With a Little Help from Our Friends
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158 pages

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In this book, an award-winning journalist tells the story of people devising innovative ways to live as they approach retirement, options that ensure they are surrounded by a circle of friends, family, and neighbors. Based on visits and interviews at many communities around the country, Beth Baker weaves a rich tapestry of grassroots alternatives, some of them surprisingly affordable:

• a mobile home cooperative in small-town Oregon
• a senior artists colony in Los Angeles
• neighbors helping neighbors in "Villages" or "naturally occurring retirement communities"
• intentional cohousing communities
• best friends moving in together
• multigenerational families that balance togetherness and privacy
• niche communities including such diverse groups as retired postal workers, gays and lesbians, and Zen Buddhists

Drawing on new research showing the importance of social support to healthy aging and the risks associated with loneliness and isolation, the author encourages the reader to plan for a future with strong connections. Baker explores whether individuals in declining health can really stay rooted in their communities through the end of life and concludes by examining the challenge of expanding the home-care workforce and the potential of new technologies like webcams and assistive robots.

This book is the recipient of the annual Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize for the best project in the area of medicine.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 avril 2014
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780826519894
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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With a Little Help from Our Friends
With a Little Help from Our Friends
Creating Community as We Grow Older
Beth Baker
Vanderbilt University Press
© 2014 by Beth Baker
All rights reserved
Published 2014
by Vanderbilt University Press
Nashville, Tennessee 37235
This book is the recipient of the Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize from Vanderbilt University Press for the best project in the area of medicine.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file
LC control number 2013041118
LC classification number RA564.8.B345 2014
Dewey class number 362.16—dc23
ISBN 978-0-8265-1987-0 (cloth)
ISBN 978-0-8265-1988-7 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-8265-1989-4 (ebook)
To Ross for his support in so many ways
Prologue: The Oncoming Train
Part I. A Time Like No Other
1 . The End of Denial: Taking Charge of How We Live
2 . Interdependence: Reconsidering “Aging in Place”
Part II. A Wealth of Options
3 . The Village: Neighbors Helping Neighbors
4 . Cohousing: Creating Community from the Ground Up
5 . Cooperatives: Living Affordably
6 . NORCs: Retiring Naturally
7 . Community Without Walls: Weaving a Web of Friendship
8 . Generations of Hope: Living Well by Doing Good
9 . Affinity Groups: Settling with Your Tribe
10 . Housesharing: Finding Companionship with Friends—or Strangers
11 . The New Family: Balancing Togetherness and Privacy
Part III. Getting from Here to There
12 . Design for Life: Building Homes and Neighborhoods that Serve Us
13 . How Will We Pay?: Planning for the Unknown
14 . Who Will Help Us?: Advocating for Direct Care Workers
15 . Is There a Robot in Your Future?: Accepting Non-Human Help
16 . “What If?”: Mapping Our Plan B
Appendix A: Glossary of Alternative Models
Appendix B: Questions to Help Guide Our Choices
This book would not have been possible without the openness of the many people who allowed me to visit their communities and who were willing to share their stories. Their names are in these pages, and I thank each one of them for their time, their honesty, and their trust. In particular, Gail Kohn was a valuable resource and font of insights who made many of these journeys more rewarding (and fun). My friend Barbara Armstrong greatly encouraged me with her enthusiastic review of my manuscript. Katie Pugliese contributed her considerable computer skills to assist me with the index. My wonderful neighbors and the members of the Washington Ethical Society have taught me the meaning and value of living surrounded by a close community of support. Many other friends and family members—you know who you are—have consistently believed in this project and encouraged me throughout the years I worked on it. Finally, Michael Ames, director and editor of Vanderbilt University Press, has been a steadfast believer in my work, and for that I am eternally grateful.
With a Little Help from Our Friends
The Oncoming Train
In 1922, my maternal great-grandfather Albert Nisley and my great-aunt Marie were killed by a train after their car stalled on the railroad tracks. From the time I was a little girl, I wondered how this could have happened. Why did they not get out of the car in time? I picture my great-grandfather desperately trying to start the engine. Did he shout at his daughter to escape while she could? Did she refuse to abandon him? Were they on a blind curve and did not realize that disaster loomed?
My mother, who was three years old at the time, could not answer these questions. “It wasn’t that uncommon,” she shrugged. “You heard about accidents like this. Maybe they didn’t know how fast the train was coming.”
The scene of this drama was outside of Washington Courthouse, Ohio, a rural community thirty-five miles southwest of Columbus where my mother was born and raised. It still looks much the same, flat land broken by the occasional grove of trees and neatly kept farmhouses, barns, and silos. Farmers on enormous combines now cultivate hundreds of acres of corn and soybeans, and the small farms have given way to ever larger holdings.
The train wreck changed the lives of my grandparents, Ralph and Elsa, in unwelcome ways. Good, upright Methodists with a strong moral compass, they accepted the heavy mantle of duty. At the time, they lived in the small house down the road from the family farm, where my cousins still live. My grandparents were contented there. But when my great-grandfather was killed, all that changed. My great-grandmother Hannah expected my grandparents to move into the main farmhouse and take care of it and of her.
Elsa did her duty, but I can picture her, lips pursed, doing her chores with resentment. Her brother-in-law and his wife, she believed, could have moved in with Hannah, with whom Elsa did not get along. After all, they did not have children, while my grandmother had two little girls to care for, with another to come soon after.
To make matters more difficult, my great-grandmother may have developed Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia. “I remember she asked me once, ‘Did you ever darn ears?’ ” my mother told me, laughing and still mystified. Such an odd question that it stayed with her for more than eighty years. Toward the end of her life, my great-grandmother stayed upstairs in her room, tended by a nurse. When she died, the funeral was held there in the farmhouse parlor.
Because of this story, I have always been a bit skeptical about the good old days when families took care of their own. Much as we like to think of those times wrapped in a rosy gauze of nostalgia, the truth was often more complicated. Friction and misunderstandings are as old as human families.
Nevertheless, throughout history, and still today in many cultures, families were expected to care for their elders. Midway through the twentieth century, this narrative shifted in the United States. Along with the death of the family farm, the outward migration to far-flung places for work and women entering the workforce in greater numbers led to the unraveling of the old rules and assumptions.
A dominant refrain of the older generation became, “I don’t want to be a burden on my children,” and an often unspoken corollary, “I want to stay independent; I don’t want my children to control my life.”
But this new perspective on aging may be no more satisfying than the old obligations of extended family. After my father died, my mother kept their house for many years but eventually moved to a continuing care retirement community, first living independently, then in assisted living, and finally dying in the rehab section of the nursing home. It was not a future I would want for myself.
Although she had a lovely small apartment in assisted living, a sense of ownership and control is difficult to maintain once you are in a large facility. Many forces conspire to undermine your autonomy, and in small ways you are made aware that you are a visitor and not the mistress of your castle. My mother had all of her faculties, including her Scrabble skills and wonderful wit. Yet because of institutional fire concerns, she was not allowed to have a toaster. I feel a deep dread as I imagine myself in that situation, a fear of that loss of control. Of course my mother could have wheeled herself down to the dining room and gotten whatever breakfast she wanted. But she was a late riser and liked to have a leisurely breakfast in her robe. The price she paid, then, was to spend her final year beginning each day with a wistful longing for hot buttered toast.
My mother-in-law would seem to have it better. At age ninety-five, though frail with multiple mild medical problems, Ruth lives in a roomy apartment in a high-rise complex where she and my father-in-law moved nearly thirty years ago in downtown Silver Spring, a suburb of Washington, DC. She is fiercely independent and would not dream of moving to an age-restricted community as my mother did. While my mother had an almost Zen-like detachment from her “stuff,” Ruth is surrounded by a wealth of belongings that are precious to her: hundreds of books and videos; her mother’s gold embossed china; her piano, which she plays regularly; family photos; file drawers of articles and leaflets from political and union organizing; and art work that covers every available inch of walls. Only in the last few years did she hire someone to help with cleaning once a month.
But even with the blessings of independence, my mother-in-law faces difficulties. She no longer drives, and as she has grown more frail, she finds it more difficult to use public transportation. She is lonely and misses not only the companionship of her husband of fifty-two years, but also of friends who have died or moved away. She spends considerable time going to doctor appointments. She clings to the silver thread of hope that nothing will happen to her physically or mentally to unravel her present situation. Meanwhile her rent has escalated dramatically, and she wonders if her fixed income and savings will be enough to allow her to remain where she is.
My family, then, represents the range of options that have existed for most people in our country as they age: move in with family, move to a retirement community or long-term care, or live alone.
But these are not the only ways we can imagine growing old. A significant cultural shift is underway. More than any other time in human history, people of the “Third Age” are realizing th

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