Image by Transguyjay via Flickr
These issues came to life for me several years ago, when my father, a California school teacher, started looking for his future retirement home in Oregon's Willamette Valley. His criteria for the move, "I want to get away from the crowded [city] and find a place that is less hectic…somewhere I can grow things." At the time, I was co-teaching a class on housing and environments for older adults at Portland State University's Institute on Aging. Every ounce of my professional training told me that his moving away from important services could become an issue for both of us. I also knew my father well: he had never grown anything in his life. So I suggested, as gently as I could, that he might want to reconsider moving away from services he'd need.
He didn't buy it.
My father simply couldn't fathom the changes that age would bring to his abilities or his faculties. Even though he has never wanted to burden anyone, it was tough for him to envision the kind of decline that would lead to needing help with driving, shopping — or growing things. . . .
My father, like many others, had trouble facing the realities that accompany normal aging, not to mention the changes that might accompany a serious illness. Yet he was fully capable of making wise decisions when it pertained to someone else. . . .
Unfortunately, not everyone has learned those lessons—and the vital window of opportunity for planning for a rapidly aging population is closing. To help prepare, here are three things we can all start thinking about.
First, accept that you are aging. . . . Second, developers, planners, and homebuyers can break away from the "Peter Pan" style of development, which assumes we'll never grow old. . . . . "Visitable/visit-able" housing design can and should be incorporated into as much new and redeveloped housing as possible. . . . Finally, we can foster innovation in housing design and development. Concepts such as co-housing and the Green House model merit further exploration; these opportunities need to be expanded to be available to those with limited and fixed incomes. . . .
UPDATE: Must be the change of seasons making several bloggers write about this issue. Sharon Astyk has a great post on aging during the Era of Limits.