by Roberta Krakoff and Marcia McHam
Ed. note: What you have here is not only the questionnaire, but the Saga of the Questionnaire, which if it were a play with props would have at least one banana peel (OOPS!). Here is the official 55th Reunion Questionnaire which, even if you were at reunion, you would not have heard. Our questionnaire gurus, Marcia McHam and Roberta Krakoff, created this questionnaire in response to your online answers to the questions they posed. Fate then prevented them from coming to reunion (you will read why), so they emailed the questionnaire, and Janet Kirwan and Liz Russell did a great job presenting it, to great applause. So far so good. Only when we emailed Roberta and Marcia the version we proposed to send out to you did the panic buzzer sound! The questionnaire we had rec’d and Janet & Liz had read at reunion was the one from our 50th! And it was just as well received the 2nd time around! So now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story! Enjoy this newly minted 55th reunion questionnaire!
The alumni office informed us that they had 259 emails for our class. They sent out 258 and could not understand the discrepancy. Of the 258, we received 127 responses – almost 50%. Given that the average response to most surveys is 10%, that is remarkable – and even more remarkable because we were raised with typewriters and hall phones. To save trees or at least a few small bushes, this survey was done without a single hard copy!! We are not, however, mathematicians, so we have rounded off the answers to the nearest percentage.
Here we go!
75% own or rent the houses they live in. 20% own or rent the apartment they live in. 3% have moved to retirement communities, and one of us lives with our children. This indicates that most of us are still living independently in our own homes and very few of us have down-sized, as the science section of the “New York Times” and geriatric specialists might have predicted.
92% of us are still living where we were five years ago. 8% have moved.
59% of us are married. 16% of us are divorced, and 21% are widowed. We are true women of the 50’s. We may have been on the edge of a decade, but the majority of us stayed with our original partners and did not buck the establishment norm.
This one will stun you. 96% of us got married in our 20s. 3% of us got married in our 30s, and one person got married in her 60s. We stood on the steps of Seeley Hall with a diamond on our left hand, wedding invitations in the mail and our eight best friends as bridesmaids. Our mothers reserved the country club for the reception.
When asked if you could do it over would you choose to marry at the same age, 69% said yes. 30% said they would marry later, and 2 people said it was a mistake and they should never have married in the first place.
Our next question was “describe your marriage.” For those of us who have hung in there, 38% say they are blissful, 64% say it is companionable, and one person said it was bearable, but not one of us said the marriage was miserable. At our age, that is either a remarkably good thing or we were raised to keep a stiff upper lip and never admit to being miserable.
As we learned from the 50th reunion questionnaire, the class of ’59 was willing to respond to questions about sex but not about money. 60% of us are no longer having sex, while 40% are. Of the people who are sexually active, 44% enjoy having sex, but only once in a blue moon. 32% have sex on a weekly basis, and 24% on a monthly basis.
We next asked about children, but only about the quality of our relationship with them. Happily 89% have completely satisfying relationships with them. Only 8% have so-so relationships, and only one has no relationship at all. 46% of us say having children was the best thing that ever happened. 46% also wish they lived closer, and none of us wished they lived farther away.
Now to what we never talk about: MONEY. 124 out of 127 answered the question, quite a contrast from five years ago. Are we ever lucky? 89% of us feel financially secure about our future, and only 11% are not secure.
The basis of our financial security is surprising. The majority of us pointed to the stock market. Retirement and inheritance were tied. In third place came the category we entitled “your husband” or “yourself.” We are equally divided about who provides the income, our husbands or ourselves. We assume this means both retirement income and inherited wealth. Very few of us have real estate investments.
Who do we support financially? Again it is good news for most of us. 62% support just themselves. 25% support their husband or partner. 21% of us are still supporting our children.
How healthy are we?
Actually, things have not being going so well for the two of us recently:
Marcia – I fractured my hip and femur bone five weeks ago.
Roberta – I just had eye surgery.
Despite these little setbacks, we are the well elderly. 60% of us of us are in good health, and 35% are in excellent health. 4 of us are in fair health, and only 2 in poor health. We picked several categories that we thought were age-related problems. Cancer was the most prevalent at 45%, followed by joint replacements. 16% have had heart disease or a stroke. 9% have had episodes of depression or other mental-health problems.
What do we do to maintain our mental and physical health? Exercise. Is way ahead at 90%. However, there are multiple choices here. Next is volunteering at 51%. 48% of us have a drink or two. We keep our minds alive by taking classes and doing crossword puzzles at 35%. And 18% of us are still playing bridge after all these years, just as we did in the “smoker” after dinner. But, oh my, the bidding has changed!
We were raised to not discuss religion or politics. We stayed away from religion this time, but we did ask about the Affordable Care Act. 83% of us approve, and 18% are opposed. Previous questionnaires have told us that we are overwhelmingly liberal, so support for Obamacare is not surprising.
We asked whether Smith is more or less selective than it was when we were admitted in 1955. 35% responded that the college is less selective. If so, why? Interestingly enough many skipped the “why” question. Here are few sample answers. “I think they are looking for women who think they are better than men.” “Fewer well qualified applicants.” “Smith is striving for greater diversity and hoping to add internationals to the mix.” “Yale, etc accepting women”.
Do you give money to Smith? We are loyal, and we open our checkbooks to our alma mater. 94% of us give, and only 6% do not. This is the only question that everyone answered! The main reason we give is because we are loyal. Of all the charitable causes making demands on our bank accounts, where does Smith rank? 68% say right in the middle, while 18% said at the top and 14% at the bottom.
What are positives at our age and stage in life? Leading the choices are time and freedom at 45%. A close second is “self knowledge” at 33%. Less pressure and financial security are tied at 8%.
The question was open-ended, and so we will read some of the responses. All but 5 of us made comments. “Still working, interior design, have 7 grandchildren 4 in London 3 in New York and best of all a wonderful husband, almost always.” “My full time job” “Work” “Family and friends” “The love and support my children have given me since the death of my husband.” “My son”. “The memories I have with my children, my family and my friends.” “New partnership with old beau” “A love affair which is sadly over now” “My garden” “Marriage to same-sex partner” “My sustained curiosity and love of learning” “Music – I still teach privately, play in several ensembles, conduct an orchestra” “ “Independence”.
Thank you for asking us to do this and for being so responsive. It has been both challenging and a great deal of fun for us to do this over many reunions. We all have every reason to be proud of our class and what we have accomplished, survived and enjoyed.