Episode 741 Getting around
This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.
I’ve entitled this podcast “Getting Around”.
Irene was a Berkley woman in the sixties. She wore tie dye and lived in a group house. She moved to Bellingham, Washington about 30 years ago. She is retired. I got to know her because she was a biker. She had a nice blue bicycle with a little pinwheel on a stick taped to her front basket. She had a few colorful plastic flowers woven into the basket. Her helmet was white with flowers painted on it and she always wore a yellow jacket. You could see her coming and going. The bike was how she got around.
The bike is how we(my wife and I) get around. We have a car, but it rarely moves. Usually only when we go out of town or go somewhere after dark. We like to bike. The bank, the post office, the grocery store, the pharmacy, the book store, coffee shops, etc. are all within biking distance. Our car is old but it sits in the garage just as well as a brand new one.
We met Irene while on our bikes. She doesn’t bike any more. I think she is eighty years old now – if not eighty, she is close. Irene is fairly heavy. She has had leg problems; can’t walk well at all. Now she can be found cruising down the street in her wheelchair. She has some plastic flowers attached. Her solution to getting around is to choose her housing carefully. She lives in a very cohesive neighborhood; grocery store and pharmacy just across the street. There are more than twenty restaurants within five blocks. A great books store, shoe store, and multiple art galleries are within a few blocks. Three doctors have offices within two blocks. Irene has chosen well. She recently traded in her bike on a three wheeled bicycle.
Retired and having problems getting around? We might all take a lesson from Irene; choose our residence carefully. Of course, money could play a part in our decision as to where to set up housekeeping. But, Irene is not rich. She lives in a low-income housing unit. Perhaps she is lucky to live there, then again, perhaps she was smart in finding the place and securing residency. It makes a difference in her life on a daily basis. Sometimes she has to take a bus and when she does the bus stop is right at her door.
I remember Dick Smith stopped by to record a program for this show a few years ago. He was a happy guy – he had just renewed his driver’s license. It would take him to age 87. He loved to drive. He also biked a few miles each day to get his morning paper, but he was a driver. He loved to get in his pickup camper and head out on a road trip. Renewing your drivers license is something one worries about as one gets older. I’m sure there are lots of relatively new Buicks sitting in garages where the owners have not been able to get their driver's license renewed. The doctor won’t allow it, the eye sight won’t allow it, or the kids won’t allow it. Accidents have a way of happening. A few years ago a woman in her eighties mistook the accelerator for the brake in her car just a few blocks from here. She ran right over a guy who had just started retirement. He was sixty seven and in a crosswalk. Similar stories abound.
My mother never drove a car. She lived in a small town. She walked to most stores, but her savior was a daughter that lived in the same community. Rides could be provided. Another friend of mine moved to this town when she was in her sixties and relied entirely on the bus system for transportation. It worked out well. It can be done.
I know they often build retirement homes out on the edge of town. These retirement communities stand alone. There are no grocery stores, pharmacies, or post offices within walking distances. Lives are dependent on the car. It seems to me like all of these things need to be built with walking, biking and wheelchairs given consideration. I had a friend who lived in a mobile home park in Sarasota, Florida. He told me, “you need a car to live there”. We visited a sister of mine a few years ago in Sun City, Arizona; one has to be 55 or over to live there. I asked about visiting her neighborhood community or town center and received a quizzical look. Then I rephrased the inquiry; “Where do you buy your groceries, pick up mail, get your drugs, buy a cup of coffee”. The answer was that they do these activities out along a strip at various stops. A car is required.
Brenda and I spent about 13 years of our retired time living three days each week in Vancouver, BC. We had a need for a car in the city a handful of times? I’m not even sure of that. We could have called a cab or rented a car. We almost always walked. Or, we bike. People in downtown Vancouver have learned to spread upwards rather than outwards. They added over sixty thousand people living downtown during 10 of those years. Yet, at the same time, downtown traffic declined. Cars are not a necessity. We could obtain whatever we wished within walking distance and certainly within biking range. From the Opera, to the Future Shop, to beautiful old growth forest, to recreational centers, to Universities, to grocery stores or doctors. They were all within a few minutes.
In this area of the lower mainland in British Columbia high-rises are being built outside of downtown. Smaller suburbs are now seeing twenty story condos being built. Mass transit winds out of downtown and ties these hubs together. When it comes to retirement and getting around, the best answer seems to be to choose your location carefully. If you can walk and find anything you might need, or want, the problem of getting around can disappear – along with your car.
This is Retirement Talk.