My sister Annetta is now happily settled into a retirement community in Florida. She lost her husband, Stan, who was a great brother-in law and, even greater husband, many months ago.
She is still grieving but prefers her new home, a two-bedroom apartment, over a large and empty house, and tells me she is keeping busy practicing yoga, taking exercise classes in the pool, attending discussion groups, and socializing at the cocktail parties and at dinnertime. And in-between there is live music in the lobby, where the residents can hear the songs they loved. I would love to hear songs that don’t repeat the same words over and over, songs that tell stories by singers (like Sinatra) who can pronounce the words so I can understand them. That is the beauty of a retirement community. You can have all of these things without having to get into your car, on the bus or walk a lot.
Over the years a number of people have talked about building retirement communities in Costa Rica. In many ways, it is an ideal place to do so, thanks to the weather, the good and fresh food available and the cultural activities always happening at reasonable prices, not to mention the Costa Ricans, who seem to have a caring gene as part of their makeup. When I first moved here, it would have been ideal because Costa Rica offered special prices and privileges to expat pensionados. Not so, any more.
Some years ago I visited some possible beginnings. They were, to my mind, either too far from the city, isolated, or in altitudes that would tend to be cool, even rainy, rather than temperate or warm. Most of these enterprises have not gone anywhere or when and if they are finished, will be only for the high income retirees.
If I could get on a ship that would take me to Ft. Lauderdale, I would visit my sister. We have long had a mutual admiration society going between us. When we were young, I thought she was as beautiful and charismatic as a movie star. She now tells me that she thought I was very smart. We both kept our opinions secret because I was sure she only thought of me as a nuisance. I am younger by only one year and 12 days, so I could well imagine that I was a nuisance both to her, and to my mother.
We are not the only members of our family. There were four of us: our baby sister Donetta, whom we would tease as looking like the milkman. (We were jealous because we thought she was spoiled), and our big brother Angelo, who later changed his name to Michael and had a successful beauty school and was an inventor. He was inventing things even as a kid, and working with electricity so that I thought he was an incarnation of Thomas Edison via Mickey Rooney. The four of us were taken care of by our widowed mother, who owned a beauty shop. If we were poor, we didn’t know it. We had what we needed.
We all were very different, although I felt I was a late arriving twin to my brother who was five years and one day older than I. Donnetta married young and had four children. (I have to laugh today when a young newly divorced woman explains that she married when she was very young – just 21.) Fifty years ago marrying young meant eloping when you were in your teens.
All of us, except our mother, whose other relatives lived there, left Western New York State. All of my siblings settled in Florida. Once I left Jamestown, I just kept going. I am not quite sure why. Maybe I was looking for a place like Costa Rica.
I see in yesterday’s A.M. Costa Rica that President Laura Chinchilla has suggested to the representatives of other “middle income’ countries who are meeting here, that they consider new models to measure their advances as countries. It is time to look at success and the well being of their people by something other than income and the bottom line.
The other day an economist said that more money brings more happiness only when it moves a family out of poverty into a state of having enough. President Chinchilla went on to mention other things like available health, care, the environment, education, a mindset committed to peace, and not fearing the possibility of war.
Ah, yes, a retirement community in Costa Rica could offer those intangibles plus a lot of music.