Last year Americans drove 5 billion miles caring for seniors in their homes (Meals on Wheels, Whistle Stop Nurses, and so on). In our small, semi-rural county in the Sierra foothills, Telecare made 60,000 trips in massive, lumbering, polluting vans-buses – usually carrying only one senior at a time – schlepping a couple thousand seniors total over hill and dale to doctor’s appointments, to pick up medicine, or to see friends. In our cohousing community of 21 seniors, I have never seen a single Telecare bus in the driveway.
The Great Depression, probably not, but we sure have a mess on our hands. On Sunday, October 5th In Fresno, CA the Cohousing Partners and McCamant and Durrett Architects (MDA), and an awesome cohousing group celebrated the grand opening of La Querencia cohousing among hundreds of well wishers, under glorious blue skies and next door to the new Gold LEED Unitarian Church. The church and the community, both designed by MDA, have been recognized for their cutting-edge environmental leadership.
An acquaintance of mine, Chris Zimmerman, owns and operates a couple of assisted-care facilities in Alameda, California. He inherited one at age 23 and subsequently built a second one. He’s now 60, and despite the limitations of an assisted care environment, he has developed astute theories about seniors and elders.
Like many observers of the cultural scene, he agrees that seniors today are given little respect, but he also believes that they have to earn the respect that they’d like to command. He argues that seniors have abdicated their role as respected elders. Being an elder once meant earning respect by playing an active role in teaching younger generations, a role that’s seldom fulfilled today. He believes that seniors earn elderhood by helping younger generations understand how to be accountable.