Nothing rocks the equilibrium of a tranquil marriage like discussion of where to retire. After agreeing for decades on ways to manage careers, taxes, teenagers, illnesses and in-laws, partners discover that when it comes to deciding where they want to spend their retirement, they may be pulling in opposite directions.
In principle, the idea of moving to retirement communities is solid. No longer created in the “God’s waiting room” mold, such places are full of healthy, athletic adults engaged in stimulating events, such as theatre parties, dinners at plush restaurants, trips to museums, college-credit classes, tennis and aerobics, and work-outs with private trainers.
In reality, couples who visit an active adult community for the first time are not always bubbling with enthusiasm. Not are they in agreement about its benefits. “I can usually tell when the wife or husband doesn’t really want to be here,” says Cindy, who manages the Welcome Center at a Maryland active adult community. “The spouse is thinking, ‘if I can just get him out to the place he’ll see how terrific it is, and he’ll love it.’ You actually can win them over, but it could take a while.”
Sometimes the wife is the hold-back. She can’t bear to leave the home in which her children grew from babies to teens. She loves working in her garden. She’s used to the kitchen, remodeled according to her own design. She’d miss her neighbors, her work at the local library. She’s sure the dog can’t adjust to a new home.
Her husband, on the other hand, is tired of cutting the grass, cleaning the gutters, shoveling snow, caulking the bathtub, and paying outsized utility bills. A veteran of years as a company man on the road, he feels that anywhere he hangs his hat is home. He thinks the dog will feel the same.
Less often, the wife is first to be ready for a move. One resident of the Shenandoah Active Adult Community in Virginia says of her husband’s initial reluctance, “He read the newspaper in front of the same fireplace for 30 years, and he couldn’t imagine changing that. But now he’s asking, ‘Why did we wait so long?’ ”
Some 50-plus adults subscribe to the old maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But others want to prepare now for a time when they may be overtaken by infirmity or physical stress. Psychologists acknowledge the difficulty most people have moving away from what has worked well for so many years. It’s natural to wonder if a change of residence is the right move. But for those couples who share a warm and rewarding companionship, the right retirement community cannot fail to be a pleasant new chapter in their story.