Episode 821 375 (063) Getting around
This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.
Irene was a Berkley woman in the sixties. She wore tie dye and lived in a group house. She moved to Bellingham, Washington within the last thirty years. She is retired. I got to know her because she was a biker. She had a nice blue bicycle with a little spinning wheel taped to her front basket along with a few colorful plastic flowers. 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 and/or walking distance.
We met Irene while on our bikes. She doesn’t bike any more. Irene is fairly heavy and in her mid eighties. She has had leg problems; can’t walk well at all. Now we see her cruising down the street in her electric wheel chair. She has some plastic flowers attached. She still talks of her old biking days.
Her solution to getting around in retirement was to choose her housing carefully. She lives in a very cohesive neighborhood; grocery store just across the street, post office just across the street and down one door, pharmacy; one block away. There are more than twenty restaurants within five blocks. A great books store, shoe store, and multiple art galleries are also mixed in.
Many of us retired have problems getting around? It can be difficult. 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.
Another friend of mine recently stopped by. He was a happy guy – he had just renewed his driver’s license. It will take him to age 87. He loves to drive. He also bikes a few miles each day to get his morning paper. But, he is a driver. He loves to get in his pickup camper and head out on a road trip.
Renewing your drivers license is a worry as one gets older. I’m sure there are lots of relatively new Buick's 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. Just less than a year 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. Dead on the spot. 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 can be done.
Some retirement communities stand alone; they are built out on the edge of town. There are no grocery stores, pharmacies, or post offices within walking distances. Lives are dependent on the car. A few years ago we visited a friend who lives in a mobile home park in Sarasota, Florida. He admitted, “you need a car to live here”. 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 you buy your groceries, pick up mail, get your drugs, buy a cup of coffee”. The answer was that they do each of these out along a strip of road at various stops. A car is required.
Brenda and I spent 13 years of our retirement life living in Vancouver, BC three days a week. We had a need for a car perhaps a couple of times in all those years? I’m not even sure of that. We walked. Or, we biked. People in downtown Vancouver learned to spread upwards rather than outwards. They added sixty thousand people to the downtown in the last 10 years. At the same time downtown traffic declined. Cars are not a necessity. Each year lanes for automobile traffic are converted to bike lanes. The city has taken a stand to discourage driving in the downtown area. They have prioritized walking and biking.
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 and beautiful parks, 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. Even people living out of downtown find living without owning a car liberating.
When it comes to retirement and getting around, the best answer seems to be choosing where you live carefully. If you can walk and find everything you might need or want the problem of getting around can disappear – along with your car. Retirement is a time when the old adage is very true: location, location, location.
This is Retirement Talk.