A couple of weeks ago I told you about some old mean girls in a retirement community freezing out a 97-year-old new resident. Now comes a report of not only more old mean girls but of retirement community officials supporting them.
In the independent living area of her continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Alabama called Redstone Village, Ann Clinton had long enjoyed the weekly bingo game with her friends. She has had Parkinson's disease, then last fall she underwent back surgery requiring a stay in the skilled nursing wing.
When she had recovered, it was easy to use her motorized scooter to rejoin the game in the independent living section of the same building.
“'I have many friends over there,' Mrs. Clinton told [Paula Span of The New York Times]. 'We had a lot of fun together.'
“But in October, the bingo wars began,” writes Span. “First, the activities director told Mrs. Clinton she would need a 'sponsor,' an independent living resident to invite her and accompany her to the game. No problem: Her buddy Lynn Mielke agreed to play host.
“'I had a ball,' Mrs. Clinton said. She had missed the camaraderie.”
It wasn't long, however, before the director of the CCRC said that Mrs. Clinton could not be in the independent living section for any reason, an order Mrs. Clinton ignored until -
”One night, the staffer said, 'Ann, you’re not supposed to be here, because you’re up in skilled nursing,' Mrs. Mielke recalled. 'Ann said, I’m staying.”
“At which point perhaps half the women in the room walked out in protest of her playing.”
Read that last sentence again (emphasis mine): “At which point perhaps half the women in the room walked out in protest of her playing.
Mean old girls.
This is where Paula Span's story gets really interesting. She reports that some CCRCs set up exclusionary policies, “mandating separate facilities and activities for those requiring different levels of care.”
(You may recall a similar kind of retirement community story involving use of the dining room I told you about in 2012.)
Apparently, this kind of segregation is not uncommon. CCRCs market their communities as “active” because they know that healthier elders do not want to associate with those who require more care. But some people believe the separation of activities and use of facilities may not be legal:
“'...that’s why we have anti-discrimination laws,' said Eric Carlson, a directing lawyer for the National Senior Citizens Law Center. 'You don’t want to capitulate to people’s prejudices.'
“He and Ms. [Susan Ann] Silverstein of AARP believe that Redstone’s policies may violate the federal Fair Housing Act, which outlaws discrimination based on disability, and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“'Businesses should make accommodations for people with disabilities, and that goes double or 10 times for facilities that care for older people,' Mr. Carlson said."
Mrs. Clinton's adult son, Kin, tried to work out a solution with the CCRC but then they just shut down the bingo game altogether. One of the mean-old-girl contingent from the independent living section told Ms. Span:
“'I’m very upset because I lost a game that I enjoyed,' said Fran Woodard...She blames Mrs. Clinton, because 'she broke at least three rules in order to come to an independent living activity to which she was not invited.'”
Yes, broke the rules that are mean, nasty and possibly illegal.
Since then, the independent living group has restarted the bingo game as a club that requires membership by invitation only.
Unto the grave, I guess, there will be people who will find ways to set themselves up as better than others and find ways to discriminate against them.
Way too often, my tribe embarrasses me.
There are more interesting details to this story which you can read here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today is – nothing. No story. It is on hiatus for two weeks. Please read more here.