By Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., Executive Director, Colony Retirement Homes
For years now, I’ve been writing about aging, but I was in my 40s. I know that on one level, we are all aging, but for the most part, I have been writing about and representing a group to which I did not belong.
I struggled with this. I believe all disenfranchised groups should speak for themselves. But, I can also rationalize that I do have expertise to share and what better way to serve elders than to use my proverbial microphone to educate about housing issues and highlight examples of successful aging.
But now it is official. I am over 50. I received my invitation to join the AARP and proudly sent off my membership application form. I welcome being older, and to finally identify with the group I serve.
But now I am questioning this very idea. Who am I to represent this group? How can any one person claim to speak for four different generations spanning over a half century of life and encompassing all genders, nationalities, and races?
Which, in turn, makes me wonder why this group is all lumped together. How do you unify people in so many stages of life? What, if anything, brings this group together? I have always been surprised when residents tell me they “are not like the other people here” or that they “don’t have much in common with their neighbors.” I have always assumed these people set themselves apart because they do not want to be associated with frailty and sickness, but maybe they were seeing then what I now see.
Going forward, it is incumbent on me to recognize the variability in the population I serve and try to recognize how best to reach out to people in different circumstances with their particular housing issues.
- I am the 93-year-old widow who does not want to go to activities. Everyone reminds me of my wife, so I push them away. Her loss is too painful for me to think about.
- I am Black and I am a survivor. But I don’t trust the establishment and I need some objective advise on housing options from someone I trust.
- I am desperate to prove that my mind still works, that I can speak to my own likes and dislikes, and that even if I make a bad decision, it belongs to me. If I want to stay in my home, I will.
- I am the 100-year-old who desperately wants to be needed and stay busy. What can I do today?
- I am still working two jobs because I am putting my kids through college. I have an older mother-in-law and will need to find her someplace near me so I can take care of her.
- I am starting my retirement, assembling my bucket list, planning my trips, and learning a new skill – I started making Youtube videos! Why should I think about housing yet?
- I am the 62-year-old resident with psychiatric disabilities who people actively avoid. Why would I want to live in a community?
- My ears don’t work well but the hearing aids are uncomfortable. I can’t hear the announcements in the dining room and I think the people at my table are talking about me.
- I am Vietnamese and miss my homeland. The food here is not good for aging bodies but I can’t get the right ingredients in this country. Are there good stores near your buildings?
- I am dying. Can I stay at home until the end? Do you have church services in your building?
I am aging. My body is changing. I may still be an imposter, but I am throwing myself into this group of “my people” as if I were the queen of the category.