If you read this blog regularly, you know there are a lot more women who comment than men. That is likely due to the fact that there are more elder women than men – we (women) tend to live longer (sorry, guys).
Or, it could be that women are chattier than men, although I doubt that explains it (I'm just throwing it out there).
At the Adult Community Center (that's a euphemism in my area for senior center), I'm guessing there is a 9-10 to 1 ratio of women to men but I'm basing that only on early morning visits to the gym and occasional evening meetings. Nevertheless, I'm probably not far off.
And if you check mornings at the local coffee shops here, it's mostly women-only groups doing the klatching. So where are all the retired men? Reporter Gail Sheehy's answer was this:
”When men reach their sixties or seventies and retire, they go to pieces. Women go right on cooking.”
Cute, sort of, but I don't necessarily believe it and it is certainly not so in the Westport/Weston area of Connecticut where 25 percent of the 65-plus, male population are members of the Y's Men. (If the name eludes you, just say it out loud.)
The group was created in 1977, when there was an active YMCA but
”...no place for retired men to meet and discuss their problems, world problems, health issues (we call them organ recitals), politics or above average grandchildren. Then some wise man said 'Let's meet at the Y.' And so they did...”
Since then, they've been doing it every week.
I know about this because my friend of many decades, John Brandt, is a member and last week he sent me a link to what the Y's Men call their Playbook.
Research indicates that the club, their “band of retired brothers,” appears to be unique and they are so pleased with what they get from it, they created this Playbook as a guide for other men in other places who may want to create such an organization for themselves.
The current president, Marty Yellin, explains:
”...I can tell you that belonging to this organization has become one of the best things I've done in my retirement. More than your usual 'how to' guide, this concise, lighthearted Playbook provides a simple way to build a retired men's club that really works.”
What Marty skips over is that besides funny and concise (which it is), it is amazingly thorough.
Drawing on the club's 37 years of experience, there are instructions covering governance, bylaws, officer succession, committees, membership roster, finding a convenient and accessible venue, the importance of regular publicity and PR, and much more – all with that touted light touch:
”Morning meetings, before nap time, work best. We begin at 10AM. But a lot of the fun starts at 9AM when many members arrive for coffee and donuts. It's that all important schmoozing hour.
“For some, this is their favorite part of the meeting, more so than the scheduled program. Other than having a dedicated set-up and clean-up crew, put your top negotiator on the job to find the best, homemade donuts at the best contract price.”
Y's Men meetings regularly provide information on the latest medical news and on the health conditions of members. They are also encouraged to share their personal and professional backgrounds and/or life histories in weekly 10-minute talks. Or, members can speak for those 10 minutes on subjects of their choosing:
”We've had doctors talking about what ails us, tax experts telling us how to file and a long list of guys who want to share their work adventures and hobbies. It both entertains and informs the membership of the diversity and depth of their fellow members.”
The club holds regularly scheduled talks from quality outside speakers – more than 1400 of them since the club began – and the Playbook provides excellent advice on invitations, presentation, audio/visual requirements and topic suggestions.
They have developed a wide variety of group activities, trips and events. Among them: backgammon, book club, bridge, community service, gardening, hiking/walking, investments, tennis, skiing and more.
”Our T&E people know that retirees are interested in damn near everything, including away-from-home experiences. Some trips are by chartered buses that make sufficient 'technical' stops for guys of a certain age to feel comfortable enough to hit the road...”
There are also scheduled events with wives and family.
Scattered throughout the Playbook is important advice of the sort that fits nicely with some of the things we discuss on this blog:
”...consider a way to provide transport to meetings for members who no longer drive but want to attend meetings. The lack of transport shouldn't be an impediment to staying engaged.”
“It's one thing to make announcements of upcoming travel and events but quite another to make sure members remember what they've heard. As a failsafe, set up a manned T&E table at meetings where members can see what's upcoming, sing up and take a flier home.”
This does not begin to cover all the useful information – nor have I included any of the dozen or more drawings, cartoons and photographs. The entire document – 15 pages, printed - is available for download as a PDF here. First, you will enjoy it; I hope is will inspire you.
President Marty Yellin again:
“Read it and you'll see how staying engaged makes your retirement a meaningful climax to a life well-lived. I have and it's been a hell of a ride.”
For further information, the Y's Men club also maintains an excellent website and except for members' personal information, it is open to anyone, no password needed.
You will find more information about the club, its history, a photo gallery of the men and events, past monthly newsletters, speaker schedule and activities pages.
As we frequently discuss on TGB, relationships and engagement are important to a healthy old age. Women appear to do this more easily than men but that doesn't make it less important for them.
When we retire, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace. Friends move away, some die and our opportunities for a social life diminish more easily than we think they will before we retire.
My friend John tells me that when the club decided to write their Playbook, they tried to find other men's clubs around the U.S. and came up empty. With the relentless increase in the elder population upon us, we need many different ways to help one another in our old age and I think the spread of this kind of men's club would be an important addition.
(By the way, there is a companion Y's Women group in the Weston/Westport area but I wanted to concentrate exclusively on men today. We so seldom do that here and I'm interested to read your responses.)
Let's hear once more from President Yellin:
”Our goals are to have fun, develop lasting friendships, become more enlightened, and serve our community. There are so many opportunities available to explore your own interests, or to try exciting and stimulating new interests with like-minded members.”