I remember my mom looking at me with earnest eyes and telling me, in no uncertain terms, that in case something bad happened to her as she aged, she did not want to go in to one of “those” places. The “those” were nursing homes. She had seen some friends go in to some “facilities” and pleaded with me that this would not be her fate. Fate did win out in the form of dementia and the care she needed far exceeded our family’s abilities. As a clergy person, I am, as are my colleagues, very familiar with visiting people in nursing homes. Every visit leaves a mark, on several levels. This is not an attack on such places as they serve a purpose, especially when circumstances leave no other choice.
Rather, I wanted to mention what is a growing trend, a trend again I think, driven by Boomers who have experienced issues with parents and have begun to search for alternatives to traditional nursing homes. We posted on the Jewish Sacred Aging Facebook page last month a notice about the growth in the Village Movement. This development, emerging from the Beacon Hill project in Boston, has spread across the country. It is a movement of neighbors who ban together to create a support system that allows greater possibilities to age in place. There are over 100 such “villages” in the USA and a national center is in Virginia. One of their staff will be a guest on my Boomer Generation Radio Show in February. This movement is also joined by the Green House project, begun by Dr Bill Thomas, and the subject of a very good N.Y.Times article “Growing Old Without A Nursing Home” (N.Y. Times, Tuesday December 16, 2014 p. D-8). Thomas rails against the “medicalization of old age”. Both of these programs were explored in a recent post on the web site “My Senior Portal” in a piece by Bonnie D. Kupperman: “Goodbye Nursing Homes; Welcome Homes For Elders”.
The trend to a more person centered approach to elder care seems now to gaining momentum. It goes again to my “theology of relationships” model as people wish to be in relationships with people for as long as possible. Treat me like a person, not a patient, seems to be a mantra that speaks to so many of us. There is much more to evolve in this area. As Boomers age and we confront in very real terms our own mortality and often disability, choices will need to be discussed and made. If we are lucky, we will be able to exist in a community of caring, an empathic environment that sees in each person a vision and a representation of the sacred. Not a bad goal to work for in this dawning new year of 2015.
Have a safe , sweet and healthy 2015
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min