GRAYING NEW YORK
BY MARCIA EPSTEIN
My partner John and I traveled last week to my hometown of Croton-on-Hudson to meet up with some high school classmates I haven’t seen in many years. In fact, the last time was at a class reunion 30 years ago and before that ... well ... high school graduation. Even though Croton is only an hour or so from Manhattan, it might as well be the Alps, because I don’t have any reason to go there. The one time we took a drive to see “my” house, I was so freaked out I promised myself never to do it again. And in fact, this time we didn’t. I had felt sad at all the changes, all the new houses on the block, even new numbering of the houses. The new playgrounds, trees, shrubbery ... I even got lost trying to find my house. It got to me emotionally; I want my memories intact. I want the streets empty and us kids playing ball well into the evening. Maybe I just want to go back in time to when things were simpler and I was young, but this time I did not go near my childhood home.
Six of us met in a diner; three of us were high school classmates and three were our partners. Who did I see? I saw my high school buddies but in a different form. And yet not different. Of course we talked about old times and old friends and it was a very pleasant lunch. But as with visiting my house, it was also a bit disorienting. We are still Marcia, Erica and Joel. But we are the senior versions of Marcia, Erica and Joel. We are still us, but the us who have lived the greatest portion of our lives and now have the time to kick back and sit in a diner for two hours reminiscing. Wonderful, fun, nostalgic, scary. All the time that has passed! Is it possible? And passed in a snap. A quick snap of the fingers. It was fun, and we all looked great. Maybe another time I’ll even have the courage to go and look at my childhood home.
Back in the city, our wonderful neighborhood NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community), Bloomingdale Aging in Place (BAiP), was honored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on October 30th. She dubbed it “BAiP Appreciation Day.” As I’ve written before, more neighborhoods should form NORCs as wonderful as BAiP. The heart of BAiP is its corps of volunteers who build up and aid its community, particularly supporting older adults. In addition to helping seniors who may need help going to doctors’ appointments, shopping and dealing with errands, BAiP has many activities, too many for me to list. I’ve mentioned my own ping pong group. My partner, John, walks with an early morning group, and sometimes with another, faster group at 10:00 a.m. There are book, cooking, movie and wellness groups. And BAiP runs a Resource Exchange with recommendations for everything from handymen to hairdressers. So thanks go to Gale Brewer for recognizing BAiP, and the importance of neighborhood associations that help keep the older population at home, active and connected. If you live between 96th and 110th Street on the Upper West Side, just Google BAiP or Bloomingdale Aging in Place for more information
For those who like to travel, the Freebird Club is a new short-term rental service solely for seniors. It was launched this past September as an international travel club for those 50 and older. Peter Mangan, the founder of The Freebird Club, did some research among friends, neighbors and focus groups. He found that many senior citizens are healthy and still want to travel. So he founded an online peer-to-peer network, a kind of AirBnB that lets elders host travelers and travelers stay at homes in other countries. Mangan sees this as a way to mobilize older people to travel and meet new people. Eventually he may add group trips. There is a lot of vetting of those wanting to share apartments while traveling and those wanting to invite travelers into their homes. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.