Seniors still take a bite out of the Big Apple
Although he's retired, Al Donius can't imagine living anywhere except New York City. Yes, he's well aware how expensive it is to live in Manhattan, but he has no dreams of a quiet Sunbelt retirement.Skip to next paragraph
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Instead, he - like many other retirees who think the same way - is too busy taking advantage of the Big Apple's cultural offerings.
Mr. Donius, who's always on the go, sees about 60 plays a year, mostly Off-Broadway, and serves on the admissions committee and the advisory board to the director of the New School University, where he also takes classes.
He is a poster child for what some see as a trend among retirees across the nation. These seniors - in good health, highly educated, and financially secure - are choosing to live where a diverse palette of opportunities for intellectual stimulation and cross-generational social interaction is readily available.
"Living in the suburbs, or in a retirement community, seems sterile to me," says Eleanor Frorup, who retired from her teaching post at Borough of Manhattan Community College in January. "But in Manhattan, there are lots of occasions to meet peers, as well as make friends with people from younger age groups. And the city offers such a variety of things to do that just isn't offered in the suburbs."
"There are times when you want to do three things on the same day, but you just can't do them all," Donius adds.
He is a member of the Harvard Club of New York City, where he goes to lectures, plays squash, and - as a participant in the club's "Born in the '30s" group - attends social activities, sometimes geared toward singles. He also goes to programs offered by the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
"When you live here long enough," Donius says, "you know how to get great deals, especially as a senior. You find out how to get a $25 ticket to the Metropolitan Opera, instead of paying $100, or how to pay $20 for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows through the Theatre Development Fund, instead of $60 or $70."
Museums and arts organizations are sitting up and paying attention to this increasing senior audience - which is avidly interested and has plenty of time, but is not necessarily willing to pay full price.
"This is the upside of the 'graying of the audience' argument," says Kenneth Fischer, president of the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, "because retirees bring tremendous intellectual and financial resources to the table, and they want to be engaged in cultural activities."
The National Endowment for the Arts' Surveys of Public Participation in the Arts found that those born between 1936 and 1945 showed significantly higher attendance at classical music events, opera, and theatrical plays.
The same holds true for museums. "Especially during daytime weekdays, we are a favorite destination for seniors," says Harold Holzer, vice president of communications and marketing for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "We have special guided tours, we welcome groups visiting from condos and residences ... and we send lecturers out to address senior groups all the time."
In addition to taking advantage of cultural opportunities, today's retirees are also looking at what "lifelong learning" opportunities exist near where they live.
"Increasing numbers of retirees are concluding that [keeping] one's mind alert is what's going to make the difference in enjoying one's later years," says Mr. Fischer.
Ms. Frorup, for example, recently attended a workshop presented by TCMuses, an intergenerational personal-enrichment and learning forum offered by Columbia University's Teachers College.