Here is a terrific idea for those of a certain age. Have a pajama party with close friends at a distant and beautiful location of at least three nights duration. Why three nights? Because it takes that long for normally reserved people to open up and speak freely about life as they have known it. Why pajamas? For the same reason. After a day filled with enjoyable activities, like sightseeing, shopping and dining, climbing into pajamas and meeting in the living room to chat goes a long way toward facilitating informality and frank exchange.
And why have such an experience? Because after a lot of years of living, seniors are expected to have amassed some wisdom with the answers to questions that habitually occur to us. One thing is sure: Probably no two people will have the same answers to all the questions, and hearing the different perspectives is thought-provoking and sometimes even comforting.
Now let me be clear. I am not suggesting orgies in the basement. I am saying that much has changed over the period of our lives, and those of us who have seen those changes can understand each other and even commiserate. It’s nice to be understood. It’s valuable to hear how others have dealt with the same opportunities and challenges.
What are some of the subjects that might be discussed?
Death is certainly one. We all face an end to our lives. How do we regard the inevitable? Are we afraid? Probably not so much. With age comes acceptance to a large degree. Is there an afterlife? A purgatory? Will we again be with our loved ones? In fact, do we believe there is a God? And what is the purpose of life? There are no bounds to the scope of discussions. The subjects just flow from each other.
Then there are the endless conversations about children and maybe grandchildren. How have they fared? How much should we help them? What is in store for them? What problems do they have? Have their marriages held together?
There are the huge and sometimes incomprehensible changes in sexual mores and in family values. There are still some who reserve sex for marriage but not many. The word “dating” can have a different connotation than it did when we were much younger. Living together and having children without the benefit of marriage is no longer the object of shame. Yet it may be just difficult for older people to accept, especially if members of the family are involved in such arrangements.
The relationship between men and women and hence between husbands and wives has undergone revolutionary change. And the issue of rape has become public, especially rape on campus. There was no such mention by past generations.
Health issues are a perennial topic for conversation. Trading remedies, physician and physical therapist names, healthy tips for diets and dieting, exercise and stress reduction are common themes. Discussions of the outcomes from hip and knee surgeries and even dental implants fill the airwaves and can truly offer needed information and help.
Music is another area of tremendous change. What one generation danced to, another can find boring. But there is unending admiration by seniors for the younger generation’s mastery of cellphones, laptops and the Internet. Yet there are some older folks who adamantly resist texting.
The truth is that we all need support groups and affirmation. We can also benefit from well-placed critiques that can be more easily accepted from contemporaries. And there is always lots of room for laughter, even belly laughs.
Pajama parties can provide the context for such engagement. Besides why should only kids have all the fun.