October 13th, 2010 at 11:08 am
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My Curbside View of Elders’ Housing Needs

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

Long ago, I whimsically dubbed it “neighborhooding.” At the end of my long workdays more than 20 years ago, I took the long way home. I drove through neighborhoods I might not have seen otherwise, enjoying the character of each neighborhood before I called it a day.

Fast-forward to the millennium. The same neighborhoods I once admired are starting to age – right in-step with some of the now-elderly homeowners. I wonder whether the (Baby Boomer) relatives of those aging homeowners now see the same handwriting I see on the wall when I’m enjoying my drive-by “neighborhooding” treks.

The Handwriting is on the Wall: Elder Housing Needs

In once uniformly pristine neighborhoods, trees have matured to the point of over-hanging rooftops. Looking at the over-growth of trees and the distorting knots, twists, and, turns in many tree branches and tree trunks, I can’t help but think about the housing and emerging medical needs of so many elderly individuals.

These are the elders who:

  • Daily become victims of con men and women who offer the elderly home maintenance services that somehow never materialize well after considerable sums of money have been paid out by trusting elders. Surely elderly individuals deserve better?
  • Are unable to manage their garden care in the manner they always did in days long gone.
  • Are afraid to be outside in their own front yards because of changing neighborhoods where it may no longer be safe for them to do so because of increasing criminal activities.

Years ago, one such news story caught my attention. In a televised interview, an octogenarian explained to a news reporter that the 80-something homeowner has gotten used to hearing drunken brawls in the wee hours. She reported seeing used syringes and broken bottles in her backyard “all the time.” She also saw men use her property as a short-cut walk-through.

  • Live far away from their adult children – so far away, that the elders’ voices and social needs go unheard and unseen. Is no news presumed to be good news by some adult children? I wonder.
  • Have no grab bars and walk-in bathtubs that would enable them to safely remain at home.
  • Do not have the financial means or know-how to retrofit their homes to better accommodate their medical needs.
  • Are not indigent, yet need financial help, affordable housing, and, other social services support as much as any indigent elder might.

I read the handwriting on the wall still when I go “neighborhooding.” Some wake-up call for us all, isn’t it? “Neighborhooding” is an elderly needs reading test. We’re failing at reading, it seems.

Con artists? They get a B+ in reading!

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