"Tuck I really have a hard time being with other women my age that complain about their aches and pains. That’s why I really like the company of younger people .”
Carolyn Kamin (My Mom at age 81)
On big white porch my thoughts were forever changed about so-called “Senior Living”. Not long ago after giving a talk about my book, Design Your Age at a titled “Senior Community” I sat afterwards with two wonderful ladies. As I got up to leave from the porch the two ladies begged me to come back and visit. I felt as though I was a liar, betraying them when I said I would return. I felt as if I was visiting an orphanage. An orphanage where no one has a chance of being adopted, much less re-visited. This event was the final straw and it changed my mind about these isolated so called “Senior Living” communities. But there is so much these existing communities can do to open their doors and move from restricted, isolated communities to becoming diverse age communities. And now older residential homes, apartments, facilities, and condos are sprouting up to be located in areas considered multigenerational. Hallelujah.
A Diverse Community Is Healthier.
Citing my interview with Professor James Kaufman from the University of Connecticut who’s authored multiple books on creativity, “Tuck the most creative, stimulating and productive communities throughout history were diverse in age, faith, sex, gender and race. Conservative, liberal, all matters of belief. New ideas that poured out of these communities changed the world.” Well that’s where I want to live.
Senior Living Comes Out To Play.
Recently I received an invitation to appear as talent in a photo shoot for a new community. I took them up on the offer because I was curious about their marketing and remarkably their building, which is smack dab in the middle of a community of all ages. Just out their front door is a park where young mothers and fathers with children play. Those same families live next door. Shops and many restaurants are steps away from this new building. Here is at least one step in the right direction of making older living better. Normalizing it.
Most active 80 and 90 year olds I have met detest the word “Senior” and what the word has become. Yes, it’s time to rebrand that name as well as throw it out in the trash with the words frail and elderly. Use the term "older individuals", "elders" or coin a new phrase. Now's the time for new language.
Compassion for existing older age facilities.
How cold and unkind is it of me to write negatively of communities that serve older adults? Obviously for many there is no choice but to go live in one of these communities. Yes some of these facilities invite and engage younger individuals on holidays to visit with their older residents. The children of older individuals, mostly boomers struggle to pay and make time for caregiving of their parents. This is a tremendous challenge and burden. And yes many of these facilities have extraordinary individuals providing care. A spouse may be experiencing early Alzheimer’s. So a move to a facility of this kind of care is lifesaving at times. But that same facility can create a space to invite and mentor younger individuals everyday. It’s time to get programs like that going. The younger people will discover the worth of older individuals. They will receive real world tools. Those who are older will feel a rise of self confidence. Open the doors and invite the outside world in.
Teasing Margaritas & Weed ?
A quiet rumbling is occurring. Boomers don’t want to move into these isolated age restricted communities. So variations like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville have popped up. Just guessing here but once you sign up you get the comfort of your own Parrot shirt and a bottomless glass of Margaritas. Hey sounds like fun.
For those that like to follow concerts on tour like the Grateful Dead, imagine a new bus service to get “Dead Heads” from one concert to another. In those recreationally accepted states a continual small cloud of weed could permeate the bus. As well as a chance of yourself going up in smoke when it’s your time. Sort of like Willie Nelson’s song “Smoke me when I’m gone.”
“Why can’t there be a housing development that I could share with other women and men my age? We’d have a large shared kitchen and responsibilities. We’d share the space. Maybe we could offer free rent to a medical care worker ? And it could all be in a village like concept with people of all ages.” Time and again after I give a talk people come up to me and ask about this housing and village idea. The reaction I get from 99% of most real estate developers is confusion. Instead of integrating a successfully designed older diverse community, it is dismissed. They can’t get past their version of a track homes community. I see it coming though. And it will catch these old fashioned developers by total surprise. Deep down in the basement laboratories of Design Your Age we’re working on such a community and will keep you posted.
On that photo shoot for the older community, I was asked if I knew of any older women who could model. I told them no problem, I knew of some beautiful women they could photograph. These women I know are timelessly beautiful. The continually create their lives on the stronger side of older. They are constantly, physically active no matter their physical limitation. They fiercely work at seeing what’s hopeful in the moment. They have a gorgeous outlook and attitude. They stay busy. They are as the songwriter sung, “Forever Young”. The strong side of older lives within them. So yes it can be a place where you live, but it starts by constructing a special state of mind.