Code Name Nora

A few years ago, Nora, an elegant old lady—as she thought of herself—moved, a bit reluctantly, into a retirement home in a Midwestern city. She was 80 years old, literate and healthy, and for most of her adult life, had enjoyed a good social position. Unlike, she felt, the usual persons one might find in a retirement home. Would there be anyone to play Scrabble? But she was also lonely and had not handled her finances well. So she moved into a place she dubbed the Twilight Zone, “a purplish area between bright, vivid life and the utter darkness of oblivion.”

Nora joined the estimated 2 million Americans over the age of 62—the average entry age—who live in retirement communities. Some, like literate Nora, may feel that they've disappeared into a nameless gulag.

Retirement homes do become their own worlds. Within them, seniors who might have suffered from loneliness before, find a blossoming social life, multiple activities, companionship, and even romance. It’s all there for the taking. The outside world, except for family members, doesn't hear much about this.

That is, it didn't until an explosion of blogs written by seniors. The term “elderblogger” was coined. Elderbloggers attract elderreaders who leave sweet posies of comments. There are thousands of elderblogs on the Internet today. It's hard to keep track, to give a number.

Which brings this story back to elegant elder Nora. Nora began to blog from the Twilight Zone under the title "Code Name Nora." But not the kind of blog that garnered sweet posy comments. She wrote about all the funny things that happened and the funny people they happened to, in a third-person, novelistic style. No one, outside of a British comedy writer, has probably ever written about retirement home living quite like Nora.

Her neighbor tries to put her apartment key in perpendicularly instead of horizontally. A woman pays for gasoline but her friend fails to pump it for her and the next morning she thinks her car’s been siphoned. Someone can't get up from a couch in the lobby, and the manager says she has to call 911 because it’s not assisted living. “But if you roll her onto the floor we can treat it as an emergency.” Potluck dinners include fruit salad made with powdered jello. Two women almost come to blows over a snapshot taken off the bulletin board. When a man helps an 89-year-old up into the shoppers’ bus she accuses him of “inappropriate” touching. A gross of tamales shows up mysteriously and people rush to buy them.

Soon after Nora's blog appeared in the blogosphere, Ronnie Bennett, founder of the premier elderblog Time Goes By, wrote this about it: “Code Name Nora is funny, charming, and a delight to read.” Patricia Wood, author of the novel, The Lottery, commented: "I discovered Nora's blog and just loved it. I emailed her because I thought her blog would make a terrific novel." Amba, who writes the Ambiance blog, said "The conflicts are petty and the excitement is over small things. What makes it compelling is the subtlety of her observations of the other Twilight Zone denizens' personalities." Other followers of Nora’s blog echoed: “This stuff should be published.”

Well, now it has been. Code Name Nora: Life As Is Really Lived in a Retirement Home is a new Amazon Kindle book. It’s a must-read for any senior contemplating moving into a retirement home. The price is $2.99. To find it, click through my author's name at the blog's beginning. Or e-mail me: [email protected].