ELDER MUSIC: 1960 Again
What Elder Services are There is Your Town?

Aging in Place – Your Town

I grew up in suburban Oregon and California so I had a good deal of experience with suburban living before I moved here to Lake Oswego, Oregon, four years ago.

I also lived for 40 years in New York City and I always believed that it is an ideal place to grow old. (Other densely populated big cities like Chicago and Boston may also be, by my knowledge is of Manhattan.)

That city is made up of many dozens of small villages – most of them geographically much smaller than any small town.

Often they are no more than five or six square blocks, but because each tiny village is so densely packed with people, all the necessities and amenities of daily life are contained within the village borders, walkable for all but the most infirm.

And even then, even before internet shopping and delivery, it is almost possible to live in Manhattan without ever leaving home. My next door neighbor, a healthy, young Wall Street trader, phoned the corner bodega for delivery of his morning coffee and bagel every day of the week for years.

Laundry, cleaners, grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants (eat in, take out and delivery), varieties of clothing shops, hardware stores, libraries, medical offices, local social services and pretty much anything you need or want is contained within each little village or close enough for an easy walk.

When it's not, public transportation in Manhattan is among the best in the world. There is no need to own a car and therefore none of the fear American elders in suburban towns, or sprawling cities like Houston and Los Angeles, have of one day turning in their car keys.

Over the weekend, The New York Times published a story about how more elder New Yorkers are choosing to age in place nowadays rather than make the traditional escapes to retirement in Florida and the American southwest.

As you might imagine, it being New York City, there is a good deal of contention among residents of different age groups in large residential buildings about how to deal with those who need more help as they grow old.

Elder residents, reports The Times, become forgetful, wander the halls in their night clothes, leave gas stoves on or water running among other issues that can be either dangerous or just annoying to other residents.

But some buildings that have become transformed into NORCs (naturally occurring retirement communities) are creating a variety of ways to deal with and help their elder residents.

”Often, doormen are the first line of defense. 'Me and the other guys know who looks good and who doesn’t look good,' said Michael Lydon, who has been on the service staff of an Upper East Side co-op for 27 years.

“We’ll say, 'Have you seen Mrs. So-and-So recently?' People who are elderly have a routine, like going to Gristede’s on senior citizens’ days. If they break from that routine, that makes us think we should go check on them.'”

Many NORC buildings, according to The Times, are finding other creative and important ways to serve the needs of their elder residents such as one that keeps a list of residents with special needs, such as those who use canes, walkers or wheelchairs, for use if there is an emergency and the building needs to be evacuated.

Another allows deliveries directly to apartment doors of elder residents rather than requiring the packages be left at the front desk as with younger residents. Others arrange for classes or social gatherings in the building and at least one brings in a registered nurse each week to check blood pressure and medications.

Although some building management companies avoid any kind of help to their elder residents citing the possibility of litigation, others welcome the opportunity to help and are finding new ways to do that:

”Seniors? Bring them on, said Dean Feldman, an associate broker at Halstead Property and a resident of Schwab House. 'I know that co-ops aren’t social service agencies,' he said.

“'But we can all do a lot to support all the elderly people in our buildings.' This could include designating 'floor captains' who would take note of newspapers piling up in front of a door and of mail uncollected.”

I bring all this up today because, as we know, the percentage of old people is growing dramatically throughout the world and there are not now, nor will there be, enough “homes” to help those who are no longer entirely independent.

With a little help from such enlightened people at Mr. Dean Feldman, elders themselves are going to have to figure out care for ourselves as we age. One way I write about here from time to time and am working on in my area is the Villages movement.

There are other solutions too and it will take all of them together to help us help one another age in place. We can learn from one another in different places and environments and there are some good ideas in this New York Times story that I'm sure can be applied in a number of ways elsewhere.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: Tomatoes for Victory


If I won the lottery, I'd be back in NYC in a heartbeat.

Surprisingly, I see only 1 comment & I expected more. There was no email from TGB today and I wonder whether many know that if you go to any previous day's post and press "Time Goes By" that the present day's post will come up. Or...perhaps everyone is enjoying an extended coffee in the still-warm summer mornings....

Thank you for writing about this, Ronni. Just yesterday I assisted a woman who decided to walk home from the store when she lost her keys after shoping. I talked her into letting me give her a ride and found she lived 4 more miles away! I'm now really concerned about elders not having any clue about having a back up plan. She had no cell phone and no computer at home and no family or friends near. I think she may be sporting a bit of dementia in having thought she could walk that far. It makes me wonder how many of these elders (she was over 80 easy - two hip replacements under her belt) are in my community who have no one to call. When I asked her the obvious; regarding a taxi she said she thought she lived closer. I should have given her
my number, in hindsight. No I'm worried sick about her!

If I won the lottery, I'd live part time in a NYC NORC, part time in a warm climate and part time in a Montreal NORC.

Imagine the fun we'd have if we all moved into the same NYC NORC.

A NORC is the best idea yet. No need for a car. Montreal has a huge underground shopping area.

You wouldn't have to stick your head out until April.

Wow, I love this idea.

Thumbs up for NORCS.

I've never lived in a densely populated area. I have lived in very rural areas and small towns. Here, when farm couples get old, they commonly "move to town." I see now, of course, one big reason why that is so common.

You are absolutely correct that people should start designing a support system for their old age, while they are still able.

Such a good comment,Pat, to plan ahead before the need is so great. My husband and I have talked about this, while in our 60s, as to what we will do in our 70s and 80s.

There are no villages here that I know of, and even if there were, I probably couldn't afford to move. However, I cringe at your description "so densely packed with people." That would never be my choice. I'm a sprawling suburbs type of person who doesn't like crowded urban areas and concrete canyons. If I won the lottery, however, there is one gorgeous age-restricted development near here (Anthem) where I've wanted to live since I arrived in 2005. Unfortunately, homes there cost about 3 times what I paid for my current little house.

I would appreciate someone to clean and put away the outdoor furniture next week; someone to come by once or twice a year to explain the new (and old!) tech information for computer and cell phones; someone who could assist going through boxes of memorable or useless items that now number in the dozens; help with eliminating unwanted clothing and household items & then donating them to my favorite homeless shelter.

And I'd love for someone who could put together a list of all the small, pesky things (like screen repairs, paint touch-ups, ceramic gluing, etc.) and have it all done.

Now, where is that fairy godmother!!? I don't think I'm done yet...

As PiedType laments, cost is prohibitive in many of the current options that seniors would actually enjoy. Lower cost options are still rather bleak, I'm afraid. And I base this on researching local options when my in-laws suddenly needed to go into assisted living from their comfortable rural home a few years ago when they had just entered their 90's. We looked into the nicer ones, and we chose the one that seemed to be the best option for what they could afford. It was superficially very pleasant and attractive, and the meals were pretty good, but beyond that I have little positive to say. I would recommend that no senior facility be allowed to have dining room flooring that is essentially carpet over concrete.

One of the most important ways for us to "age gracefully and richly" is not to sequester ourselves away from the rising generation. We must live until we die to experience life to its fullest, even if it does present dilemmas and conflicts and problems to work out and opportunities for continuing growth. Sequestering ourselves among other oldies (and many resources) may buy us a little more time, but at what price? The boomers will be experimented on in a lot of ways, not just in the village concept!
Having back-up plans and continguencies is smart, even for such things as hobbies that sustain us. My brother and his wife are great 3 wheelers and take many many interesting trips and retired early for that wonderous hobby of theirs...and now my brother's neck and spine can no longer take the bumps. and his wife's cry of true anguish is, "But what will we do if we cannot go 3-wheeling anymore?"
Our greatest gift to the rising generation is to role model in front of them what it is really like to get old. And someday, when it is important, they will remember us and our example, just like we now remember those oldies we so easily "dismissed" when we were young.

If only the world economy were not so monstrously unequal, NYC would indeed be a perfect place to live. I loved it the only time I was ever privileged to visit friends there. But from what I read and what I see on "House Hunters" (HGTV) the cost of even a tiny apartment is out of range for all but the richest of the rich. All those films and TV shows in which ordinary people live in comfortable NYC apartments have to be complete frauds. There was a time when it was possible for the rest of us to live there(as Ronni knows) and I have to say that it makes me not just sad, but pissed as hell that it no longer is accessible to us regular folks.

Meg, same with San Francisco. I cannot live there on a teacher's pension, but if I could afford to, I would do so in heartbeat. I loved the 15 months we spent in SF. I could walk and take public transportation every where.

Our 525 sq foot studio apartment cost $1880 in 2009-2011. In 2011 the rent went to $2442 at which point we had to give it up and return to Fresno and our paid-for house. I understand the rent is now $2880.

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