Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sustainable Saturday-Aging in Grace

 As some of my readers know, my spouse and I are long distance caregivers for my mother in law, who is in her mid 80's and went through radiation treatment for cancer earlier this year.  We are also advocates for my spouse's youngest brother, who has a developmental disability called autism.  By choice, my mother in law has chosen to keep that son at home, and has refused other housing choices for him.

There is a movement in my country, the United States, called "aging in place".   The hope, for many aging people, is that they can remain in their homes, perhaps with some various modifications. And, part of this movement involves entire neighborhoods. Sometimes, as communities evolve, they become what is called Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities.

For example, this is the biggest Naturally Occuring Retirement Community in the United States.

This is Co-Op City, in the Bronx, one of the five boroughs of New York City.  When it opened in late 1968, many people I knew moved there - people raising families.  Now, those people are retired, and many are still there.  You can say that a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community is an organic expression of a true community, as people of all ages live together, and all of their needs are met.

My mother in law, miles away, has lived in her house for some 50 years.  During that time, it has gone from being in a semi-rural community (she lived near a chicken farm, right off a dirt road) to a suburb of New York City. 

Now she is a widow living on social security in a place where taxes are high, and food and other things are way more expensive than where we live in upstate New York. But, she doesn't have access to many of the services she would be eligible for if she just lived a couple of miles south of where she does live.  She's in a county that is still basically rural, and the services she needs just don't seem to be there. 

Her area is not in a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.  She's struggled to keep her independence, but the house that seemed good for her and her family when she and her husband were raising several children is now a trap for her.  It is a split level, and her mobility continues to deteriorate.  She has knee issues, and her physical condition rules surgery out.  There are stairs everywhere. 

I certainly didn't take aging into consideration when my spouse and I bought our house.  We were in our 30's. I didn't yet have a bad back and arthritis in one knee.  We are fortunate, because we have everything we need on one floor except our washer and dryer - when we bought our house it was a ranch, and we added a second floor after our son was born.  And, we live in a community with more services for seniors than some other counties in New York State.

It could be better.  But it's a lot better than the community where my mother in law lives.

Yes, we all make decisions that seem right at the time, but times change.  We can all hope that we get the opportunity to Age with Grace. 

Soon, we, and her, are going to have to make some hard decisions.  The one piece of good news is that my spouse's application for guardianship of his brother in law is moving forward, and will be heard in court sometime in June.

As a result of the latest events, I may be rerunning some classic RamblinwithAM posts in the coming weeks.  I hope you enjoy these glimpses of material from the five years of this blog.

8 comments:

  1. I struggle with this right now. My mother lives in a very rural area and has for her entire life but the towns around her are getting bigger and more dangerous. We want her to move out before the danger gets so close she will be affected also. And yet I live in an area of NJ that our nice paycheck can barely pay the bills. There has to be a place that will be the right balance to survive now and still thrive later in life.

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    1. I hear you - my father grew up in a part of New York City that is now extremely dangerous, and he struggled to get his own father (my grandfather) out when the man didn't want to leave what was familiar to him. And, it had to be affordable. I wish you the best; this is a hard thing.

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  2. Yes, you do, indeed, have some hard decisions coming your way. I applaud you for your caregiving. What would your mother-in-law and brother-in-law do without you. Take care, now. Keep us updated.

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    1. Thank you. There are other family members involved and I will keep you and my other readers updated.

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  3. Here in England, the Gov. helps people to alter their homes as age sets in. My husband and I live on the ground floor amongst 3 other flats occupied by people of the same age. There are hand grips everywhere needed, although I still find it difficult to step down the path to our back garden. However, with the home ready for my further deterioration, and an alarm installed as well as one I can wear around my neck, I should be able to remain here. I'm so sorry for your relative's predicament.

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    1. It's a totally different mindset here, Francene, as you well know. My mother in law, and many others, would reject that government help if offered. She even calls her Social Security her "salary". I'm glad you did get the help you did. Incidentally, my mother in law does have one of those alarms. They are wonderful devices.

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  4. I'd worry if any of my family members lived by themselves, miles away. It sounds like you do a great job of looking after her. :)

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    1. We try, as do other family members, but it can be frustrating. And rewarding.

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