My mother lives on her own in a senior cooperative in Eagan. She turned 89 last month and as her ‘cognitive impairment’ has begun to worsen, my brother and I asked her if she was willing to sell and move to a facility that could provide meals and additional care on-site, if needed. “I’m so lonely now,” she said. “It didn’t use to be like this. I can tell that people here don’t want to be around me anymore.” She eagerly agreed to begin the process of selling and moving.
A week later, as if to hasten the move, she fell at a nearby restaurant and broke her hip. She had surgery to repair her hip last Monday and on Thursday, was moved to a transitional care facility in St. Paul where she promptly fell and broke her arm. AARRGGHH. (This in part explains why my blogging and participation here on LogGro has sucked lately.)
The problem as Gilman sees it lies in both the concept—the separating of senior citizens from the larger world—and the culture of retirement communities. There is back-stabbing competitiveness when hundreds of widows vie for the few single men. Social lives depend on good health, as if heart disease or osteoporosis were contagious.
Gilman finds fault in the way these communities are marketed, with emphasis on the sporting, silver-haired set, seemingly unhampered by the reality of aging. They reflect our national obsession with self-reliance, pitting our need for independence against our need for community…
But even those models, with the exception of inter-generational housing, don’t address the national crisis in senior living, the tainted legacy of age-segregated housing that is a $51 billion industry. We suffer from a severe lack of foresight, a shortage of personal and community planning when it comes to where and how to age. We’ve separated our elders from their extended families without replacing what their relatives might once have provided: a decent quality of life, until the very end.
Is there an alternative?
More recently, a handful of inter-generational retirement communities, such at Hillcrest Village in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, which integrate young families and even include elementary schools, have opened in the U.S.
I know I’d prefer this option.