I live in an age-restricted, 55+ community. “Nocturnal” comes early here.
I used to think it was a fallacious stereotype that people over 55 ate dinner at 4:00pm and went to bed before the sun did. Now, I see that it might be a stereotype but it is not necessarily fallacious. I often go to restaurants before the evening news. For years, bedtime in our house has been inching ever earlier. Nowadays, it is not unusual for me to be in bed by a quarter past nine. As we’ve established in previous posts, I don’t usually sleep, but I do lay down on my bed and pretend. I was astonished this New Year’s Eve when midnight came and I was still conscious.
You would think, given the number of years that I rebelled against going to bed early and rising at the crack of yesterday to get to work, I would be embracing retirement as an opportunity to stay up late and sleep until noon. In retirement, I could reinvent myself into a night owl. The thing is, I don’t think my natural inclinations ever tended towards “night owl.” I wasn’t really an “early bird” either. I was always more whatever kind of bird it is that flits about from ten in the morning till three in the afternoon. Unfortunately, working for a living required a peak activity period of more than five hours a day. Therefore, I forced my biorhythm into the “early to bed, early to rise” model most appropriate for my working hours. Now, when I can indulge the limited ebb and flow of my energy, I find that my body is unable to slide into standard Terri time.
Besides a sleep button that is permanently faulty, I also struggle with eating at reasonably regular intervals. Again, during my work life, I often ate poorly because I was always too busy to eat during the work day. It was always a challenge to balance the needs of employees, customers, supervisors, time-zoned challenged conference calls, and that feeling of desperation I got when my diabetes reminded me that I would pass out without an infusion of nutrients. Now that I don’t work for a living, you’d think I’d be able to better regulate my eating. Despite my best efforts, I still struggle with finding an appropriate meal schedule. We often go to a movie in the middle of the day (don’t even get me started on why we must attend movies that start before 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon.) Typically, we’ll share a pastry at Starbuck’s before the movie and I feel fine when the picture starts. Then, when we leave the theater, I feel like I can and will eat anything that doesn’t eat me first.
I know I am not the only one that is experiencing this day-shifting phenomenon as I age. All I have to do is look around me, especially in the winter months, to see that my timing is trending. Honestly, one of the biggest reasons we go to dinner so early is because restaurants in this senior-centric area get ridiculously crowded by 5:00pm. The choice is to be there by 4:30pm or give up on eating until 7:00. I get too hungry for dinner at eight (or seven, for that matter), so we go with 4:30. Going to a grocery store before 10:00am is an enlightening experience. Clearly, the shoppers have been up with the chickens and are making good use of their time by doing the marketing. Navigating a shopping cart along aisles filled with people, walkers, and electric scooters can be perilous. There is also gridlock to consider… aisles are often blocked with one too many lanes of cart traffic. I often wander aisles where there is nothing I want to purchase, just to be able to make my way from the back of the store to the front. In the afternoons, grocery shopping is much more leisurely. I’m sure that going to the store after dark is like visiting a ghost town…. not that I would know.
Recently, I found further evidence that seniors have their own time zone. The wildlife in our community is adhering to daylight senior time. When we saw the jaguarundi in the backyard, my first thought was that it was odd that a wild cat would be up and about in the daylight. I always thought cats were nocturnal. I checked Google and found that, while most wild cats are night-dwellers, jaguarundis are diurnal. They are often up and at ‘em at about the same time that the local grocery stores bustle with energy. This makes my community the perfect environment for them.
I didn’t think too much about this correlation at first. Then, shortly before Christmas, we came home from doing errands at around 4:00pm. We happened to look out the window and saw three raccoons digging for worms or whatever raccoons do in backyards. I named them Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer in honor of the season. Santa’s raccoons have visited us a couple of times since, always at around 4:00pm.
Google is clear on this point. Raccoons are definitely supposed to be nocturnal. No self-respecting raccoon should be out in broad daylight. I felt bad for them, thinking they must be kind of backward. I thought they might need remedial raccoon lessons. I still didn’t draw any particular conclusion from their appearance.
On Christmas Eve, Max and I were driving around the development looking at holiday decorations. At 6:00pm- the witching hour, apparently, in a senior subdivision- we saw a coyote running along the side of the road. Coyotes are nocturnal. They are some of the shyest, most people-averse creatures on the planet. Living their lives in the dark of night meets their needs.
Yes, at 6:00pm the sun was down… just barely. Still, I don’t think you could really call 6:00pm “night,” could you? In most places where people are still working for a living, 6:00pm is a busy, crowded, vibrant time. People are getting off work and going home. They are picking up children from soccer practice. They are preparing to go to a movie or concert or whatever other evening plans they have. For most people, their “real life” for the day is just beginning.
In my 55-and-over development, 6:00pm might as well be the “dark of night” and, apparently, the coyotes know it.
Do you find that the rhythm of your life is changing as you age? Is the “early bird special” dining and sleep schedule for senior citizens just a stereotype or do you think there is truth in it? If so, why do you think that is? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great day!