Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Happy Kathy and John Plan

At the LA Times, columnist Sandy Banks touched a nerve when she wrote about "senior living communities." She summarizes the contents of her mailbag here. A sample:
A few readers bristled at the very concept of shuffling seniors off to live separately. "Warehousing is warehousing under any name or at any price," wrote Harold Shapiro. "As a culture we perpetuate this practice whether for the poor or the well-to-do. We essentially relegate the elder in our society to the sidelines."

Others championed their own senior living communities. I was invited to Claremont to visit Pilgrim Place, to Walnut Village in Anaheim, to Glendale's Windsor Manor and to Laguna Woods Village (nee Leisure World) by 88-year-old Walt Wood, who warned me: "you'll have trouble getting a word in edgewise."
The variety and passion of the messages Banks received are obviously signs of our unresolved feelings about old age and how best to care for our aging relatives. Having done some research about nursing homes (not the ideal generic rubric, either) and performed my share of visiting ministry in them, I've resolved never to judge families who decide to place someone in one. First, we can never know all the factors that came into play for those involved. Second, a third party's judgment does no one who's directly involved any good.

And third, I've come to the conclusion that each of us is in training, or should be, to be an old person and that a contented, active, socially engaged old Kathy and John living down the hall or in the granny-grandpa shack out back would also be a reasonably happy Kathy and John at Golden Acres. That's our plan, at least.

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