Ronni at the elderblog Time Goes By writes about the Village initiative as elders are taking this up. Immediately I thought about money, as we elders are prone to do. This is an movement that is attempting to get around the lack of good tax-payer financed services for elders, who may be "stuck" in their homes, willingly or not, by forming cooperative groups.
Ever since the Bush I years, private initiatives and volunteerism have been touted as the way to deal with social problems. These private agencies expect, of course, to tap into public money with their do-gooder programs, and they learn how to write those grant requests to public and private concerns. This is right in line with charter schools and insurance company run medical services which collect public money and wittingly or unwittingly undermine public services.*
Chris Hayes had some people on recently who talked about programs for inner city black children, especially boys and young men, and the one woman on the panel said what I think, that social problems are systemic and can't be dealt with in a piecemeal manner. I would add that the one program of this sort I saw ripped off the taxpayers and spent the start-up funding they got without doing any of the things they had promised to do.
I am suspicious of co-ops, too. The tendency is for a core group do everything, while the rest sit on their hands for good or bad reasons. Certainly, that was my experience with a co-op nursery school. That is why it is better to set up organizations that are run by paid professionals, whether private or public.
I stopped commenting on Ronni's blog, because she insists on limiting her concerns to old people like her who live alone and have no close friends or relatives to count on. She was angry when I mentioned that we elders can be of help to younger people, since we have so much more time than they do. We babysit sometimes for my neighbors, for instance, and we walk their dog in the evening. And they helped me get back on the road a little while ago when my battery went dead. And just having a cheerful young family living next door is a great morale booster when we start feeling sorry for ourselves or dwelling on our aging selves too much.
In addition, I enjoy my gentle yoga class with Christine, a delightful German woman, originally from Berlin. A whole term of yoga, ten sessions, costs $10.00, because the County subsidizes the Kamana Senior Center, which is part of a comprehensive array of services for seniors.. My ceramics teacher, Paula, is a doll, too. The class itself, also at Kamana, is $10.00 but we do pay her to use the big gas-fired kiln at her studio. Next time she does a firing I'm going to try to get some photos of this remarkable process.
Alain de Botton says you only need a handful of friends to be happy. That is what I have: a handful of really close friends that I have made over the almost 18 years I have lived on the Big Island. The kind of people who call up to chat at odd times, or drop by, or that we do things with on weekends, celebrate holidays, etc. There are others that I'm not so close to who are becoming more important to me with time. We also have the means to see friends and family fairly often, although they don't live here, and actually "another life" with family in Seattle. Money solves a lot of problems of connection.
I note that commenters' primary concerns are with having their necessities for everyday living met. Even friendship, as Ronni talks about here, is regarded in functional terms as a way to increase longevity.This is one of the negatives I see with a lot of my fellow elders:that they see others as instruments rather than really caring about them for their own sake. That is a sure-fire recipe for having an isolated old age. The thinking seems to be that they want people around when they want them and want them to go away when they don't want them! It's best not to be that way about other people, because they might stop calling and coming around altogether!
If you want to look at Ronni's blog, you can google Time Goes By. I know some of you follow her anyway.
*I know good work is being done along those lines in environmentalism, etc. but it all gets very, very political and makes me feel uneasy. (If this seems vague, it's because I can't name names.)
More: And not to be forgotten: Because the assumption is that old people are affluent, poor old people have an especially hard time of it.