July 12, 2006
The Graying Of The East End
It is no secret that the population on the East End has a definite tinge of silver in its collective hair. People have moved out here to retire, or to live in hope of retirement, or simply to spend whatever time they have in this wondrous environment. There is something about growing older that seems to prompt us to seek a special place to be, some context that fulfils some of our earlier life dreams and hopes.
I know that my wife and I moved out here a decade ago with that in mind. My wife has spent every summer of her youth in Mattituck on the North Fork, so she was primed by memories and lore of sun and shore. I think many older people moved out some time ago before the housing market and real estate taxes shot through the roof creating a real challenge for so many who perhaps too romantically thought of the East End as a fairly reasonable economic environment to live out one's days.
Yes, there are the rich and the super rich, but most folks are neither and years ago the smaller population base allowed a more idyllic picture for sustaining oneself here. We thought of potato, cauliflower and corn farms forever, buffering the spaces and giving a flavor of Vermont within relatively easy reach of the large metropolitan area.
True, summer would bring the usual tidal wave of temporary refugees from the hustle and bustle of New York and its environs, but that was only a three or four month blip that while frantic, added a sort of excitement that faded rather quickly away after the Labor Day holiday. Then came the glorious fall and the more solitary winter and the constant hope of spring.
Now, however, things are changing rapidly and the older population has been forced to review their status. Yes, their houses, purchased for relatively modest amounts a decade or two ago, now have gone up many times in value; but then so have taxes, sometimes to the point where the budgets set up to deal with changes projected years ago are now not adequate to handle this new challenging situation. Populations are growing, both permanent residents and summer residents. School age children are busting the walls of our local educational systems.
For many older people, strategies that once seemed to work just fine are no longer viable. Psychologically it is a trying, often anxiety provoking time. There is a slow but gradually increasing flight of elderly people out of the East End. The choices are not as abundant as they once were, and they often involve leaving children and grandchildren behind and going south to areas that are not all that conveniently situated to keep in close touch with family that folks had originally seen as one of the great benefits of living on the East End.
I don't know any easy solution to this changing landscape for those of us who are crossing the boundaries of time into the twilight period of our lives. We will have to dig deeper into not only our economic resources, but our psychological and creative resources as well. It would make sense to form an organization devoted to addressing this situation and I leave it to the devoted and intelligent among you to put your minds together to put one in motion for that purpose. Let me know what you think.
Frank Mosca Ph.D., is a life coach, marital coach with a practice in Hampton Bays and Garden City. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.