Being Old in Friday Harbor

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According to, the San Juan Islands have a 19% population of people over 65. 35.7 percent of the population is between 45-64. That means that over half of the people that live in the islands are over 45. I am sixty-six. When I was 21, in the youth-worshipping culture of the sixties, I used to think that 66 was really old. I studied various cultures and decided that it would probably be a good idea to move to Japan when I got older, a place where people respected the wisdom of age.

But I am going to stay on San Juan. I can live here within this more mature population without feeling like I am old as mud. The things I like to do, learn about, and participate in are likely to be available because other people my age have similar interests. If I go to join a group of people, it will be easy to relate. If I’m looking for a certain kind of product or food in the stores, I’m likely to find it. If I feel like taking a break, I’ll watch town life from one of the many benches.

San Juan County topped the Washington state’s 39 counties in health rankings. It feels healthy to live here, where there are no freeways or industries to pollute the air. That means that it’s OK to poke around in your car on the two lane roads since the speed limit doesn’t go over 45 anyway. We don’t worry about crime or safety so much as they do on the mainland. There are lots of good things about being a small place with little anonymity. The sheriff will know you, your car, and your kids. He will wave.

I appreciate some of the things from my generation that I find in this older population. People here usually open doors for each other; they take time to listen and seem in less of a hurry. They seem non-judgmental and value the differences between people. And that is what is fine about being old in Friday Harbor.

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