On not quite a whim I asked my husband to drive by the new senior co-housing development on the not quite way to the grocery store. Oh! What a coincidence, Open House. We got the tour, the sales pitch, the literature. That night, I borrowed my husband’s obsessions and couldn’t sleep. He was pleased. Since we married fifteen years ago he has stayed awake nights worrying about dying and leaving me all his assorted crap to sort through. He was gratified to have me join the side of the righteous and ineffective Morbid Obsessive-Compulsives.
We, meaning I, would like to downsize. We, meaning both of us, would like to send a message to my daughters that they don’t live here, anymore, nor do we run a storage facility. I am a year short of qualifying as “senior,” he qualified 20 years ago, thus his worry about leaving me with his mess, which is compounded by my mess, the mess of two daughters and the fact that neither one of us makes decisions quickly – we had neither a dining room table nor a bed frame for the first year of marriage, my husband began deciding to sell his boat shortly after we married without reaching a final decision for ten years. If we were of a similar age, I might be tempted to allow nature to take its course and let my daughters dig my body out when it’s over, but the Law of Probabilities or some other law tells me where this is heading.
The “cottages” were compelling, sited on several acres with mature trees. Every home has front and back porches and a small yard. Pets are allowed. There is a community vegetable garden and a health center. It’s a short walk from our favorite lake. Everyone we talked to was cheerful, talking about shared glasses of wine on front porches, communal meals, card playing and shared events in the Community House.
So, why am I despondent? I don’t mind old people, I just don’t want to be called one and neither does my husband, nevermind his age. Nearly everyone in this development was retired, female, younger than my husband and mystified as to why he was still working. He was mystified what one does when one no longer works. The whole selling point of this development is that it forestalls assisted living. I get it. I don’t get getting excited about the prospects in life being reduced to “assisted living” and something “better than assisted living.” When did we get to the point we had to start thinking like this? Was it when my husband’s cardiologist started telling him that his sinus node isn’t working properly and he could drop dead? Was it just this month when he turned 75? Or when I turned 50 and started getting literature from AARP? Or has it been the slow progress of marriage to an older man who has worried since he met me that he would die and leave me, a once single mother, apparently once competent to raise two children and make her own decisions, suddenly rendered helpless by virtue of marriage and the eventual prospect of loss, unable to cope without a man in the house?