By Lenore Skomal
Back in April, my husband stood in the middle of his company’s lunchroom and addressed the packed room of his staff and colleagues. He launched his heartfelt final thanks and goodbye over a spread of white cake and coffee. The next day, we drove away from the state we’d called home for 12 years — and landed in New York City to enjoy the best years of life together.
If you’ve read the glut of doom and gloom news stories lately, indicating retirees are in mass exodus out of this city and state, we are the exception to the trend. According to the experts from AARP, Money Magazine, Forbes and Crain’s, armed with their studies and analyses, we’re an anomaly, because the evidence points to what they steadfastly conclude is the immutable truth: Retired New Yorkers can’t get out of here fast enough. And it’s an epidemic.
Beware experts bearing statistics. As a rule, I don’t trust studies because they’re only as reliable as their random sampling and their questions. And to my way of thinking, when it comes to positing that retirees are scrambling to get the heck out of Dodge, unless the sample is a massive cross-section of all retirees—weighted for socio-economic, cultural, ethnic, religious and even health factors and differences—I say it’s not a true picture.
I trust experts even less. What exactly is an expert, anyway? Like the word “genius,” “expert” has become so commonplace, it’s lost its true, rarefied meaning.
Listen, I’m not saying that retirees aren’t leaving the area. Of course they are. And I say, let ‘em leave. Go wherever it makes them happy.
But where’s that? Here’s where the collection of experts break ranks and the argument comes apart like a homemade sweater made from loose yarn. They can’t agree. Studies, it appears, are conflicted. Some experts point to Florida, the Carolinas and Arizona, which makes sense—they’re warm places. Others say Portland (Maine) and Pittsburgh. I say, I’m not convinced there’s a Promised Land drawing away hundreds of thousands.
Migrating retirees is neither specific to New York nor epidemic. They move away for the same reasons folks all over the world pick up and leave when they hang up their working spurs. They’re tired of living where they’ve lived; they want to be closer to family; they hate the cold; they want to downsize and lighten their financial loads.
It’s a no-brainer that better climate, lower taxes and state of the art medical facilities attract old people. But who says retirees are old? My husband is 67 and in the best health of his life thanks to a spanking new pair of knees and a colossal change in his quality of life, called stress-free because he doesn’t work. Heck, if you’re a study junkie, I can even point to several that prove 60 is the new 40. Retirees are young enough to more than just obsesses about the best early bird special. The majority are active, contributing and engaged in their communities and need intellectual stimulation. And they have the time to enjoy it.
Which is why we, crazy radicals that we are, sold our house, cars and material assets and traded up to live here. Each day provides uncountable experiences and options, from hitting the new exhibit at the Met, to taking the train to Coney Island to roaming the lesser-known streets of neighboring boroughs.
Our former small city had virtually no culture, no public transportation, mediocre health care, the most brutal winters in the continental U.S. and a growing, aging population thanks to a major influx of retirees. Yes, that’s right. The experts there call it an epidemic. And there are studies to prove it.
Lenore Skomal is the award-winning author of 17 books. She can be reached at www.lenoreskomal.net