Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yes, I Am Ready For Full-Service Living

I was driving past a big not-quite-completed building in Boston’s très chic South End last year when a sign on the construction fence caught my attention. It said “Are You Ready For Full-Service Living?” If so, you were supposed to check out the developer’s web site or “call now for details.” I reflected for a moment and thought, well, hmm, yes actually, now that you mention it, I am in fact ready for Full-Service Living. The ad turned out to be for a very fancy residential development. Full-Service Living for yuppies, apparently, at what was a substantially higher price point than my current means (or future prospects, in all likelihood) could support. So Full-Service Living in the South End wasn’t going to work out. But the seed had been planted. I had to figure out a way. Then, an obvious solution: maybe I could move into an old age home. Geriatric facilities are all about Full-Service Living. I’d just need to figure out how, as a 35 year-old, I could make that work.

First, a few clarifications in my defense. Just because I want to move into an old folks home at the age of 35 doesn’t mean I am lazy or lacking in ambition. I just feel that the pace of things at a convalescent facility very closely mirrors the simpler, slower-paced kind of existence I’ve been striving for. Kind of a Zen thing. Life in a modern city is too fast and materialistic. Too often, we multi-task away the ability to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, like a slow walk in a park, or soup. Old people don’t generally have much of a choice but to slow down. Slow is the default pace when a broken hip is lurking around every corner. So, while you can always try to find moments of tranquility in the zip zap hubbub of the electronic world, it seems like it would be a lot easier when everyone surrounding you was shuffling around at a few thousand RPMs slower.

I envision a typical day of Full-Service Living as looking something like this: wake up with the sunrise, stand on balcony looking at birds, be served oatmeal, attend guided, in-chair stretching class, nap, be served soup, bus trip to a park, nap, read newspaper, be served more soup, crossword puzzle, go to sleep at sunset. All much more in tune with humankind’s natural rhythm. And I think most retirement homes offer maid services and on-site dry-cleaning too. Some may even have turn-down service, but I could do without that.

Also, mind you, I’m not talking about being a freeloader here. I know that the typical convalescent home resident doesn’t move in until after having toiled away in the working world for half a century or so, and probably has some sense of having earned the right to be pushed around in a wheelchair by a young nurse and to have another person cut his food. As consideration for what some may view as my “unconventional” status as a geriatric resident, I would be willing to take on more responsibilities than those of the typical resident. Perhaps I could lead the stretching class, or maybe drive the bus to the park. I suppose I could even import some of the skills from my prior life and spend a few hours per week offering pro bono estate planning services or, if anyone were interested, giving funk bass lessons.

I would hope that other residents would be accepting of me, but I would understand if there were some degree of resentment, some feeling that I was a “lazy degenerate” or some kind of “sociopath who couldn’t fit in with the rest of normal society.” Maybe the gents would resent my catching the attention of some of the choicest elderly ladies. I know that every group has its own particular pecking order and turf wars. If necessary, I could embellish my age a bit. Tell people that I was 89 years old. Have good skin because I always wore sunscreen and because people from my country (some made up place that sounded familiar enough that nobody would call me on it, maybe Tribecastan or something) tend to age exceptionally well. I could probably play the part well enough too. I do genuinely hate winter more every year and have started to notice that kids today are just not as respectful as they used to be. And, though I certainly hope it would never come to this, if some resident just had to be all up in my business and couldn’t step off, chances are I could probably take him.

I recognize that I may not have reached the age yet where falling asleep at the table or being a pervert are excused as cute, but I still feel that I could transition nicely into the geriatric realm, a more economical means of Full-Service Living. Being young is just a state of mind. I am old and crotchety beyond my years, and that’s what counts.

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