2024 July 9 Don't hide yourself away

Jul 09, 2024

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me today to talk about moving into a retirement community. So let's get started. If you like what you hear tonight, please leave a like, subscribe, tell your friends, and send me a message.


Tonight we're going to talk about retiring to a retirement community or even to a retirement city and country. Is that really the right thing for you to do? I was just reading a story in the Wall Street Journal about Sun City, Texas, in Georgetown, Texas. The median age in the community is 73, and it's intended for residents 55 and older. That was one data point. 


Then another one, a friend of mine, Mark Miller, moved to a region in Mexico near Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco, to a city named Ajijic. There are many expats from the US and Canada there. Just about everyone who works in Ajijic speaks English. You might as well be in the US in a lot of respects. 


Similarly, for San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, in some parts of town it's almost rare to hear people speaking Spanish because there's so many people there from the US, Canada, and Europe. The common thread in all three places is that you're sequestering yourself, moving yourself, isolating yourself away in this little isolated community that, while it may be superficially comfortable, it's also a bit isolating, even more so in the case of the two Mexican communities, because there you can literally only speak with your neighbors because many of the expat residents that live there never bothered to even learn the national language of the country they're living in. They don't speak any Spanish whatsoever. 


Personally, I find interaction with differing points of view quite stimulating. Oftentimes, it may be a little frustrating. Sometimes it might even drive you crazy, but it's really stimulating in a good way. Additionally, being exposed to different attitudes makes you have to analyze your own perspectives and defend them in your own head. It really  gives you a better perspective than when you just talk to yourself or talk to people with the same ideas.


One of the things I miss terribly in our new woke intolerant modern society is the loss of people, including myself, really having to analyze and hone their points of view through civil discourse and discussion with other people. When everything is just black and white, there's no chance of compromise. There's no sense of unity, and also no reason to carefully consider your own points of view. 


When you have a friendly debate with a good friend on something, especially a flashpoint topic, and you're just having a debate on it, you can't take a radical stance. You have to back away a little bit, and they'll say something that you hadn't thought of. It makes you go back and really look at your point of view and ask, Is that really a valid point of view? It's really good for tempering views in society, and just good for your mind in general. Moving into a community of very like-minded individuals, especially as we age, seems like it would tend to accelerate mental decline because you lose that constant evaluation of differing points of view and balancing the image of your own beliefs and isolating yourself further from the world in general. 


I also find working with and around young people very energizing. It's sometimes distracting when I see them making the same mistakes I made when I was younger. For a variety of reasons  these communities tend to be less diverse. To me, it's just another loss of stimulus. You lose this competing perspective, which is not an especially good way to live. When you see a different perspective, it makes you evaluate your own. It also opens you up to new opportunities to see life. When you lose that, you lose exposure to different cultures. You lose a lot.  


There's another interesting aspect of the exodus to these age-specific communities, because in a lot of these communities, people, especially in the US, are mostly paying cash for the new homes with the equity from their existing home. Many Baby Boomers, and following generations to a lesser degree, are house-rich because of rising housing prices. They bought a house a long time ago. Now the prices are up, so they're able to pay for the new houses with cash.


That means they just swapped their $85,000 house for a new one that costs $400,000, $500,000, $600,000. They took all that equity and put it into a new home. On one level, it's not so bad. They probably like that place a lot better. It might be difficult to move again, because it's unlikely they're going to have that kind of equity rise again.


One of the big things, and to me, this is really one of the most relevant to us in our community, is that most of the people featured in the story I was reading are filling their time with fun things to do. They're missing out on sharing their wealth of knowledge with younger people and the community in general.


Many of the people that were profiled in the story have vastly different past professions. One was a farmer, others were business people. They weren't all professionals. They came from a lot of different backgrounds. The amount of knowledge they had being left to fade away, it was really striking and a bit sad. 


One of the things I really enjoy about working with younger people from different communities is explaining why I'm doing what I'm doing. What led me to this conclusion? How did I think through this problem? I've benefited in my life from the experience of many very smart people over the years, and I truly feel an obligation to continue to share that same knowledge with those people around me. 


Another aspect of that sharing is thinking about our legacy. At the cemetery where my folks are buried, there's some pretty impressive, big granite headstones, lots of carving and engraving—there's even a little mini chapel with steps up to it on the hill.


It's really quite impressive.  But one of the days I was working there, I was reading the names on it and realized that all those families, who at one point were obviously quite influential and wealthy in the community—all those families have pretty much faded away.  There are other headstones around, some quite modest, and many of those bring smiles and good memories. I appreciate those people because of all the things they did for the community.


I look at one and say, Oh, that used to be one of the scout leaders, or  That was a woman who I took piano from, and all these memories of people who did stuff for the community. Which people really made a bigger impact on the community? The answer is pretty clear. It's the people who improved other people's lives.


So if you go to one of these communities and you hide yourself away, what do you really bring into the area where you're in? But if you go outside the community and work with the community at large and do things there, now you're really spreading something of value, of wealth, and worth to the other people by bringing your perspective to them and learning their perspective and bringing it into your life.


Now, the point isn't to disparage anyone or dissuade someone from moving into a retirement community. It's a very personal decision. I know I get ads for them and I certainly get calls for them, and they sound just delightful. And in some ways, I'm sure they are.


Before you just believe all the hype, though, I would encourage you to think about your life vision and your goals supporting that vision, and then decide if living away from the mainstream of the population is really consistent with what you want to do in life. Certainly, if you're focused and true to your vision, you can be both apart and in unity with the community around you by your actions and sharing your knowledge and your skills with the other people who could use it. 


But the more isolated you live, the more you risk losing your perspective on life, perspective on the country and the perspective on the world. Is life perfect? Obviously not. But if you're involved, you have the opportunity to improve life and to move closer to your vision. If you withdraw to an isolated enclave, you're more likely to feel threatened and to be unhappy with things around you. So, while being around like-minded people is certainly great—it's a lot of fun to be around people who agree with everything you say and you with them,  just make sure that you're not isolating yourself from the world too much.


That's it for the evening. I hope you realize that aging isn't something to isolate and hide away in a special community, but really something to celebrate, and that it gives you new superpowers and that you have value to be shared with others. Equally, being in contact with the world at large helps widen your perspective and helps keep your views and attitudes more realistic, and helps you see the good side of people in a lot of different ways. 


Your homework (always optional) is to imagine living in a Senior community, or review any ads if you've seen them, and look at what's being emphasized. Often it's superficial wealth and easy living. Think if that's really how you want to spend the next two or four decades of your life. Extra points if you reenvision such a community, either by living someplace different with more community interaction or how you can still get that community interaction while living in a senior community. Write down what you could do to live differently and how you could still bring all your knowledge and specific skills to the world and community around you with the activities you're involved in.


Think about how you could do that. Write it down. Talk about it with your friends, and try and understand everyone's perspective. Maybe gather something from it and say, I like where I'm living here, or maybe I want to live in a different place, but if I live in a different place, this is how I want to make the most of it.


That's it for tonight. Remember UKR7.com. That's the website with links to help people in Ukraine. United24 is another place. World Central Kitchen is at WCK.org. There are a lot of problem places in the world. If you want to support one of the groups that I have listed, great.


If you don't, see if there's somebody locally that you could help. That's great too. Remember,  you have the ability to change the world around you. Something as simple as smiling at the person walking by on the street saying, Hey, good morning, have a nice day can really change somebody's life. I would encourage you to, because remember: One of the best ways to care for yourself is to care for others. Thinking outside yourself changes your perspective on the world. and helps you appreciate the good things in life.


As always, thank you very much for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along, please subscribe, and hit that like button.


If not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. 


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