Our “Better Normal” Involves a Kayak

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Is it just me or is the phrase “new normal” getting a little old?

What about moving to a “better” normal? What if we look at what is happening in our world right now and use it as impetus to reimagine the course of our final years? What if we, as older adults, serve as models for “better” — pave the way.

Experts predict the pandemic will dramatically alter our lives. In a cover story in the AARP Bulletin, COVID-19 was seen as “changing everything from how we greet each other to what’s on our bucket list.” Many of the activities retirees have come to enjoy and even take for granted are now considered inadvisable and unsafe.

Following public health guidelines but thinking outside the box, my husband and I decided to actively reimagine a better normal. The question we asked ourselves during those early, crazy days of quarantine was, “What gives us the most pleasure?”

The answer: “More time with each other, with family — especially children and grandchildren.” So we did research and explored options. No matter what your situation or circumstance, you always have options.

We chose to take a leap. We elected to sell the house we had lived in for over five years — the one we called our “forever home” and move across the state and closer to family. Yes, we are moving in a pandemic. Yes, we realize we will have to wear masks a whole lot more often, and even when we are in closer proximity, hugs will not be possible for the near term, but when the new coronavirus gives us a reprieve, we will be ready.

Second question we asked ourselves as part of this process: “What kind of living environment is most important — the most satisfying?” Answer: Accessibility and in-home safety were first, but water and mountain views with loads of interesting walking trails became a close second. We did more research and engaged our children in the planning. More quickly than we anticipated, we found a light-filled condo on an island overlooking Oregon’s beautiful Columbia River.

Moving was not on our bucket list a few months ago, but once we had unearthed the possibility and considered the probable rewards, we stopped at nothing in order to make it happen. I know my husband would agree the process has opened our eyes to the fact that even in your 70s and beyond, the journey is not over.

A relocation not mandated by poor health or inadequate financial resources occurs for a relatively small percentage of people older than 65. Should my story be an impetus to your dinner table discussions, please know that once you make this kind of life-rocking decision it’s quite liberating.

I imagine more such decisions. For example, I plan to keep writing about healthy aging, at least for a while, but will probably make my columns a little spicier to fit my newly liberated spirit. I am also considering crafting a sultry romance novel about two elders who go river kayaking every day. The answer is yes, we have a kayak.

Sharon Johnson is retired educator. 

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