A friend turns 50 tomorrow. I met her along with several other people for dinner last night: five women, one man. The group ranged from late 40s to early 50s in age. All but one is single. Three of the women (including me) have never been married. Two in the group are divorced; one (the male), recently. The sole married woman was married for the first time two years ago at 52. No one in the group has children. All but one (the married woman) has at least one cat. We spent a lot of time last night talking about our cats. Sharing photos. Even the male among us.
The birthday girl recently had a double mastectomy. Many friends, along with a breast cancer survivors group, pitched in to help during her recovery. She has much support. But what happens when we’re all 70 or 80 or 90? Who will care for the singles, then? Some of us may have nieces and nephews who will help. But we cannot rely on that. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to put that burden on them. And the burden with me could be fairly substantial. Because my father had Alzheimer’s, the odds seem to be greater that I will, too.
So much is percolating right now. With the deaths of my brother and father last year, along with turning 50, I find myself thinking about my future. Retirement. Being alone for the next 20, 30, or 40 years. Yes, I might meet someone to share a life with. Someone who will provide emotional support, and perhaps more security financially. But I can’t count on that. I should have thought more seriously about all this long before now. But it’s so easy to ignore when you feel 30. And when you’ve never been faced with mortality. Until last year, everyone lived forever.
I’m feeling panicky. Earlier this week, I began the process of refinancing my condo. I’ve finally decided I don’t need a house. I’m staying put. A house is a bigger burden financially, and maintenance-wise. I can live here in this condo as long as I’m able to take care of myself. Or longer, with a caregiver. With refinancing, I’ll have paid off my mortgage in 15 years when I’m 65, instead of in 30 when I’m 80. All for only $20 more a month. Yes, the rates have dropped significantly since I bought it in 2004. After I met with the mortgage guy, I made an appointment with a new financial advisor. During the preliminary meeting, he shared photos of his cat on his iPhone. So I pulled out my iPad and showed him mine.
Cats are the new children.
I’m certain with all the baby boomers out there, my group of friends are not the only ones contemplating our futures. We’re hitting our retirement years en masse. Most of us do not have long-term disability insurance. It is not included in Medicare. Many of us will have Alzheimer’s. Our current healthcare system is not set up to care for us. I found that out with my father. How will we manage?
I will be 65 in 15 years.
The discussion about aging last night led to brainstorming about solutions. The solution we settled on (in theory) is to buy a small condo complex (mine would be ideal), and each of us would have our own unit. One of the units would be housing for our caregivers. Sort of like the Golden Girls, only we don’t share a house. The condo complex must have a pool. And a pool boy. So rather than the Golden Girls, it’s Melrose Place. Or better yet, Sunset Place. Drama aside, this sounds ideal. In theory.