going, going, gone

Much ado has been made about Alzheimer’s.  In the Netherlands there is even an entire, self-contained village where people with dementia live like ‘normal’ people.  Denmark has a community called, “Life in the 50’s” for those boomers who want to retire in nostalgia.  However, while championing the cause of the moment, we are neglecting entirely the real problem facing us right now:  our elderly.  Every 7 seconds someone in the US turns 60.  In 5 years, one-third of the population will be over 55.

 So what are we doing?  Building thousands of nursing homes instead of designing our present cities so that we can age gracefully in them.  I live in a lovely, long-established neighborhood but there is not a single sidewalk so that I can walk through it safely.  I could move to one of those retirement communities where everyone drives around in golf carts but that would get ‘old’.  Besides, I would miss seeing and learning from young people and though they don’t know it yet, they would miss me, too.

Since one-third of us will soon be in that special milieu just how ‘golden’ will those years actually be?  Our culture STILL has a fascination with all things young and Madison Avenue continues to sink millions into glitzy Cosmopolitan advertisements.  But who wants to be sold high heels when they have trouble climbing the stairs?  Who will buy the next high-tech gizmo that takes 20-20 vision and fast, nimble fingers to operate?  And while collagen may plump up your lips, it takes joy to really make them smile.  That feeling springs from a nurturing community, not a divisive one.

 We need to stop creating separate spaces that divide us and design ones that incorporate both young and old.  Imagine a park where Maya Angelou strolls with Miley Cyrus discussing poetry as Jack Nicklaus shows Justin Bieber how to swing a 9 iron. Hard to imagine?  Yes, but not so long ago that was how life in America looked.  People were connected face to face—not cyberspace.

Am I sounding political?  You bet.   If we continue devaluing the old while placing premiums on the young we will create a restless, impatient and mentor-less society.  Unemployment figures would shrink to zero if focus were put on aiding the elderly:  building one-level homes, designing smaller cities that are walkable, creating abundant parks, planting greenery and simply caregiving our real ‘antiques;’ the ones so priceless they cannot be sold at auction.


4 thoughts on “GOING, GOING. . .

  1. Hi Helen!
    Always enjoy your thoughts and always say a prayer for you after reading them. We are no longer “young and catching the sun” as you sang in one of your songs from the mid-1970’s that I was privileged to hear at the time you wrote it! However, we are SO fortunate to have lived our younger years when life was not as complex and hectic either for us or for our parents as it is today. We didn’t feel like we lacked much either as I recall.
    Hope our golden years are comfy, and I hope to some day live closer to you and John in our heavenly home.


  2. Warning……Rant to follow:-)

    I think as a whole, our species has gone off the rails and current elder issues also reflect that.

    I live adjacent to one of the original neighborhoods in Tucson, Hispanic, built not long after this area was acquired from Mexico. Many of the residential lots have a bungalow in front and small cottage in the rear for grandparents who were integral to the family helping with grandchildren etc.

    That structure and bonding has broken down with the pressures of new economic realities and distractions for the young.

    My 92 year old neighbor has commented, that the elders of her generation usually passed away from heart or lung aliments. Most of the cancers today were largely unheard of and there weren’t epidemics of diabetes, autism, cholesterol related ailments.

    We flood our environment with toxins (it’s shocking how much) and then can’t ‘connect the dots’ with effects of environments degradation. Well there is money to be made looking the other way and it’s hard to get someone to understand what they are paid not to understand. Susan B. Komen and the Cancer Society should be on the front lines of environmental protection and health education instead of 100% focus on ‘the cure’. It’s part of our new consciousness to look to pharmaceuticals for health.

    Why does government subsidize corn and sugar and not fruits and veg(if anything has to be subsidized)?? The big agriculture industry took control of our dietary ‘education’ emphasizing meat…. subsidized corn and factory farms made meat cheap for fast food & processed food and aside from the ghastly humane aspects, is single handedly responsible for massive environmental and health damage (animals must be on antibiotics to fight off infections as a result of unnatural crowding conditions).

    I’m sure I would be a thorn in the side to grandchildren. It would drive me CRAZY to have a kid buried in texting much of the day with the shallow language of acronyms.
    Go out and have real experiences and develop real relationships using sentences strung together with real words!!! If I paid for their phone, there would be a time limit…..the computer would be in the common area, not one in their bedroom etc..
    After this intolerance (and I’m a child of the 60’s-go figure) I doubt a grandchild would have gone out of their way for me in elder years.

    All to say, I don’t think the schisms with current generations support bonding, caring for elders and the potential of science has become captured by the financial world which itself has become a ravenous behemoth that is on a rapidly escalating consumption orgy. This isn’t going to end well for anyone.


  3. As usual, great article.

    Did you know Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand have official strategies in place to deal with their aging population.

    Hard to believe the good “old” USA does not even seem to officially give it a thought – how sad and disappointing.

    Keep up the good work.


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