Are you still eating unassisted and thankful for it?
Are your knees starting to go?
Do you need two hands to count funeral events this year?
Are you now terribly familiar with your doctor’s office décor?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to start thinking about your future. Are you going to stay in that house where you raised the kids? Is the condo-then-residence path the only one?
Radical Resthomes is something completely different for people who want a new set of choices than they see for their parents.
Here’s the thinking:
WHY SOMETHING RADICAL? WHY NOT JUST AN ALTERNATIVE?
Put “senior care” into any search engine and it’s pretty clear things are about to change. Reports from AARP (American Assoc of Retired Persons) and CARP (the Canadian Assoc of Retired Persons), demographers, industry professionals all agree that pre-senior baby boomers will not be satisfied with living in a home where shuffle board and bingo are the highlights of the week.
Furthermore, the cynicism this generation expressed in the 60’s seems to flourish all over again if you ask their opinion of “assisted living” and “retirement homes”. They are not lured by the snazzy ads and new lingo.
And it’s not an idle dismissal. These future clients are presently caring for their parents. This experience is reinforcing their resolve: what they are seeing is not what they have in mind for those “twilight years”… which, according to current estimates, might last several more decades than they thought.
This is not just a generation balking about the inevitable: growing older. This is a generation that changes the rules when they enter the game. They changed music, rejected marriage, changed the role of women, redefined childbirth, and learned to thrive in blended families. They will certainly redefine how they live as elders.
One key difference between the boomers and their parents is a different notion of independence. Most older people today define their independence as an ability to live and care for themselves. As they age, they move into smaller apartments, alone or in retirement communities. They stay alone until they can no longer manage the tasks of day-to-day living. Resources are then bought to help out or, when that fails or is unaffordable, the rest home is the last stop. They don’t like it, but that’s what’s available, possible and inevitable.
Boomers see other choices. They spent many years in their late teens and twenties living communally, sharing skills and responsibilities. Many expect to go back to this way of living, when the big house gets too much for one or two people. They talk of caring for each other, living with young people around, home care, not institutional care.
Boomers have always distrusted the traditional. A bit of the rebellious kid, left in many of them, will buck the orderliness of rest homes. Eating dinner at 5:30, sharing a room with a stranger, being talked to like children, participating in “senior” activities… these regulations and behaviours will not be met with compliance. Boomers will be a disorderly clientele. Institutions will not run smoothly if they continue their current mode of operation and expect the boomers to just fit in.
Some change is already occurring in the area of senior care. Senior activities have transformed themselves from shuffleboard to book clubs, from bingo to exercise rooms, from institutional food to cocktails before a healthy, catered dinner (if you have the savings to afford them).
But even these changes are not good enough. As the boomers see it: “You’re still living a life that someone else chooses for you. It’s not your own life.”
That’s what’s radical about Radical Resthomes. You live your own life and it becomes your own, custom-made rest home.
HOW WOULD A RADICAL RESTHOME WORK?
The idea is actually very simple. Radical Resthomes will be an association of people who are living together in small groups – from as few as 3-4 people to as many of 20 or 30. A house of owners or renters, an apartment block of condos and/or groups living in the country, would join the Radical Resthome network. Membership would give them access to information and support to keep their living situation vital and healthy for all those who live there.
The success of each Radical Resthome will be based on two principles: home care and networking.
Home Care: This is becoming an increasingly popular way of dispensing health services to seniors. For short term problems and, eventually, chronic care, it’s become evident that sending a professional to the patient’s home to follow certain health problems is a lot cheaper than keeping someone institutionalized through to complete recovery. When 3 or more seniors are living together, the efficiency of the service increases: nurses can follow all of the roommates, who can help each other with the care that’s needed; if meals or cleaning is required, it one place to go instead of several. This kind of daily health care, supported by professionals and those living in the house, will mean that “staying put” is more feasible for a longer period of time, maybe even until the end of life.
Networking: Each group of people, who define themselves as a Radical Resthome, will share their experience, skills and information about living as an elderly member of the community. For those who are living on social security, it might be possible to barter their skills for something they need in return (an accountant in one residence does the taxes for someone in another who has a vegetable garden). Houses can be swapped: a person wanting warm weather can swap with someone looking to leave the heat behind. Community gardening, discounts and bulk buying all can be part of the Radical Resthomes network.
WHEN CAN I SIGN UP?
Radical Resthomes is only a concept at the moment. The next stage of its development would be a research phase. We need to review current legislation around senior health care, study senior residence regulations, cost out the different alternatives now available and see if we’re right…. That Radical Resthomes will be a cheaper choice as well as a more attractive place to grow old.