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A day in the life of a retiree

Teenagers stay up till all hours of the night and then sleep till noon. Older people go to bed at 10 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m., ready for breakfast, which starts at 6:45. (Yes, there is a real difference in our internal clocks.) It’s pancakes, waffles, French toast, eggs benedict, and Sunday, a large brunch buffet.

Then it’s time for yoga or tai chi or pool exercises - after that it’s either music or art appreciation or current events (where there are lots of arguments), and then lunch - always three entrees with barbeque always available. One can sit by oneself or join friends either in the dining room or on the patio, overlooking the ocean, weather permitting.

Then it’s time for a short nap before another set of exercises - Pilates or cardio/strength - or a Spanish- speaking group with an instructor, a lecture, a book review, committee meetings. (It is resident-run and our voices are heard.) Then cocktails at someone’s apartment, dinner with friends.

Conversations are about politics and recently read books - these are passed around and discussed. Yes, aches and pains with suggestions of tried remedies are part of a senior’s repertoire, as well as the latest amazing grandchildren’s doings. We know each other’s stories and care when the stories don’t end well. No one ever needs to eat alone. Recently widowed residents are constantly surrounded by concerned friends. We stop eating to watch the whales spouting in the distance, a dolphin swimming by or the green flash in the setting sun.

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After dinner the bus takes residents to the opera, the Old Globe, the symphony, chamber music and most of the regional theaters - no parking problems, no driving at night. Or perhaps there is a concert on the premises, a lecture, a movie on the big screen. Other days, there are excursions: an L.A. museum, flower fields, hikes, shopping malls and local events. There are always a lot of choices. Instead of all these activities, one can also stay home quietly, read, lie in the sun by the pool, walk on the beach, walk a few blocks to the local market or drug store or take the free limousine that does the rounds of La Jolla.

Recent studies have shown that people who live in retirement communities are healthier and live seven and a half years longer than single people isolated in their homes. For those who say they are not ready to move to a retirement community, even though their accumulated years would belie this, by the time they feel ready, it is often too late. One should make that move while still healthy enough and with enough energy for that difficult transition of downsizing and packing one’s belongings to start a new life.

Everyone who lives here is thrilled by the proximity of the ocean, the town, the availability of good healthcare, transportation, and mostly the family atmosphere - people are not only friendly, they are fun. Sixty-five percent have advanced degrees, some still play tennis and golf, many swim everyday in the 86-foot pool. Cheerful greetings and laughter resonate throughout - this is a happy, busy community.

There are five tiers here: independent living, non-ambulatory-independent, assisted living, skilled nursing and a 10-bed dementia unit. There are 220 residents, helped by a large staff of committed caregivers.

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We came in two years ago and we have not missed our five-bedroom house for a minute. I have not missed having to prepare meals, nor worrying about the upkeep of a house. I can devote my self to whatever interests me without any obligations or guilt that I’m not getting something done. This is true freedom.

On June 22 from 1 to 4 p.m. come visit us, we’re having a party to inaugurate our newest construction for assisted living. Come see our gym with the latest equipment, our therapy pool, the country kitchen, and the spacious resident apartments. And then start preparing for your own old age: will you stay in your home? Who will take care of you if you cannot manage alone anymore? Might you become a burden to your children? There are many questions, but there are also many answers. The White Sands of La Jolla is one of the answers.