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It Takes A Village

It Takes A Village

The aging of populations worldwide has been discussed and written about as though it were a natural (or unnatural) disaster. Like the swirling hurricanes that seem to keep coming. Relentless, unstoppable – a silver tsunami. This morning on WNYC’s radio program The Takeaway ,writer Esmeralda Santiago spoke with Todd Zwillich about the aftermath of the storms that have pummeled Puerto Rico.

She said: “… many many situations are about neighbor helping neighbor…The people I have talked to and read about are optimistic and looking forward to making things better then before the hurricane.”

This optimism in the face of the catastrophic is not just to be admired, but emulated. 

 Not everyone is focusing on the changing demographic with doom and gloom. In her book, The Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and her Ted Talk, Ashton Applewhite restates the statistics and their interpretation with a positive spin.

Only “4% of older Americans will need nursing homes, and 90% of people think just fine until the end of their lives.” Older people benefit from the “U” curve of happiness, people are happiest at their youngest and oldest.

So the world could be actually better off with an aging population of happy people; as long as we know how to provide care when and where it is needed. At a presentation to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Beacon Hill Village, the writer and surgeon Atul Gwande spoke with broadcaster Robin Young about the “ Value of Community Choice as We Grow Older”. Gwande says, none of us want to have to treat our aging parents as though they are “wards”. Beacon Hill Village is a non-profit membership organization “dedicated to creating opportunities to chose how aging is lived and change how aging is valued.” According to the Village to Village Network The Village Movement started with Beacon Hill Village in Boston over 15 years ago and today there are over 200 open Villages and more than 150 in development in 45 states. By coordinating access to affordable services, providing volunteer services, offering access to vetted & discounted service providers; Villages can provide anything their members need to age safely and successfully in their own home. This model reduces isolation and creates healthy  interdependence for members reducing overall cost of care.

The Village Movement impacts Villages and their members, as well as the lives of countless families, caregivers and members of the broader community.

As Gwande said, “it really comes down to neighbor helping neighbor.” Which means no matter your age making certain to stay a vibrant part of your community.  As I have written in a previous blog  your chances of survival in a disaster are greatly increased if you know your neighbors.           

 As our hearts and minds are focused on the people who have suffered from the recent storms, the lessons for us all are clear. WE can change the way we age and view aging by NOT seeing it as disaster (natural or otherwise) and by staying connected. After all, it takes a village!

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