By Eleanor Jaffe


When we were young, the question we often thought and talked about was what we wanted to be when we grew up.  And that question led us to thinking about self-image.  Who am I?  What are my capabilities?  Who will I become?  This kind of thinking brought up both hopes and fears—but, when we were young, our options seemed multiple and optimistic.  Now, it seems, the question that often comes up in conversation is:  Where do you want to live when you get old(er)?  And at this point in our lives, thinking about that question seems to bring up, potentially, more fear than optimism.

The fears that seem to accompany aging are multiple:  What will my health be?  What will my abilities be, both mental and physical?  Will I be on my own, or will my mate be with me?  What financial resources can I depend on, and will they be sufficient?  How long will I continue to live, anyway?  Will my children be there for me, or are they too far flung? (We gave them “wings,” remember?) Can I retain my friends and known community? These questions–and more–reveal a lot of anxiety; and, of course, many of these questions are unanswerable right now.

Variations of these questions and more often arise among our friends.  Some are wondering if they can continue living in their homes, the homes full of memories, lots of furniture, room for guests, big gardens to care for, and lots of expenses.  The homes in their known communities, with people nearby on whom they can rely.  Some have begun to discuss retirement communities and have begun to visit these facilities to assess housing options, activities, continuum of care, finances, etc.  Others, often those who have been widowed, are considering moving to live closer to their adult children.  Some may move into “in-law apartments” with their children or find nearby apartments, condos, or retirement communities.  Others are thinking about making the move “out west” or “down south” to be with their extended families but wonder if their children will continue to live in these areas or will need to move elsewhere.

This period in which we consider the next steps in our lives can be a disquieting one.  Shifts in our established routines and expectations for the future can be hard to envision clearly and even harder to put into place.

As for me, my husband and I sold our suburban home and moved to a smaller city apartment about 15 years ago.  We like living in Boston but realize it is not “forever.”  So, we recently decided to ignore reality and bought a Florida condo.  We’re optimistically hoping and planning to enjoy comfortable, warm winters for years to come.  Y’all come!


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