As hard as it is to believe, Kathy & I will soon be celebrating 6 years of retirement. Time has flown by, for sure! When we contemplated retirement, we talked about what we would do, and occasionally talked about some kind of volunteer activity, like reading to grade school kids, financial counseling or something to use our former work skills. Interestingly, that has never transpired. Why? Most likely inertia or lack thereof, although we’ve rationalized a bit with the idea that our frequent travel would prohibit us from committing to a regular schedule and that anyone looking for volunteers would probably want a more reliable attendance. I have no idea if that is true because we’re never checked. But we keep thinking that we could be doing more without compromising free time or travel.
For the last 10 years, Kathy & I have lived in a 55+ neighborhood. When we first moved here, we were barely 55 and still working, and even after 10 years we are still among the youngest residents. We have struck up a nice friendship with a few other couples of similar ages, although even they are a little bit older than we are. We have had rotating dinners at our respective homes and recently did a holiday progressive dinner. We find it much more fun to drink and eat at our and our neighbors’ homes as opposed to overstaying our welcome at a restaurant and then having to drive home. Much safer to walk!
Kathy & I have had peripheral involvement in our neighborhood, with Kathy participating on the Social Committee and me on the Finance Committee. We have mixed feelings about participating more, such as board membership or committee chair. We’re pretty protective of our time at home, generally preferring to mind our own business and stay out of the way. But we’re also aware that we have skills and knowledge that would allow us to contribute more.
Kathy & I were talking recently about how so many of our neighbors are old enough to be our parents’ ages. Many of our neighbors are widows or widowers, and although they have children and other family around, they spend a lot of time on their own. For the most part they’re nice folks and we enjoy spending time with them. Like all of us, they have their foibles, but they have been a source of encouragement and inspiration. Encouragement because many of them have been travelers themselves, and are quick to tell us to “go while you can” and “don’t wait.” Inspirational in both positive and negative ways, unfortunately. Positive as in having done things we aspire to do, negative as in seeing the unfortunate result of years of not taking care of their health or finances.
Since we no longer have living parents, I mentioned that maybe we should try and get to know some of these older folks individually. I still cherish the memory of time spent with my grandparents, and feel that some of our neighbors would probably appreciate the attention, and we would undoubtedly enjoy the conversation. Group activities are okay, but once the group gets to be more than 5 or 6 people, “conversations” are more challenging, especially for those with difficulty hearing or being heard. I’m a little leery of a friendship evolving into some kind of surrogate caregiver role, but I think it’s possible to be aware and set limits if necessary.
Anyway, this whole thought process revolves around my idea that we all have various roles to play. Child, parent, spouse, worker, traveler, customer, friend, mentor, etc. Just because we aren’t “working” doesn’t mean we don’t have something to contribute. Helping others is a lot more rewarding than watching the news or playing video games, and it behooves all of us to spend some time considering our place in this world. It’s an evolving concept and I’m looking forward to seeing where it leads.