Imagine a retirement community of like-minded people – of artists, academics, birders, mountain bikers, anglers or retired nurses. It’s possible.
Did you see the 2012 movie Quartet? It was set in a retirement home for professional musicians. The movie was pure fiction, but the retirement facility was modelled on the real-life Casa di Riposo per Musicisti (rest home for musicians) that was founded in Italy in 1896 by the composer Giuseppe Verdi, who later wrote: ‘Of all my works, that which pleases me the most is the Casa that I had built in Milan to shelter elderly singers who have not been favoured by fortune, or who when they were young did not have the virtue of saving their money.’
The Casa may be the first documented special-interest retirement facility, but it’s an idea whose time has come. In the USA, for example, there are an increasing number of retirement estates tailored for specific lifestyles and interests, and South Africa can’t be far behind.
- Based on the same principles – although possibly at the other end of the creative spectrum – as Casa, Nalcrest in Florida is an affordable retirement option for retired postal workers founded and operated by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) on the understanding that – while they were working – letter carriers were not among the most highly paid of workers. Hmm, think about teachers, nurses, police officers.
- Not surprisingly, creatives like to hang out with creatives. NoHo Senior Arts Colony in North Hollywood is open to all artistic types, but tends to attract mostly writers and actors, while Long Beach Senior Arts Colony is more visually oriented, but neither is cast in stone – it’s all about expressing yourself in a safe, nurturing and creative environment. Something Verdi would have understood.
- University retirement communities are popping up on some of the most prestigious campuses in the USA, including Stanford, Notre Dame, the University of Florida, Penn State and UC Davis. These communities, which are not only for members of the convocation, offer residents the opportunity to immerse themselves in lifelong learning by taking short (or longer) courses on campus, and the estates offer regular lectures and workshops run by visiting or local academics. And, of course, we all know how rejuvenating campus life can be.
- Possibly at the other end of the spectrum, Lake Weir Living in Florida caters for retirees who don’t want to be bound by rules – people who want to fix motorcycles on their front porches, keep five big dogs, build a six-car garage to store their three boats, or perhaps even play paintball on the front lawn. It’s about freedom from rules – no HOA, no hassle, no hard feelings. Not sure that would work here, but it’s an intriguing idea. With 300 homes on about 200 hectares, there’s plenty of room to let your hair down.
- Many LGBTI people who live quite happily and openly for years are faced with entrenched homophobia on moving to a retirement facility. So there is a huge demand for the facilities provided by Oakmont Senior Living, which caters specifically for LGBTI retirees.
- But then, of course, many people fantasise about spending their retirement in a huge and luxurious RV or caravan exploring our beautiful country. But what happens when the wheels fall off? Not those of the RV – those of the drivers and occupants. Well, in the USA, where RV-ing at retirement is a big thing, that’s all taken care of. Escapees CARE Center is a non-profit community that offers CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees) who have reached the end of the open road through illness, injury or infirmity. Or perhaps just need a period of rehab after surgery or illness. It’s not a ‘home’. They offer a place to park your RV in a secure environment with access to a range of medical and non-medical care options, like meals, nursing, etc.
- The possibilities are endless. How about a community of grey-haired trail runners or hikers, online gaming retirees, birders, anglers, archers or bagpipe players? (The latter may not work except way out in the veld.)
Retirement is not a time for huddling down, giving up and looking in. It’s a time to explore new ideas, and to live those dreams that you may have put off in the interests of raising a family, making a living and doing what was expected of you. Perhaps, now, it’s time to do what is not expected. Live adventurously.