When Lisa Patzen and her husband, Kirk, decided to leave Scottsdale, Arizona after 18 years because the kids had grown up and left, they moved to the place where they often vacationed and loved: Pacific Beach.
Though the couple said they were completely satisfied with their choice and enjoying their wonderful new neighborhood, Lisa felt there was one thing missing in their lives.
So, in June 2018, almost a year after they relocated, she posted a simple question on nextdoor.com to see whether she could fill in that one small void: "Does anybody know a good place to go for people over 40?"
"I mean, PB — Garnet Avenue especially — is very like, college students," Lisa told PB Monthly. "And you know, we're past that."
The responses came in immediately and then just kept coming. What struck Lisa, she said, was not the amount of recommendations she was receiving, but the amount of support she was generating — in the hundreds.
"The interesting thing was … the thread kept going," she explained. "For about four or five days, people were adding (suggestions), but most people were saying, 'If you find out, let me know.' "
According to Lisa, about a dozen of the respondents rendezvoused at Beaumont's Eatery a little later and enjoyed themselves so thoroughly that the small group agreed to meet on a regular basis.
And thus, the PB40 club was born
From nextdoor.com the club migrated to Google Groups and then launched a Facebook page in August, where they've been ever since.
Yet it isn't just the conception that's noteworthy, but how quickly the baby has grown in just six months, with 309 members at the end of January, boasted Kerri Reynolds, one of the group's four admin (administrators).
"It's just been word of mouth," said Reynolds, who joined in August. "I've gotten so many people to join that way; from talking to them … There's a lot of people who tell people that they work with to join. It's all member-driven."
Most of the membership derives from local adults, age 40 and older, who are new to PB and find it difficult to meet peers, Reynolds said. However, it isn't just newcomers who are attracted to the group.
Cindy Heffington has lived in PB for 30 years and says the group's qualities are rare — and appealing — regardless of how many people one knows in the community.
"Everyone just seems so nice and welcoming and genuine," she said. "They don't seem fake. They really want to be your friend. That's extremely hard to find."
If it's difficult to make new friends when one is older, it's because it's difficult to fake it. For Andrea Murphy, joining PB40 in December and relishing it ever since was as easy as being herself.
"I've not come across anybody in this group who's trying to prove I've-done-more-than-you or any of that," Murphy said. "The crap you go through when you're younger … I don't feel I have to impress. I don't feel I have to sell myself. Because these are friends — friends who accept me for who I am, not because of what I do or how I look or anything else."
Sandy Rose calls that "freedom." She says the group's other qualities of camaraderie, authenticity and friendship, are such are timeworn values being established in a most modern manner: online. And in that way, something else is being built that is as old as PB itself, yet absolutely essential to a vibrant and better future.
"Out of those [acquaintances], you're going to develop a deeper friendship," Rose explained. "So, it could be, like, I need a favor. Or, I'm sick. Or, you're sick, so can I bring you soup? It's just a catalyst for that launch (into greater outcomes) …And (these friends) are a few blocks away from me. How else would I have found them without this club? Unless I what? Meet them in church or in the grocery store? This fast tracks that … it's a new way of building community."
With "PB" in its name, community is central to the group's identity and its mission. As an online social club, Reynolds said the group's activities are generated by the members themselves — from the new book club to its regular Taco Tuesdays' gatherings.
However, the group targets local venues for their outings and actively promotes local events like the PB Farmers Market and BeachFest, as well as those hosted by other organizations such as the PB Women's Club and the PB Town Council.
"I like the sense of community," said Mia Jones, one of the original dozen to meet at Beaumont's. "It makes you more invested in your community — to participate on the PB Town Council, to do more things to help your neighbors. There's this sense of investment along with having great friendships. I feel like some of these people I will know probably until my time's done."
Though encouraging the development of more involvement with the outer community, PB40 also fosters the development of the inner self of the individual member. While catering to anything from well-planned trips to spontaneous whims, admin Marvin Robbins believes the group offers members an opportunity to resurrect the kinds of longings abandoned in older age because one can share them with like-minded peers.
"Adventurous would be a good commonality of all the people here," Robbins said when asked to describe a mutual trait of the group. "Because if somebody said, 'Let's go skydiving,' I think some people would go 'OK. They're my age. Let's go try it.' Instead of 'No, no, they're all 20 year olds. We're not going to go because the 20 year olds are crazy!' "
Unlike most clubs, PB40 has no fees, no mandatory attendance or meetings, or any other conditions. Members are free to participate or not, and there is no formal organizational hierarchy other than the four admins who volunteer up to two hours daily, Reynolds said, to monitor and moderate the Facebook page and help with organizing events, usually led by the member who originates the idea.
Although the club doesn't screen anyone that joins, it doesn't hesitate to slam the door on anyone who doesn't abide by the simple rules of etiquette, courtesy and respect that are posted on the Facebook page.
"If they write stuff that's negative or if they reach out to other members and it's inappropriate, (they're out)," said Reynolds. "There are people we've kicked out of the group, but honestly, we don't get very much of that. Everyone at our events has a good idea of what we're doing."
Aside from common decency, PB40 makes no other requirement of its members and opens its arms to people of any background. The loose structure allows members to find their own niche and make their own contribution, and the result is that even as a person gets older, there is still time to grow and develop, according to admin Dennie Whiteside.
"Whether a bagger at Trader Joe's or a CEO, I have no idea what these people do for a living," Whiteside said. "All I know is that they're genuinely nice people who I want to spend my time with. You want to surround yourself with people who make you a better person, and this group does that."
As for Lisa, she's thrilled and surprised by the growth inspired by her tiny little inquiry. While she's proud of the achievement that's helped to improve the lives of people in PB, the results have yet to satisfy her initial impetus.
"My goal was just to find a place where we can go and meet up, kind of like Cheers (the TV sitcom from the 1980s)," she said. "Like on a Friday night, everybody meets up at the same place and everybody knows your name. That's what my goal was. We're still looking for our Cheers. We never found one."
• WANT TO KNOW MORE? To join or pose questions, call up the PB40 page on Facebook.com