EPSTEIN

Considering what I hear from my friends who have moved to assisted living or retirement communities, the feelings involved aren’t much different from the long ago move from home to college. The sense of loneliness, of dislocation, of unreality are much the same. When an 18-year-old moves away from home for the first time, however much he or she has been anticipating it, there is often a feeling of shock.

Where am I? Who are these people? Where are my old friends, my old bedroom, my old routine? Recently The Times had an article on this sense of displacement in new college students, and somehow it sounded very familiar. Aside from my own experience decades ago with similar emotions, it sounded very much like what I‘m hearing about leaving one’s home to move for an assisted living or retirement community. The same sense of disorientation, of loss, even fear.

As beautiful as the new facility may be, it’s not “home.” Not yet, not for a long time. It’s a major life change, just as college was. I’ve even heard a retirement home called the “campus,” and one woman spoke of the need to get “off campus” and see old friends. Although these retirement homes sound idyllic to me — all meals, swimming pools, activities, people around all the time — I remember how traumatized I was years ago moving from one floor to another in my own building, so I don’t fool myself that it would be easy. Not that I can afford it, not by any means, so it’s moot for me. But since I prefer to be around people my age or older, it does have its enticements. I have many friends who love to be around younger people; they say it refreshes them, keeps them “young.”

Aside from my family, I don’t feel the same way. I don’t feel any sense of connection to young people, or even the middle-aged. Older people are going through what I am, we can all relate. Younger folks just don’t get it. For the very young, life stretches out ahead of them in endless years. The middle-aged are usually involved in child rearing and/or careers. My contemporaries are usually retired, finding their way in the world without the schedule that work requires, dealing with various aches and pains, and looking at a limited number of years ahead of them. These are my folks!

What could I possibly talk to younger people about? I know very little about new technology, and don’t much care to. I don’t have a smartphone or a smart TV; I don’t know what the iCloud is, I don’t use Twitter or Snapchat. Truly, I, like many of my friends, feel invisible to young people. And so, in many ways, I’d feel right at home in a retirement community where I’m sure people chat with each other and not through texting. I don’t think I’d miss screaming children in restaurants and music so loud I can’t hear my friends talk.

But as I’ve said before, there isn’t any way I can afford to move to such a facility, and maybe it’s for the best. I’m sure I’d have the same feelings that I’m hearing about regarding the “what the heck am I doing here?” thoughts that my friends, and friends of friends are dealing with. Interesting though, the parallels between new college students and new assisted living/retirement community residents. Food for thought.





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