"I'm Not Old Enough!"

Woman seated in a chair in an apartment
Oakwood Resident Writes About Moving to a Retirement Community in a New Book

For 47 years, Hilde and Julius Adler lived in their home in Madison’s Shorewood Hills neighborhood with no intention of leaving it. That is until Hilde began to notice the house and yardwork took a little longer than it used to. At 85, she began to think it was time to make a change.

Hilde put their names on the waiting list at University Woods, where her mother had lived many years before. But it wasn’t an easy decision.

“I loved our house, the neighborhood, and the neighbors, but I didn’t want to spend that much time on the housework anymore,” Hilde says.

Julius, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with moving. Still very much engaged as a UW-Madison Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry, Julius wasn’t ready for a “senior apartment.” Hilde had her own reservations about leaving the home where they raised their son and daughter.

“Even at 85 I thought, ‘I’m not old enough for a retirement community!’ I don’t want to live around all those old people!”

But as time went on, an apartment home that fit their wishes became available, and the move was on.

“Even at 85 I thought, ‘I’m not old enough for a retirement community!’ I don’t want to live around all those old people!”

“We signed a contract in July of 2014, but they dug up the street we lived on, so we couldn’t move until November. That was ok with me,” Hilde recalls.

Once into their Heritage Oaks apartment, they quickly arranged their furnishings to match the vibe of their house, and Julius liked it immediately.

“It took him one minute to love it. He liked that he could have something to eat whenever he wanted to. I was getting tired of cooking, so my dinners were getting a little questionable for a few years there,” Hilde says with a laugh.

Hilde, meanwhile, was still having mixed feelings, and ultimately decided to write a short book about what she was experiencing.

The book, entitled “I’m Not Old Enough! The Twenty-seven Stages of Adjustment to Living in a Retirement Community”, was self-published in April of 2019. In it Hilde briefly, and humorously, details “27 stages” she says she experienced throughout the process of moving to Oakwood. With wit and grace, Hilde recounts her experience of feeling overwhelmed by the idea of downsizing from a home they’d lived in for nearly 50 years. More important were the connections to neighborhood friends and fond memories.

In the book’s preface, Hilde notes that it is her personal story. She points out there are some universal ideas and questions and doubts, but everyone’s experience is not the same. Hilde says she recognizes that not everyone moving into a retirement community loved their neighborhood or their neighbors like she loved hers, but she hopes all readers can relate to at least some of the feelings she expresses in the book.

Hilde’s stages of adjustments and observations include:

  • STAGE 1 I’m not moving anywhere. “When you finally get your apartment, you think it’s ridiculous. You tell yourself you’re going to give it back, because what you’re doing is admitting you’re getting older, and that’s hard to do.
  • STAGE 10 They have endless social events here. I’m never going to any of them. “When we moved in, I told myself I would never get involved or make friends or take the bus to an event. I convinced myself we were just going to use our place at Oakwood as a condo. But once you let go of all of that, you start doing all of the things you swore you’d never do, like eating in the dining room or participating in activities."
  • STAGE 20 I took the bus. “I drive, so why would I ever want to take the bus to an event? And then we took the bus to the symphony one day because it was snowing, and I discovered they drop you off and pick you up at the door! I thought, ‘What an idiot? Why would you drive when you can take the bus?!”
woman reading in a chair

“Moving to a retirement community is a big deal. You do go through different stages. You think you don’t need more friends, but then you make new friends despite yourself. The people at Oakwood are amazing! So many of them have led such amazing lives, which you find out when you allow yourself to get to know them.”

Nowadays, Hilde and Julius are fond of their apartment home and enjoy the community at the University Woods campus. Julius still goes to the office most days, and Hilde, at age 90, is deeply involved in Oakwood programs, including a role in a recent series of old radio program skits. Hilde advises new residents that participating is the secret to feeling that you belong, that you’re really a member of the community.

Early indications are that her book has been well-received. Initial data from Amazon.com sales showed 172 books were sold in April alone. The Oakleaf gift shop, which orders a dozen or so books at a time, has sold out at least three times.

Hilde lends and gives the helpful, entertaining book to friends and to the library. She says some of her friends have ordered ten at a time to give to others as a gift.

“I priced it as $7.99 because I want it to be accessible. It’s like an enhanced greeting card. It’s a little gift for people.”

Hilde says based on feedback from those who have purchased her book, her story is resonating with readers because it helps take the fear out of moving to a retirement community.

“It’s a major life change and an adjustment, but it’s worth it.”

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