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Marcia Barhydt
Author... Contributor to We Magazine and Maturity Matters.

At 64, Marcia Barhydt started writing for women over 50. She is a monthly contributor to Kalon Women, WE Magazine for Women, BoomerCafe, Boomers Forever, and Women's Post.

Marcia's new book, Celebrate Age! is a collection of her thoughts, rants, raves and wisdoms learned after 50. Marcia lives in Brampton and is the proud mother of 2 grown daughters, Heather and Allison, and the even prouder grandmother of her 3 "perfect granddaughters".


I'm an advocate of aging in place. I've come to support this alternative not from the negative fears of nursing homes that my own mother felt, but rather from a deep understanding that both our personal life preferences and our public government agendas are better served by keeping us all in our homes for as long as possible.

And this is a very doable thing. The home care industry is growing in leaps and bounds; there are almost no services that are provided in an institution that cannot be provided in our own home. We now have home care workers, personal care workers, both graduates of community college programs, a myriad of house care providers to look after our houses inside and out as well as a complete range of medical care available to us at home.

Home nursing has been around for a very long time, but now, even doctors are taking advantage of technology to provide almost old fashioned house calls: Wheaton, Illinois-based HomeCare Physicians
(http://www.homecarephysicians.org ) uses wireless technology to serve elderly 5,000 patients in a 300-mile zone west of Chicago . As founding medical director of the firm, Dr. Tom Cornwell observes, "How ironic that it was technology that caused home visits by physicians to go away, and now it's technology that makes it possible for us to treat homebound patients."  The wireless technology provides ongoing care to help keep its chronically ill patients out of the hospital.

A few years ago I had to be on Intravenous for a period of 5 weeks. A home nurse visited me twice daily to change the medication bag and the IV pump was contained in a small fanny pack that I wore around my waist as I went about my day. I slept with the pump next to me, its quiet hum lulling me to sleep. The convenience was wonderful for me, especially compared to the depressing boredom I would have faced during a 5 week stay in a hospital.

Yes, a hospital is, I suppose, the ultimate 'institution', but a retirement home or a nursing home or any facility by any name that isn't my own home is still an institution. An institution is an institution.

Retirement homes have become a huge business as we boomers age and the cost of them is higher than many of us can afford. Ditto for private nursing homes. But costs aside, it's the loss of independence before it becomes necessary that offends me the most.

I write this article as a consumer only; I'm not in the retirement provider industry, but I do know that the old northern tradition of putting old family members on an ice floe to let them just float away is no way to treat any person who still has so much warmth, wisdom and love to offer.

ALMOST aging in place seems to be an option that's growing in popularity now. The large increase in 'retirement living' communities is witness to this new trend of selling your family home and moving to a special community of single family homes, just for older people. They often offer a number of amenities and they're sold as "a new kind of housing for the 50-plus". The problem with this concept is that it's still a concept of isolating older people from the community in general.

I live near Toronto , Ontario and I think the most illustrative example of retirement communities is Elliot Lake Retirement Living. Elliot Lake is a small town in Northern Ontario, almost 7 hours away from Toronto and over 2 hours away from its closest city, Sudbury . Its population is around 12,000.

Elliot Lake is isolated. Perfect fit? Ice floe mentality? And while Elliot Lake is stunning pristine and beautiful in the winter, it's also covered in snow, lots of snow, with an average of almost 250 centimetres each year and an average winter temperature of -10 degrees Celsius.

When my grandparents could no longer live in their own homes, the majority of them were absorbed into their kids (our parents) homes in some manner where they could continue to enjoy a degree of independence while still being an integrated part of their family. Who remembers the stories our live-in grandparents shared with us when we were children? And that all disappears when an institution is chosen. How sad.

Our ice floe mentality needs to stop. We need to be responsible for our parents just as they were responsible for us. We need to find, in our busy lives, the time to prioritize every member of our families. And we need to reject institutions, including retirement communities, as a viable alternative as long as we possibly can.

Aging in place is the right solution.


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