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December 21, 2021


Hi there, 

I do not look forward to Christmas and try to ignore it as much as possible. This is partly because I’m Jewish and partly because my birthday is on Christmas. To this day, people still offer me condolences for my Christmas birthday. When I was a kid, I was desperate to fit in, but my parents, even though they weren’t religious, refused to celebrate Christmas. So I would pretend my birthday presents were Christmas gifts and brag about them when kids asked, “Whadja get for Christmas?” 

This ambivalence continued throughout adulthood. My friends and I would take each other out for dinner for birthdays, but I rarely got a free meal because my birthday always got lost in the Christmas rush. As I passed into AARP territory, I didn’t particularly want to remember my birthday anyway, so it became convenient that no one else did.

Nowadays, I tend to forget how old I am. Christmases have become fun again because I celebrate them with my Jewish women’s group. We have our monthly meeting at a member’s house, and she orders Chinese takeout—a Jewish Christmas tradition. And no one mentions my birthday, which is a blessing.

I’m Erica Manfred, a 70+ Geezer Geek and Snarky Senior. I moved to Florida alone in my trusty Ford Focus seven years ago from upstate New York and haven’t regretted it. I’ve always written about my life, and I have no intention of stopping now. I’m writing this newsletter as part of the event platform Life Experienced. Each week, I’ll be exploring what matters to us later in life, from combating ageism, to finding new friends, to nuts-and-bolts stuff like figuring out our phones. Know someone we should feature? Email us at or join us on Facebook.

Living situations that emphasize community

When my mom retired and moved to Florida in the 1970s, she had a group of friends she called “the goils” in Century Village, her 55+ gated retirement community. They met every day for dinner, traveled together, and relied on each other. I dreamed of finding the same kind of group when I got old and actually moved to the same Century Village in search of it, but I didn’t find it. Mom’s friends were all retired teachers from New York who already knew each other. I knew no one, and I hated living behind gates. 

I moved and am now in a friendly, all-ages, ungated community because I like diversity—in both age and ethnicity. I’ve joined local groups to find friends, which works for me.

It’s very hard to know what you’re getting into when you move into a community—of any kind. One friend of mine moved into a gated, luxury, 55+ community and hated it because everyone was cliquish. Others I know have moved to smaller, less pretentious places—gated or ungated—and been welcomed with open arms. The reality can be very different than advertised.

Fortunately, a traditional 55+ retirement community is not the only option anymore. If you want a living situation that fosters community, why not investigate these innovative options?

  • Cohousing. Somewhere between a commune and a condo, cohousing is a relatively recent housing solution created with the goal of fostering community. A cohousing community consists of a small group of private homes on shared land, with common areas, often including kitchen, dining rooms, and gardens. It could be 55+ or all ages, but cohousing is intensely communal and focuses on environmentally sound practices like sharing resources. Downside: It’s not cheap. You have to have the money to buy in, which can be expensive depending on the area. Here’s a list of cohousing groups in every area of the U.S. 
  • Living on a college campus. Lifelong learning programs at colleges for seniors have been popular for decades. But now colleges and universities are inviting us to live on campus. Called College-Linked Retirement Communities, some are just for alumni and others are for anyone interested in a stimulating environment where they can audit classes and attend campus events. Hanging out with young people as well as old is an inducement, too. Here’s a New York Times article about the trend.
  • Home sharing. Sites like and are putting together older people who want to share their homes with compatible age-mates. “It’s a movement built around sharing what you have, remaining independent and creating connection,” according to the Silvernest’s co-founder, Wendi Burkhardt. There is even a Facebook group for Women Looking to be Golden Girls.
  • Renting a room. I like hanging out with young people. I made sure my latest place has an extra bedroom and bath. I’m independent now, but I might rent a room to a student from the local college at a low price in return for companionship and help with tasks I can’t do anymore when the time comes. There are sites like that facilitate older people renting spare rooms to young people for exactly that reason. Check out this article for more info.
  • NORCs. If you want to stay put in your home, and you live in a place with a lot of other retirees, you may already be living in a NORC, which stands for a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. If you don’t live in a NORC, you can move to one. In some places, local agencies for the aging can designate a place a NORC so it receives services. Residents play a small sum to be part of it. This article provides more information.
Whatever living situation you choose, make sure to do your due diligence before picking up stakes and moving. Visit and talk to the residents, read online reviews, ask a lot of questions. You don’t want to make a huge investment of time, energy, and effort only to find you are not thrilled with your new neighbors.

If you want to age in place, make sure the resources are available in your own community to help you. Sometimes just a call to the local agency for the aging can provide options you didn’t know existed.

Featured event

Online laughter yoga
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
9 to 9:30 p.m. EST
Every Tuesday on Zoom

Yoga is not only about twisting yourself into a pretzel. It’s also about having fun and thinking outside the box. Laughter yoga wants you to release the child within, relieve stress, and get in touch with your creative/intuitive self. Join Laughter with Vaishali, a certified laughter yoga leader. It’s open to all. 


Partner spotlight

Covia’s Social Connection programs offer one-on-one and group support for older adults by leveraging their interests and skills and providing easily accessible learning and social options.

Visit us at for more information.

What to watch

See West Side Story. I went this week. I’m a tough critic, but all I can say is WOW! It’s enthralling, amazing, gorgeous, riveting. I started to cry in the middle and never stopped. Spielberg has done it again. His West Side Story is pure magic.

If you grew up in the ‘50s or ‘60s, you will recognize the cars with fins, the cigarette machines, the seamed nylons, the flat sneakers, and the high-rise jeans. You also might recognize Rita Moreno, now 90, who played the fiery Anita in the original and now tugs at your heartstrings singing the same touching song, “Somewhere,” in a different role.

Some of my friends refuse to see it because they loved the original so much and assume this can’t be as good. They are wrong. It’s better—grittier, more realistic, updated for a modern sensibility, and with a more diverse cast. For now, West Side Story is available only in theaters.

Life Experienced does not guarantee that in-person events and activities follow local or CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines. We recommend following CDC guidelines and wearing a mask to indoor events. 

That’s it! Thanks for reading. And if you want to chime in with your two cents on what this newsletter should include, email us at

Until next time, 

Events are more fun with friends

Life Experienced is a new service powered by Kaiser Permanente. Whether you're a dancer, a reader, or a gardener, we can help you find local events and activities that you'll love.

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