PHOTO: Happy Hour Club members, 19th Hole, TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida (L-R: Dianne, Don, Lorrie, Matt, Nan, Lina, Barbara)
At Happy Hour last week at Campeche Bay at Jacksonville Beach, the talk at our table got around to the rock ‘n roll dance the previous night at Nippers Beach Grille on the Intracoastal. Cloud 9 band’s mix of rock, soul and rhythm ‘n blues packed the floor with boomers who have been grooving to those tunes for as many as six decades.
“Reminded me of high school, waiting to get asked to dance,” one woman said.
Age of the youngest person in that gab session: 64. And there we were the night before in our skinny jeans and leggings doing our thing on the dance floor, feeling more like teens than seniors.
This week, the scene was the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse. About four dozen members of the Happy Hour Club mingled in the 19th Hole with close friends who, not long ago, had been strangers.
Several concurred that we could not have foreseen having this social lifestyle in our golden years. (Did I really say golden years? Ouch! I gag on “elderly,” though.) For a variety of reasons, often unanticipated, many of us are single. Others are married couples. Some are retired; some are still working … doesn’t matter where. Pretenses are gone now. We identify by age, interests and wanting company.
The Happy Hour Club around the Jacksonville Beaches nurtures friendships and shatters insecurities. “People tell me they met some of their best friends here,” said Lina Ingraham, who founded the club four years ago. “Now they get together and do things outside of the club.” The continually growing group, consisting mainly of people 50 and older, has 350 members. It meets early evenings at rotating restaurants three times a month. Forty or more usually show up at each event. Dues are $0. Payoff is priceless.
“One woman told me it almost saved her life,” Lina said. “She had nothing else social to do.”
Yep. While we’re sipping merlots, munching on appetizers and chuckling at wisecracks, indirectly we are enhancing our mental and physical health.
Medical advances and healthier lifestyles are keeping people alive longer. However, keeping our spirits up and maintaining good mental health are largely up to us.
A study by the Yale Medical Group is one of many that showed that staying socially active and cultivating interpersonal relationships can help maintain good physical and emotional health, as well as cognitive function. People who interact socially usually live longer than those who become isolated. Benefits of socializing include reducing stress and risk of dementia, and building self-esteem.
Happy Hour Club members often let Lina know how grateful they are for knowing this comfortable, non-threatening social outlet is there for them.
In their words:
• “It’s a fantastic group of people who are my age.”
• “It’s family.”
• “We explore new places where I would never go on my own.”
• “It’s wonderful to meet new people and have a place to socialize. I actually made good friends to do things with outside of Happy Hour.”
• “Staying home is no fun for a single person. Here, we’re in the middle of the fun.”
• “When I was 35 I had two kids and a lot of responsibilities. I’m having more fun now.”
• “For people who are home all day and not employed, this gives them an outlet to have a social life.”
“Like a Cheers bar on steroids,” added another. Yeah, pretty much everybody does know your name.
As friendships forge, members happily fill voids in each others’ social lives. Get-togethers migrate from the scheduled Happy Hours to members’ homes, symphony performances, movies …
And dance floors at beach bars.
For information about joining the Happy Hour Club, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.