Left Coast / Right Coast: Lots of senior citizens live in South Florida

I’ve written before about some of the differences between the East Coast and our “left” coast. Today I thought I’d write about the southeastern U.S., South Florida specifically.   Florida has by far a higher number of "seniors" both measured by percentage of population as well as the total number residing there.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

Now we’ve lived in three of the four corners of the U.S., the Northeast, the Southeast, and the Northwest. There are some clear differences in each area.

I’ve written before about some of the differences between the East Coast and our “left” coast. Today I thought I’d write about the southeastern U.S., South Florida specifically.

South Florida, both the east and west coast of this peninsula, is definitely different than either of the other areas. Let’s start with demographics. Florida has in excess of 20 million residents. Of the three areas, Florida has by far a higher number of "seniors" both measured by percentage of population as well as the total number residing there.

So, what does this means in terms of daily life? Let’s start with driving abilities of those living in South Florida. As many folks are retired, to a great extent none of them are in much of a hurry. Plus as we age, many of us lose flexibility and night vision, affecting our driving abilities. 

That leads to what the great comic David Steinberg would say. His observation of an elderly driver when driving behind one of them was, “I call them Q-tips. You’d see just a shock of white hair – barely peeking over the steering wheel.” And Steinberg would call their continuously blinking left hand turn indicator a signal of “the eventual left.”

Plus, their driving speed makes you think they thought they were the Grand Marshal in a local parade. Never over 25 mph. Nice and safe. 

An old joke comes to mind.

A woman calls her husband who is driving in his car and tells him, “Dear, be careful. I heard on the TV that there is a car going the wrong way on the Interstate.

He replied, “A car? Why there are hundreds of them.

Another “senior” joke from the archive.

An older couple is sitting at the breakfast table. She asks him, “So what are you going to do today?”

He replies, “I thought I’d get the mail and also get an ice cream.”

She responds, “Why do everything in one day?”

Next on the regional differences is “going to dinner.” See in South Florida they have what are called “early birds.” That means if you come in for dinner at an ungodly non-dinner hour – you get a special lower price on a fixed menu. So there you are going out for dinner at 3:30 pm. Of course you’re not hungry, at least not yet. So, you get seated, wave hello at all the other seniors who live in your complex, and get a three course “plastic” chicken dinner for about $8 (tip extra). 

Of course, as you wait to be seated, you ask in a very loud voice, “I hope you have salt free, low fat items on the menu.” 

Then as you are finishing your dinner, you hear from the next table, “The food is terrible.” 

And the reply you hear is, “Yes, and the portions are so small.”

Most South Florida senior complexes have some sort of community recreational area. This might include shuffleboard courts, a community pool, and probably some exercise equipment. One thing is for certain. No one ever uses the exercise equipment there. Instead they head for the shopping malls. 

The good news is the entire shopping mall is centrally air-conditioned. They usually open by 6:00 am. Note that the stores are not open that early (except perhaps the Starbucks), but many seniors like to do early morning “exercise walks” in a nice air-conditioned space.

There are differences between the east coast and west coast of South Florida. The east coast includes principally three counties: Miami-Dade, Broward (which includes Ft. Lauderdale), and Palm Beach county. One thing that is almost identical is that all three counties are full of ex New Yorkers. 

The west coast of South Florida – principally the areas of Ft. Myers, Sarasota, and the Tampa area; is much more composed of mid-westerners.

Are there significant differences between the two coasts?

Yes, I have found the west coast is actually a bit “slower” than the east coast. Most likely due to all the retired New Yorkers. After all, if you’ve spent a good portion of your life in and around NY City, you’ve lived your life at a frenetic pace. So, when you retire and “slow down,” that is a relative term.

We New Yorkers like to call it not being “slow” or “fast,” but “half-fast.


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