I recently saw a story on PBS about Sailor’s Snug Harbor, one of the original retirement homes set up in 1833 by Robert Richard Randall to take care of “aged, decrepit, and worn-out” seamen. They had activities and good meals and called each other “Captain.”
I thought of this as today women who don’t have children or much family are wondering what they are going to do when they are aged and worn-out, if not decrepit. Could they find a safe haven and walk around calling each other “Tennille?” (If you don’t get the joke, you are probably not thinking about retirement.)
Muskrat love aside, I have heard many conversations from women who wouldn’t be caught dead in a nursing home (pun not unintended) but instead imagine creating a commune of aging female friends. Think “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” but with tummy control.
What would this senior ladies’ utopia look like?
It would be kind of like an inn, with a central gathering place for meals or martinis, and individual cabins for privacy and I-need-to-be-alone time. Of course, it should be in a place of natural beauty but not too far from a civilized pedicure. All of the pillowcases must be made of silk.
The food will be healthy but with a constant supply of coconut cupcakes because who wants celery juice to be your last meal?
Relatives can only visit, but senior dogs can stay. There must not be anything stronger than a 45-watt bulb in any light fixture, except for reading, and flattering candlelight is always acceptable with proper smoke detectors installed.
Selfies will be prohibited. There can be great camaraderie but what if a member has a senior “Mean Girls” moment? Should we set up something like “Survivor” and vote someone off the commune? You went through that sh** in high school, you shouldn’t have to deal with it when your bladder control is questionable. If hair is going to be blue, it should be neon to match your pool noodle.
Tarot card readers can come who do not predict the future but instead explain the past. Bedtime stories can be piped in which never include Prince Charming, read with a British accent. There should be a Rules Committee and a Breaking the Rules Committee. The property will have an anger management room where everyone brings their underused crystal to satisfyingly smash it on a cement floor.
There should never, ever, be Bingo. Cards Against Humanity, however, is fine. Baby goats will visit every other Tuesday. All walking assistance must be stylish, whether it is a leopard print cane or Eames walker. Each full moon, a ritual will honor all the aspects of the female — maiden, mother, and crone, with an emphasis that crones have gotten a bad rap.
There will be copious amounts of non-addictive drugs to manage pain. Each day will begin with a perfect cup of coffee and a Mary Oliver poem delivered to your door step. Non-denominational sunrise and sunset services will be offered every day.
Wednesdays will be Songs That Make You Cry night to allow women to grieve losses real or perceived. Requests will be taken by the DJ.
The commune must have a large garden for kitchen herbs, healing plants, and scented flowers, so when you raise a bouquet to your nose, you are not disappointed for the first time in decades. Since residents may be concerned about sunbathing, both for skin care and bikini shock horror, lounge chairs should be set out for moon bathing.
If a member is being harassed in any way from the outside world, a field trip will be organized to take the whole group, senior dogs, and baby goats (if it is a Tuesday) included, to the offender’s place of work to make clear that old ladies cannot be pushed around. They have each other’s slightly hunched backs.
Two tricky questions: driving and men. Maybe allow the first only during the day, the second only at night.
And when you simply have had enough, there will be a special room where angels do not fear to tread. Like the sailors, you know that being land-locked can be stifling when you are ready to return to the cosmic sea.