Independence or Imprisonment?
Almost two million Americans 65+ rarely or never leave their homes. Another six million are "semi-homebound."
It's easy to understand why so many of us wish to remain at home. We like our familiar surroundings, and we fear "institutionalization" and the financial drain it brings. We often fight to remain in homes we can rarely leave.
While aging in place may bring seniors a sense of control, it requires a variety of services, especially for elderly seniors. Providing those essential services requires a support team, money, and a flexibility among team members to manage many ever-changing issues.
It's a tough job. I can attest that the support of family and friends is crucial.
Here's is an example of the difficulties faced by an elder orphan,
Now 74, Jim had been CEO of a large manufacturing company in Cleveland. He stayed on the job beyond age 65 because he enjoyed it. Tellingly, he also said, "If I'm not president of this company, then I'm not sure who I am.."
Jim has had Parkinson's disease (PD) for nine years. The disease finally forced him to retire four years ago.
He and his wife Marie enjoyed an active social life while he was CEO. But Jim's work buddies faded away during his retirement. In time, he realized they were just business acquaintances, not friends.
But Marie had several good women friends, and she and Jim continued to socialize with them and their husbands. Then, a year and a half ago, she lost her five-year battle with breast cancer.
Peter is their only child. He's gay, and he lives in San Francisco with his partner and their adopted Vietnamese daughter. It took time, but Jim eventually accepted Peter's sexual orientation. They're now on good terms and speak often by phone.
Thanks to his excellent long-time executive assistant, Jim never needed to use a computer on the job. As a result, he now struggles to email his son and to order the murder mysteries he loves on amazon.com. As his PD progresses, these tasks become increasingly difficult.
Jim and Marie designed and built their lovely home, an hour's drive from downtown Cleveland. He was an avid gardener, but he now depends on hired help to do the work he loved. He had to stop driving.
Peter is understandably worried, as his dad's world gets smaller and smaller. Peter also sees some warning signs of dementia in his dad. He has been urging Jim to move into an upscale senior residence nearby, explaining that the move will bring him social contacts and activities that will make him happier and healthier.
But Jim says he loves the house with its reminders of Marie and the wonderful life they shared. "I can still get around, more or less," he says.