Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: ‘Go south, young man’

STOCK PHOTO | A relaxing beach in Florida.
STOCK PHOTO | A  beach in Florida.

I wrote recently about my February road trip to points south. There were stops along the way, but a good portion of time was spent in southwest Florida. The weather was absolutely perfect as far as I was concerned even though some of the Floridians I met were complaining about the “winter heat wave” they were enduring. I had no problem with it.

My trip lasted some three weeks. I arrived back on the Island last Saturday.

It was with great interest that I read Jerry Della Femina’s column in The Independent. He called it “Why You Must Never Retire” and quoted a piece sent to him by a friend. He does not know who wrote it, but the article is all about being a retiree in a senior community on Florida’s southeast coast. The author pokes fun at the Florida cliché of some 20 to 25 years ago popularized on TV shows like “Seinfeld.” It’s a Florida of gated senior communities, Cadillacs, early bird specials, power walks, joint replacements and foggy and forgetful seniors.

What I observed this time around was a place where many of the residents were younger than I. And I usually consider myself a younger senior. But you can get into a senior community if you’re 55 or older. These individuals are not foggy or forgetful — they always remember where they parked their cars. They’re more into tennis than walking. And visiting a gym almost daily is a must.

Very few of them drive Cadillacs these days — you’ll find them in BMWs, Mercedes and Priuses. There are still many visits to doctors for a variety of reasons — cataracts, knee replacements, hip replacements, light plastic surgery to name a few. And many people plan their weeks around their doctor visits.

One thing that surprised me was how early on people are getting joint replacements. Very common.

The only time I encountered an early-bird special in a restaurant was at a chain called “Texas Roadhouse” where they gave you an entrée and two sides for $9.99 if you ordered it between 5 and 6 p.m. Well I was in there and tried the special. I ordered country-fried steak, corn and mashed potatoes. I must say that this dinner was very good.

The other restaurants I visited were also very good — even though some were chains — and they all had happy hours. This made them very popular and as a result the waits were long.

And instead of spending afternoons playing shuffleboard or mahjong, these younger seniors are opting for activities like shell hunting, hiking, bicycling and museum hopping. Many seniors I saw went to the theater regularly and thoroughly enjoyed it.

One activity that I like is visiting the beach. This did not seem to be very popular — especially in the middle of the day. “The sun is too hot,” is what I heard.

Well, I came to Florida for the sun so I just wanted to bake on the beautiful Gulf beaches where the sand is white and powdery. And that’s what I did. It was wonderful and quite a tonic.

So, in spite of the jokes that exist about being a senior citizen in Florida, I just loved it. I particularly enjoyed taking the roof off the Jeep to get the full benefit of the sun.