By Tim Harper
Margaret retired early because…well, because she could. She had worked hard on Wall Street for years, saved her money and made safe investments. In 1994, while still in her early fifties, she retired from her job at an investment bank and announced to friends that she was moving to Phoenix. It might seem odd to some that a 50+ single woman would move across the country to a city where she knew few other people, but Margaret was yearning for big changes.
She wanted nice weather. She wanted to meet new people. She wanted to try new things. Leaving behind her old communities – her neighborhood on New York’s Upper West Side, her colleagues at Goldman Sachs, and her various circles of friends for dinner, shopping, parties, theater, traveling and working out, she began looking in Arizona for new communities where she could live, work and play.
“I’m retired,” Margaret told friends. “But my brain isn’t.”
She moved into a condominium complex on a golf course and made friends with her neighbors. She took up golf and joined in the clubhouse social activities. She had always been a credible amateur photographer, so she joined a photography group and signed up for classes. Soon she became a regular at art shows and exhibits and connected with a gallery where she started to show and sell her photos.
A year later, Margaret met Ian, also retired, at a photography class. They connected right away, spent more and more time together, and eventually got married. Ian introduced Margaret to the world of RVs—recreational vehicles—and she found herself intrigued with this new interest. Now, they spend summers on the road in their own rig, often meeting and communicating with others in the RV community.
Margaret and Ian now have what she sometimes calls a “schizophrenic” life, divided between the Phoenix arts community half the year and the nomadic RV community the other half. Each community brings with it a different lifestyle and a different set of friends. As a result, Margaret may have thought more about the concept of community than most of us. She sees her story as a classic example of the way people in their fifties and sixties are facing the challenge of changing communities—sometimes because, like her, they have sought change and sometimes because change has tapped them on the shoulder and nudged them into a new world.