Last week, I attended a small election night party (which ended up being a commiseration, unfortunately). This small event was held at the home of one of my knitting/book club/luncheon friends, and her husband. Aside from myself, there were two other folks, male and female, both unattached. Previously I attended my church dinner group, at the home of a couple who are friends. Attendees included a single man, another single woman, another married couple and a gay married couple. Equally importantly, the age of those in attendance ranged from late twenties and thirties all the way to "working on seventy".
While I did not think that either of these events were particularly remarkable, another friend noted that I seemed to have avoided the "Golden Girl" phenomena (single women socializing and living together), and that my social live was extremely diverse, especially when it came to age differentials.
This was just one woman's perspective, and I don't believe in generalizations. That said, I do think there are groups of retirees (and people in general) who try to surround them with people like them, especially when it comes to age, ethnicity, and marital status. Married people want to socialize with married people, single with singles, retirees with retirees. While I understand the temptation, and the attraction of being in the comfort zone, for me, this one has never worked.
Recently, I've had the opportunity to read some new (and one older) books on retirement and retirement lifestyles. I intend a post soon on my thinking on those books. However, one author suggests that the happiest retirees are those who search out younger friends as they lose older friends, as well as regularly reaching outside their comfort zone in terms of income, ethnicity and life style.
While I don't necessarily search that out, I've put myself in a position to have that happen (admittedly sometimes this is simply happenstance). As many readers know, my lifelong learning has been through regular college classes instead of taking free or almost free senior courses. In my college classes I'm often the eldest person in the room by far, and I like it that way. The challenge of learning with people of all ages is unique and I am constantly surprised what I can learn from a twenty year old college student. College classes are often messy, noisy, and difficult-and that's great. To cite another example, searching for a church is always difficult in a new community. Because I choose to be involved in a church with many outreach and political activities, the nature of the church is that almost every activity is extremely generational. I've discussed the feeding of the homeless women here, and the group that I work with range from a twenty something nurse to myself.
While the above paragraph has mainly to do with age, the same thing is true in my life when it comes to marital status and socialization. I expect this has much to do with the fact that much of my socialization is done around the things I am passionate about and the hobbies I enjoy. My social life tends to center around my church (which is extremely generational), my family, neighbors, and volunteer and recreational activities. In all the cases, events, parties and dinners and the like tend to be a mix of heterosexual spouses, gay spouses and singles of all ages and persuasions.
This is certainly not to say that I don't do that "Golden Girl" thing on occasion. My Wednesday knitting and happy hour group consists entirely of retired boomers whose spouses and friends know they'll come home six hours later just a little tipsy. For years in my previous church in Dallas, single women of a certain age went out to breakfast after the last service-it was a regular event.
I've just learned that for me, I feel better and more challenged when I am surrounded by all ages of people, from all backgrounds on a regular basis. This means the house across the street where a bunch of college kids live, the empty nest working neighbors, and the twenty something couple with kids. It means the noisy college students (yes, one has even come to school in pj bottoms), a two year old on occasion at my church dinner group, and yes, the dinner belles, a once a month single woman's night out.
All and all, it works for me.