I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I live. I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a nomad, having moved a fair number of times. “Bloom where you’re planted” is a sappy phrase that I’ve tried to abide by. I’d like to believe that I’m pretty adaptable to whatever environment I happen to be in, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. Thus, the thinking.
I’ve been living here in northern New Jersey for nearly as long as anywhere else in my life. Having just passed my 15th anniversary as a Jersey girl, I can claim only Massachusetts as a place I know better. I enjoy living in New Jersey right now for many reasons, including its proximity to other places I like, its convenience, its variety of landscape and its feisty residents. Plus, if it’s good enough for The Boss, it’s good enough for me.
Baby Boomers Aging In Place
But will I still be happy at home here when I’m 75? Maybe not. I know I’m bucking the trend when I say that aging in place is probably not my personal ideal. Countless polls and studies show that most Baby Boomers are set on staying put as they grow older. In fact, this trend has the blessing of both the federal government and AARP, so it must be a certified phenomenon. But just because it seems to be a closely-held ideal for others doesn’t mean that it’s right for me – or for you.
One of my favorite columnists on all things elder is Mark Miller. His current article, published on wealthmanagement.com, explores the pros and cons of aging in place in detail. He highlights a new book, Aging in the Right Place, by gerontologist and professor Stephen M. Golant, in which Professor Golant posits that we may have gone just a bit overboard in touting aging in place as the be-all, end-all solution to our county’s fast-approaching elder housing crisis.
I’m glad to see that someone else shares my feelings of unease about the aging in place panacea. As someone who, at age 60, is already intimidated by both the volume and unpredictability of my fellow New Jersey drivers, I understand that aging in the suburbs doesn’t really work for those of us who don’t want to be driving themselves around at age 80.
Suburbia might be a great place to raise children, but it’s not necessarily so wonderful when it comes to getting old. I see it in my own little neighborhood right now. Folks who settled here their glory days during the 1960s are now watching their long-time neighbors loose mobility, fall victim to Alzheimer’s or pass away entirely, leaving fewer and fewer of the old-timers around to make a up a bridge foursome. How great is a house or a neighborhood when there’s no one left that you know to play with?
I’m far from the only person struggling with these thoughts. Put ten Baby Boomers in a room together for more than an hour, and the topic of “where do you want to go when you’re old” will come up in conversation as reliably as tattoo comparisons or discussions of hearing loss caused by concerts. It’s on all of our minds, or it will be very soon.
We can look to those just slightly older than us for guidance. Take a look, for example, at the blog site or Facebook page of 71-year-ol north Jersey resident Jacqueline Herships. She’s devoted several years now to exploring her housing options in older age and chronicling her experiences as she navigates these waters. The Little Old Lady Stays Put…or doesn’t indeed! I love her and I love what she has to say on the topic.
I’m traveling on Tuesday to attend this year’s Aging in America in Chicago. The event, sponsored by the American Society on Aging, brings together many of the best minds in the country to discuss all aspects of growing older. I’m betting that there will be more than a few educational sessions devoted to aging in place and to many of the other options out there. I’ll be keeping my ears open, and I promise to report back on what I find. Stay tuned…
Blog by Holly Deni