When I was a little kid, every week or two, we had to visit grandma in a nursing home. The place smelled half-way between a can of Lysol and the urinals at Grand Central Station and I’d have to breathe through my mouth. In my mind the visit was about as much fun as holding your breath underwater. The first 30 seconds weren’t too bad, but then things would get progressively worse. Afterwards, we were rewarded by a trip to Dairy Queen, where the biggest thing you could buy was a banana split. Don’t really like banana splits all that much anymore.
Later, as an adult, we’d fly down to Florida, not-so-affectionately dubbed, “God’s Waiting Room” to visit my mother-in-law. Ella lived, and I use that term advisedly, in what we referred to as The Marble Palace. Every floor was shining either marble or granite. In new shoes, we’d have to be seriously careful not to take a header and I often wondered why any older person would choose to hobble across what amounted to a marble ice-skating rink. And…once again, the place wreaked of eau de Lysol, just like my grandma’s place. It was always depressing and even as an adult I always had the feeling that I was psychically holding my breath. Back in the car we’d go for a beer and pizza, vowing to never ever…ever live in a stop-over to God’s waiting room.
Boomer’s Retreat: After a visit Pamela and I would grab a beer and then scheme and joke that if someday we did end up in a retirement place it would have to be a HELLUVA lot different. If I may whisper in your sweet, shell-like ear, someday is always a decade away. Always… until one fine day it isn’t. It’s a lot like viewing a rainbow, which is always ten fields over and on the horizon…never ever, ever in your back yard. Funny thing is, several of our friends have recently reported that the rainbows are, indeed, very close. And so, without further ado, I’m going to describe and define a temporarily fictitious place which I might actually like living ten or twenty years from now. Feel free to boo, hiss, throw virtual rotten tomatoes…OR…suggest a way to improve this design to make it even better…a place you could actually be happy in.
First Proviso and a Deal -Breaker: You have to have some kind of pet to join the club. It has to be live, as opposed to a stuffed animal, and it has to be warm-blooded. A box turtle or goldfish in a bucket doesn’t cut it. Hamster, dog, cat, mouse, guinea pig…something that you have to take care of every day. Something you can cuddle, feed, name and maybe have it lick your nose. Every single curmudgeon I’ve run into rants about not wanting a pet. They’re dirty. They make messes. Sometimes they fart. But they’ll love you and cuddle you and not care what you look like…smell like…or how dottie you’ve become. This is more important than you might realize.
Happy Hour: Because older people go to bed earlier, happy hour starts at 3:30 and goes till 6:30. Beer is on tap and wine available and included in the package. More than that, you’re free to smuggle in a pitcher of martinis or margaritas if you like, though if you do, you have to share.
Once a Week is Very Happy Hour…aka Jimi Hendrix Hour or (hint hint) Stamp Out Glaucoma Night. Yes, it’s milk and interesting brownies or milk and interesting cookies. Just make sure you don’t get the little seeds stuck in your teeth. If your appetite has left you…it will come back with a vengeance! A bag of potato chips is a feast! A half gallon of ice cream…any ice cream is mana from heaven. Sex? There’s still sex? Yeah, have another cookie and you’re a happy camper. There’s MUSIC with a capital M, and it sounds…GREAT!!! The Kinks, ELO, The Doors. Whomever you kinda liked before you’ll love them on Stamp Out Glaucoma Night! A small dance floor, good amps and speakers and a mirror ball for slow-dancing. All mandatory. Life is GOOD again!
Once a Week, is Naughty Movie Night. This could easily follow directly after Glaucoma Night. Tuesdays might be for Foreign Movies, Wednesdays for the old classics, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, Elmer Gantry, Casablanca, Spartacus, From Here to Eternity. And the rest of the week is a free-for-all.
FOOD: In Sweden, they have communes and they’re set up so that EVERYBODY has to cook at least once every month. On that one day, you get to cook for the whole group…big soups or a tray of 36 chicken breasts, 36 hamburgers…whatever. The How-To is all laid out for you. In short, this works and it frees you up from having to do it for weeks at a time. And…if you can actually cook well, it’s your time in the sun!
Everyone is expected to contribute…something at least three times a week. There will be an in-house radio station available 24-7, where you can block-off an hour’s worth of time. Vent your spleen, or play your favorites. Have a call-in talk show. Or, you can teach PhotoShop, or knitting, creative writing, playing a musical instrument, or even acting. Show someone how to make a clay pot, turn wooden bowls on a wood lathe or fly a Phantom or an F-18 or a Hellcat on a computer flight simulator. Swing Dance or watercolor painting. Book Clubs, Chess Clubs. The possibilities are endless and given half a chance they’re fun.
No Proselytizing Allowed!!! There will be one small utterly non-denominational private room where Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Agnostics, Secular Humanists and Atheists can go. No Proselytizing allowed from the members…or the staff.
Everyone can do Something therefore Everyone must do Something. The good news is that the more you contribute…really contribute, the greater the amount is deducted from your monthly bill. You could, theoretically, live for free here…if you have the energy and the skills.
Protest/Gripe Board: Have an idea for an improvement? Have a suggestion to make things better? It can go up on the board for 24 hours…only… and you have to sign your name to it. No name, it comes down immediately.
The Grounds and Physical Layout: First Rule: No second stories. It’s easier on hips and creaky bones and it’s friendlier. Every apartment has a patio and double doors to the outside. Every apartment is wired for the local radio station and cable. The grounds: rolling hills, with trees and many paths. Golf carts available, ponds, bird feeders and houses, squirrel feeders and salt licks. You’re encouraged to grow your own private garden every summer.
Every Week: Spotlights another member with twenty questions and a personal interview. Here’s your chance to show the world how great you are…or were.
Mixers: Every month there’s a mixer with another Boomers’ Retreat/Hippie Commune. Dance competitions, drinking, arguing, eating, flirting…just like being back in the dorm!
Generational Overlap: Mandatory: At the very least, one young family living on the premises to help with the things that older folks may have trouble with…driving at night in the rain or snow, heavy landscaping, moving rocks, chopping trees, etc. Better if they have some kids. The two secret benefits to this are: generations actually need each other to round-out life, to respect each other’s generational differences. Plus, it helps a young family or family that might otherwise be in financial trouble to have a stable environment.
Again this is, at this moment, just a toe-in-the-water rough sketch. But I’m thinking… I’d rather have some great music to tap my foot to, a happy hour with dark beer or single malt scotch, and people with whom to bat ideas around. Oh, and the ability to maybe evenb pass on what small kernels of wisdom I may have accumulated. Any thoughts on how to refine it?