The room was surprisingly full for a Tuesday afternoon. People I deemed as â€œregularsâ€ complained about the lack of parking on this sunny September Day.Â The occasion? An informational meeting to entice those aged fifty and beyond to consider what comes next in life. Do they want to keep working in some capacity after retirement? What do they value? What do they need? What talents do they possess?
An elderly woman sat a few seats over from me. The speaker paced nearby, nervous the parking situation would have attendees trickling in after the advertised start time.
â€œWill there be coffee?â€ said the elderly woman. â€œI like to come to Tuesday lectures for the coffee.â€
The speaker, somewhat flustered by the question said, â€œItâ€™s only a ninety-minute lecture. We didnâ€™t even consider refreshments.â€
With a disdainful sniff the elderly woman said, â€œI suppose you wonâ€™t be taking a break either?â€
Glancing towards the back of the room as though some imaginary reinforcements might arrive, the speaker shifted a few inches away.Â â€œNo, no break either.â€
Although the room had many seats yet to fill, the speaker welcomed those who had managed to arrive on time. It took a few trial runs at saying, â€œWelcome! Iâ€™m glad you are here!â€ before the guests quieted. Plunging into the meeting with a tenacity that implied she was maintaining control, the speaker attempted to claim her place of authority. Â However, as the details of the program unfolded it became harder for the speaker to stay on top of the mummers, giggles, and general din. I ducked my head to hide my smile.Â The fifty-plus crowd are an unruly bunch.
At one point a guest volunteered that she had retired two years ago and was struggling to keep her world from shrinking faster than wool in hot water. â€œSome days my biggest decision is what snack Iâ€™m going to have before lunch.â€
Many in the group nodded knowingly. The speaker asked, â€œHow many in this room are worried about isolation in the future?â€ Hands shot up and forested the room.Â With a hint of judgment in the tone of her voice she said, â€œThose of you who didnâ€™t raise their hand must feel incredibly lucky.â€Â She glanced at me.Â I wasnâ€™t exactly sitting on my hands, but I sure as heck didnâ€™t raise them.Â I wasnâ€™t in the mood to defend myself and let her gaze drift away.
Maybe I am lucky. I see the future as a buffet of opportunities, learning experiences, and happy adventures.Â Being alone does not bother me, although I treasure sharing big, small, and mundane moments with my husband.Â Perhaps extraverts see isolation as hell on earth, but I donâ€™t.
As the meeting adjourned I happened to walk past the elderly woman as she got into her car. It was difficult not to make a joke about her obvious caffeine withdrawal. She glanced at me with hawkish eyes.
â€œWell, what did you think?â€ she said, almost as more of an accusation than a question.
â€œInteresting, but I need to think about it,â€ I said.
â€œWell not me. The class theyâ€™re pushing is nothing Iâ€™d be interested in.â€
I paused mid-step.Â â€œAt least you were able to take in the session and hear how others feel,â€ I ventured.
She puckered her face. â€œItâ€™s not for me.â€
I watched her back out of her parking space and drive away.
To what, I wondered? But she was already gone.