Dear Diary: A Foolish Passionate Woman
Elder Fashion – Still an Oxymoron

It's About Retired Men Today

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.”

Comments

A few years ago there were R.O.M.E.O. groups. Retired Old Men Eating Out. I know some of the groups were organized enough to have websites or blogs.

In our area, Midwest, you can go into any McDonalds, Hardee, etc and see 2 or 3 tables filled with older men. A daily routine. This is especially true in rural, small towns. I love it! When Mr. Bruce and I traveled, always by car, we would stop at small towns for pit stops. I loved listening to the men's conversations. I think someone should write a book about these fun guys.

Were there such an organization in this area I would sign up pronto. However, I have found value in a somewhat similar group that was set up to serve men, but morphed into a coed organization.

About five years ago I joined a "Mens Discussion Group" meeting at a Unitarian-Universalist Church (participants don't have to be UUs, and several aren't). The group featured some elements of the Y's discussed today. I found it very satisfying, so much so I volunteered to serve as chair when a vacancy came up and did so for three years.

Several participants became concerned that we said the group, despite its name, welcomed women. Not many ladies actually showed up, but we believed the few who did should not feel like second-class participants because of the "Mens" in the name.

So after much discussion, we changed the name to simply The Discussion Group.
Attendance is up, the discussions seem more lively, and this year we have a woman chairing the sessions.

We have refreshments as the Y's do, and a central, attractive meeting place. The difference is we are not an action group, just a "think tank" whose participants mostly are retired folks.

There probably are infinite variations of the Y's. I think the concept has great value for retired men (and women).

You know, I don't like group, prefer like being with 2-3 people at most. However, I would probably like the type of group Ronni and Gabbygeezer wrote about.. Thinkers!

My hubby, Mr. Bruce would definitely like this type too. He volunteers at local hospital 2-3 days per week. (Pass President so he still goes to meetings) without this he would go nuts!

Thanks for the wonderful post Ronni! This is an idea I plan on sharing to friends at church and in the community!

I was reflecting on senior men yesterday when I attended our 55+ community HOA meeting. This is the 3rd 55+ community I have been involved in. Many men who step up to run for and serve on HOA boards seem to have rather large egos and try to "run things" as if the HOA and the community were their businesses - a "my way or the highway" mentality that has no place in an HOA due to complex laws governing HOAs and the the fact the boards are supposed to represent the best interests of the community, not be an outlet for a bored retired guy - with typically no knowledge of HOA laws. We have two of these seated on the board now, and one past board guy (aka bored guy) who really was a tyrant and ran the HOA into the ground financially, running his own pet projects his way, with improper restraint from the property manager. I am grateful to be a woman who is not in a relationship. The woman-to-man ratio in various senior activities is just fine with me. Men as my cousin used to say, are a different animal. My opinion is that there has been no movement comparable to feminism for men, so their lives have been more or less defined through work, sex, alcohol and sports. We women were fortunate over the past 50 years to choose what to leave in and what to leave out, in terms of cultural pressures. Men, not so much.

Sounds very much like an organization here in Fresno that got its start 40 years ago in the SF Bay Area. It's called Sons in Retirement (SIRS).

I have a couple of friends who belong to the organization and they really enjoy the meetings and outings. They can pick and choose what they want to attend and how involved they wish to be. The only subjects off-limits are politics and religion.

Every so often they have a date night that includes spouses or girlfriends but it's mainly just a guy-thing.

There's a place near me that I call the Guy-Land Cafeteria because every morning it's filled with old guys drinking coffee and solving the world's problems. Golf course restaurants in this area are still very much like the Guy-Land Cafeteria in the mornings.

If by "Y" you mean the YMCA, that wouldn't work around here for guys to meet, because our Y's are all unisex in every way but the name.

I've been saying for a long time that any older guy who is looking for a second chance at love needs to join a senior center. at least 15 women for each guy is common here at their events.

Good conversation is often hard to come by. Some feel the need to verbally pummel anyone who doesn't share their point of view, some want to dominate any topic with information about what a big deal they were, and others only want to talk sports.

My father used to belong to a group they referred to as the AAA, the Antique Athletes Association, where most of them would golf their weight and bowl their age.

Out of 200 residents here at the ALF, approximately 40 to 50% are men. Our men's club meets once a month. We have never had more than 10 men there at any one time. And we only had that many because they started serving snacks. Men, for the most part, are loners. We don't "flock" together and chew the fat. And when we do, the conversation turns immediately to either sports or women. Simply put, men (young or old) generally don't do well in small groups. Get three or four guys together in a room and pretty soon the conversation reverts to grunts and bodily noises. This is why I much prefer the company of women. Women are more conversant in a variety of subjects and usually smell much better.

Interesting. As one of the few men that post on TGB I appreciate this kind of information.

I've been "retired" now for about 6 years and though I tried to find activities as a volunteer for a hospice and working with elementary school kids, I find I like my alone time better. I'm not one for structured routines as these clubs present and I think I would enjoy time spent with a few close friends than as a member of a large group.

But it's good to know that there's something out there that might fill a void for me later should that interest occur.

I'm with Bruce on the smelling part. And Jane on how the options for men are limited if they aren't open minded and curious.

While traveling solo in myRV for several years and since on more conventional travel, have observed those little coffee klatches in many communities around the US, usually all men but occasionally a woman or two was "allowed". Interesting to listen in but rarely does it entice me to do something similar. Prefer conversations of substance among a diverse group of people and find many outlets for such discussions around Portland, OR and I attend several. I have belonged to several men's group over the years and if they are formed by already closely aligned friends they have been relatively successful but I no longer find that I
crave them to survive. There are many many outlets I am happy to say in my area so I am at little risk of becoming isolated.

I did accounting work for a homeowners association for 14 years. During that time, men and women served as board presidents about equally. Management was very good during that time, as it had been earlier. Then a woman ran aggressively for president and was elected. She pretty much wrecked the organization in two years after nearly 30 years of good leadership by both men and women.

There is no reason to believe that managerial ability has anything to do with gender.

I am the President of the local AMA club (academy of model aeronautics), I am 61 and our average age is mid 60's. All the pilots are men, A few spouses are members as wel, but none of them fly.

We have a lot of fun learning flying and building models. I would love to have more or any female pilots join and learn with us, but this really seems to be a guy thing.And we are all getting older. It is very hard to compete with video/computer games.

I am a GA pilot as well and there is a pretty high male to female ratio there as well. There is no reason for this other than society pressure I think. One of my instructors going for my instrument rating was a woman but she was an exception.

So yes I think men and women are attracted to different things. And yes women do live longer statistically, but that is not the main reason. I think it is conditioning.

Yes, Gabbygeezer, I agree that managerial ability (or lack thereof) is more or less gender neutral. I have worked for and been acquainted with women, and men too, who were just hideous in their people skills and professional effectiveness.

One of the two HOAs I'm a member of currently happens to have two problem egocentric men, and these thoughts crossed my mind recently about this particular HOA. No easy answers. Part of my point was that serving on a HOA board resembles work, which I think is something that men identify with moreso than women, altho that is also individual.

Personally, I like the mental challenge of working, but I am so ready to retire, if only I could! I could have a full life, and never work again!

Agree with some comments above that women tend to be more social and probably better at finding things to do in retirement.

Interesting post and comments - I particularly liked the emphasis on 'fun' in the Y's group - a column in one of our local papers bemoaned the fact that so many older men totally lose their ability to have fun and turn into that most difficult creature a 'grumpy old man' - long may the fun seekers continue!

I'll admit to being fortunate. Married 56+ years, still in our home, (no HOA), healthy, and about to turn 80. Yikes! I'm part of two groups. First is TELOS, a 'Lifetime Learning' extension of Bellevue College (across the lake from Seattle, in 'cyberland'). I'm taking 4 classes at the moment. TELOS has 300+ students, choosing among 40-45 academic-quality classes per quarter. New friends, in-depth impromptu discussions. No way for the mind to rot.
Second, I play hard-core competitive volleyball with seniors, most aged 55-70. About 1/3rd women. V-ball gets my 'juices' flowing twice a week. We repair to Applebees later, to discuss everything under the sun. Our women are equal participants in all of this. I have so many friends now.

In Australia, "Men's Sheds" are filling a great need, unfortunately there just aren't enough of them yet.

I wonder if YMCA's everywhere could be encouraged to start programs like this. Sometimes all that's needed is to have a fixed time and place (build the park and they will come). It would benefit the Y, too, because I bet a number of club members would consider making a donation.

The political parties should have elder-friendly groups, too. I'm always dismayed by what a weak job my beloved Democratic Party does of providing social events for people with similar convictions.

This sounds like a great group. As I read your description of their activities and how they are organized, I felt envious. There is nothing like this group in the place where I live. (Sigh) It's nice to know that there are such groups. I hope to find one when I am finally able to sell my home and move to the city. Thanks for telling about it.

I've been joining some groups. One recent one was a book club, and it was all women of retirement age. I stick out like a sore thumb. I have so many women friends my wife is calling them her sister wives. My retired guy friends just don't like getting out. Of course, I think I only still go out because of my lady friends.

Your post makes me want to find some old guy groups.

Hmm. Around here the older guys are pretty much in the bars - neighborhood bars, just enjoying a night out, not partying like 20-somethings.

A group of senior Québécois men meet at an off-island, off highway breakfast restaurant.

They occupy the same table every time.

These guys fascinated me so much, over time that I just had to pull out my notebook and write about them.

The men talk about everything from politics to sports. One day one man got up and said bonjour to me. I said bonjour back.

I have no idea what these me did in their former careers, if they are married, widowed, all that.

But what I do know, is that they share a strong camaraderie over coffee, breakfast sandwiches with bacon.

They wear baseball caps and are so comfortable with each other, they can tease and torture back and forth with glee.

One man showed up late and was greeted with "bip, bip,

What code word was that?

I saw them again this morning on my way to my car dealership.

A certain member of the group, Monsieur "High Pitch," glanced over at me, smiled and nodded.

That nod translated into "all is good with our corner of the world."

These men star in a chapter of my book.

But I'm not going to tell them that.


My local tennis group (average member age around 70 something) meets at the park 3X a week for tennis and socializing). That's all the socializing I need.

My husband retired (corporate buyout) about eleven years ago and pretty much enjoyed puttering around the house and a few part-time jobs. Suddenly about three years ago he became active in the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter and is now their webmaster and secretary. He has joined the local RC club (AMA)building and flying model airplanes and is active in two competitive pool teams. I have no idea what happened.

As I got out of my car at Whole Foods this morning, going for my quarterly stash of thick oats I enjoy every morning, I noticed a couple guys standing in the middle of the parking lot, and another joining them as they chatted.

There was a car parked with a man holding the door open for his friend who was struggling with a cane to get out of the car.

The first group joined the two just getting there, greetings all around.

I realized this was one of the retired-mens groups discussed yesterday. I stopped and asked: "Is this the group that will get the discussion underway regarding righting all the world's wrongs?"

One man spoke up as the others continued talking
and said, "Yes, you can rest easy, we are going take care of it all."

I did not know about the upstairs dining area they were on their way to.


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