What made you move to New York later in life?
I first moved to New York City in the summer of 1986. It was a move inspired by love (my now husband Jon lived there!). However, my love for the city was a slow burn. I found it overwhelming and a bit scary. Navigating life in New York felt like a game of Pac Man where my life depended on making the right moves. Of course, many of my fears were unfounded (though not all…it was the 80’s after all!) and my fascination for this remarkable city took root. Jon and I knew when we left our small apartment in 1990 for life in the suburbs, after the first of four children was born, we’d be back. NYC had captured our hearts and wouldn’t let go. So 26 years later, we returned, ready for the beautiful chaos NYC promises every single day.
What are the pros of living in a big city as we are older.
Staying curious is a snap in NYC where adventure greets you every time you step outside, ready or not. Just walking around the city reveals questions you didn’t know you had about a way of life, an old building, a graffiti artist, a protest. Your senses are fully engaged and though it’s not always a delight, your response to whatever comes your way requires your mind (and sometimes your body!) to stay agile.
The city provides ample opportunity for more structured learning as well. Whether you’re looking to expand your professional skillset, scratch an intellectual itch or try something completely new (tap dancing, anyone?), the city makes it easy. I’ve enjoyed taking French and writing classes (though not French writing classes) as well as improv and storytelling.
Another wonderful byproduct of living in an urban setting while ageing is the inescapable need to stay physically active.
To get to most places, I typically walk or take public transportation. Though my natural pace is a country stroll, I’ve had to pick up my speed to keep frustration at a minimum for those behind me. Slow walkers in NYC are universally unappreciated.
What are the downsides of living in a big city as we get older
Right now, I find the energy of city life invigorating but anticipate that the rush, rush, rush way of life might hit differently when I’m older and my body naturally slows down. After breaking my wrist last year, and not being able to use it for more than two months, I think a lot more about how I would manage the city should my mobility be impacted. If I’m unable to get around the city easily, I wonder whether this would affect my affinity for life here. I hope it wouldn’t but it’s something I think about when considering the future.
Is NYC better to get older in than other cities?
NYC has my heart but I think there are so many cities around the world that offer rich and life enhancing experiences. The cities I’ve lived in and visited have expanded my perspective and, happily, my palate (looking at you, Paris). I guess for me, urban living, wherever that may be, ranks at the top.
I expect the chaos that comes with city life seemed at odds with the typical approach to the next stage of our lives.
What did your friends and family think about your move?
Our friends and family weren’t surprised by our move back to NYC but some made it clear that it wasn’t something they would consider for themselves. I expect the chaos that comes with city life seemed at odds with the typical approach to the next stage of our lives. That being said, most of our friends and family don’t mind a small dose of chaos and, lucky for us, come to visit.
If you could change one thing about NYC to help people live longer and better lives, what would it be?
I think I would have to go back to the issue of mobility. As I understand it, presently only 27% of the city’s subway stations meet accessibility standards for those with disabilities. A significant number of New Yorkers count on the subway as their primary mode of transportation. As they age, their quality of life would certainly be impacted if they experience mobility challenges and aren’t able to use the subway. Though the city’s transit authority plans to make significant improvements, this endeavor will apparently take more than 30 years. Thirty years!! So, if I could wave a magic wand and change one thing, I would significantly shorten the timeline for this major project.
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