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.