Last week, NPR did a story on an alternative to nursing homes. Nicknamed “Granny pods,” these are mini mobile homes that can be rented and placed in a family’s backyard to function as a spare bed room for an elderly relative. You can read the transcript (or listen) to the article here.
We asked a member of the Women’s Foundation of California extended “family,” Rosemary Schreiber, 80, to reflect on the article and share her thoughts:
Aging is a complicated subject. For those who glide gracefully into the sunset years it is pleasantly rewarding. A backward glance at our journey and what has transpired is a morale booster; still it carries the complication of a stark realization that we do not have an equal number of years on view in front. So the mentally and physically-sound face this head-on and make the best of life’s possibilities with what time is left. No regrets.
Not all geriatric folk are fortunate enough to enjoy this state of independent living and I have first-hand knowledge of those who have made life-changing decisions about what lies ahead. Some have had to move in with children and forego a favored independence. Often this decision works well for both the children and the parent. How wonderful for grandchildren to sense the pride a grandparent feels in watching another generation carry on family traditions. But sadly, often the decision to blend the families does not work well for anyone.
More commonly the elder family member moves to a care home where they learn to live with other folks who face similar circumstances. But there is no place like home: just ask any resident who has made this life change.
I am privileged to volunteer at a highly regarded assisted living facility where care is the best that is available in my area. I spend an hour a week reading to a group of residents who are so grateful for the time I spend with them. Some residents tell me it is their favorite awaited time all week. If ever I think I might stop doing this, I am reminded of this comment and ask myself: how could I? My contribution to this adjustment in their lives is one hour out of 168 hours a week in my life. For that hour, I am their hook-up to times gone.
People who move away from what has been familiar for many years often feel disconnected. They still want to know about what is beyond the walls of their new home. That means someone must keep them informed about how life is progressing “out there.” Usually after our reading session, we sit around the table and discuss the current book or events and then they share memories of what life was like back in the days of trolley cars and 10-cent movies. They each bring memories that evoke such laughter for all present.
What they cherish most is to be connected still with their families. Not the worries that are part and parcel of family life, but the happy events that brings everyone together another time.
My reading group comes from a generation that has such regard for integrity and valor and propriety, and so I choose books that speak to those virtues and they love it. It really isn’t that complicated!