Monday, 13 February 2012
Carrying High School Prejudices into Old Age
Undoubtedly, you remember cliques in high school where students divided themselves into the jocks, brains, rich, preppies, druggies, etc. and the most privileged groups tended to be mean. If you were among the excluded, it could be painful.
It is expected that we outgrow these arbitrary divisions and certainly so by the time we reach our 60s and older. But last week in The New Old Age blog at The New York Times, this turned up:
”...last spring, managers declared the River Terrace and two other dining facilities at the community off limits to anyone but independent living residents. Assisted living residents were told to use their own small dining room; nursing residents were restricted to theirs.”
To get our terminology straight, River Terrace is a “gracious” dining room in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) called Harbor’s Edge in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. It is, as is the definition of CCRCs, divided into the three sections mentioned in that quote. Residents move among independent, assisted and nursing care living through the years depending on the requirements of their health and needed care.
As you can imagine, many residents object to the new dining policy not only because it is discriminatory in general but for a lot of other good reasons:
”...longtime friends — and several married couples — who lived in separate parts of the facility could no longer share meals in the main dining room. Those in assisted living or nursing care also were also barred from community events like the Fourth of July celebration...
"The Hodgeses had been eating together nightly, though he lived in the nursing unit and she was in independent living. Lindsay Bilisoly sometimes escorted his 90-year-old father, Frank, to dinner with his wife, Indie, 85, who remained in the independent living unit they’d originally moved into together.”
Other residents support the segregation:
“Martha Haycox, 80, past president of the Resident Advisory Council...took pains to point out that three independent living residents with health problems are also excluded from the dining room, while many who do use it require wheelchairs or walkers.
“'It happened to me twice in one week that somebody at the next table threw up,' requiring hasty clean-up by the maintenance staff, she said. Another time, she said, someone’s wheelchair got tangled in a tablecloth at Sunday brunch and nearly pulled all the food off the buffet table...
“'It’s a very upscale community,' said Mr. Volder. 'When someone comes in wearing a coat and tie, with guests, they want an ambience of fine dining.'”
In other words, we don't want no crips sullying our lovely upscale meals.
Vomiting at the dinner table is hardly pleasant, but hey – shit happens and more than most places, it should be expected sometimes in a retirement community. It's hardly a big deal – you clean up and move on. I seem to recall such an event with a president of the United States at a state dinner in Japan.
Let us not forget too that, healthy or sick, residents at Harbor's Edge pay dearly to live there. The grown son of one resident:
“'Ninety-five percent of the time he’s perfectly capable of eating dinner,' Mr. Bilisoly said. 'I can take him to any restaurant in Norfolk or in the state of Virginia, except the one in the building he paid $600,000 to move into.'”
In high school, students who considered themselves better than everyone else prevented lesser beings from eating lunch at certain cafeteria tables. Fifty and 60 years later, nothing has changed.
Sometimes I am deeply embarrassed by my contemporaries. The full Times story is here and it's worth reading some of the comments.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today: I.S. Kipp: Trinkets and Treasures