by Katherine McIntyre
My father would say whenever he made a dramatic, lifestyle decision, “I am closing one door and opening another.” And at ninety-three, he closed memories of my mother and married her first cousin.
MY lifestyle change at ninety-three, is a different story.
I sold my house, which for nearly half a century had seen me through good times and bad. Did I replace it with a classy condominium, overlooking the waterfront, where upscale empty nesters are reveling in their trendy digs?
No, I landed, not exactly kicking and screaming, in a senior’s residence where I will never have to cook a meal or make my bed again.
I can’t exactly remember just how this happened. Whether it is short- term memory loss, or is a selected blackout. However, I do know that my large and extended family had something to do with the move.
My new digs are one of seventy- five suites that come in assorted sizes. Most have a small sitting room, a bedroom, a complete kitchenette unit but no coffee maker.
My three daughters furnished my unit. As they were spaced several years apart, there was never much sparring and fighting in their formative years. So, they worked together along with a daughter-in-law to make things perfect, before I took possession.
The result suits me. Favorite paintings and furniture are in place. Chairs and sofa are recovered in shades of blue. Most of the rest of my possessions, not claimed by family, have gone to charity. A few things, such as winter hats, may still be on the back shelf, in the front hall cupboard of my vacant house.
Three meals a day come with the rent. So, If I were designing this building I would eliminate the kitchenette, and replace the full size refrigerator with something smaller. This easy change would increase the size of the rest of the unit. But knowing developers from a past life, they would just utilize the extra space to make another suite.
Now, I start my day with a cup of coffee and the morning paper that arrives at my door every day by six AM. Then there is breakfast, daily exercise class and a range of activities, that include well planned excursions into the community.
I often think that living in a senior’s residence of seventy women and five men might be similar to a boarding school, without the same restrictions. Management tries to keep track of all the residents. There is a concierge at the front door where we sign in and out. If you don’t have breakfast delivered to your roomand you don’tturn up in the dining room, there is a phone call.
But there is a fire escape stairway connecting each floor, and because I am on the sixth floor, I use it as a form of exercise. And I wonder, if I tripped and fell and couldn’t manage my security bracelet would they ever find me? But on the other hand, how could I press the button on the security bracelet if I was unconscious after my fall? Advice to myself, use the banister – and I do.
It takes a while to readjust to living with other people when you have been on your own for several years. Trained, as I was to be some sort of conversationalist, I felt uneasy, when at a table of eight, there is no chatter during breakfast. Now I sit with the others in stony silence. At dinner, conversation does not exactly bubble, but it is there.
“And how are the meals?” Everyone asks.
“They are good, nourishing and not overwhelming.” Is my standard response.
As for activities, I had to pause while writing this story to go to exercise class. It is hard to keep up with the daily action!
So is moving to a senior’s residence a good or bad move? Two months ago I would have said, “It was the worst mistake I ever made.” After nearly a year in my space, I have grown to like it, not love it.
And I wonder, “Is this my last hurrah?”
Katherine McIntyre a freelance travel writer who lives in Toronto, Canada.