Over the past 24 hours I’ve been at two events–one in Rochester and one in DC.
I started in Rochester, speaking at a Grant Makers’ Forum, giving the last of four talks dealing with different aspects of elder life and care.
The forum started with Ann Marie Cook of LifeSpan, explaining our local age demographics and the variety of services LifeSpan offer for elders in our community. Rita Kostiuk followed with a description of Beacon Hill Village and the Village to Village Network. Then Carol O’Neill presented an in-home respite program for home-based caregivers in Nassau County.
My job was to finish the spectrum with a brief introduction to the Green House Project and St. John’s community Green Houses, but I also took the opportunity to look down the road and make a few comments about where I think we need to go. Each of these models helps to de-institutionalize elder care and to utilize social capital, but we need to go farther and in a broader way than we have so far.
I suggested two central concepts to consider as we move forward. The first is to change from the paradigm of caregiving to the concept of care partnering. Caregiving is seen as a one-way street, which increases stress and burnout for the caregiver and creates learned helplessness and excess disability for the care recipient. Enabling opportunities for all to give and receive care is a central part of the Eden philosophy.
I then suggested taking another step and blurring the well-demarcated lines most models draw between paid staff, volunteers and care recipients. Once again, this speaks to an environment where true interdependence can flourish, as everyone gives and receives, and one doesn’t necessarily have to do paid work to make a valuable contribution.
It was mentioned in the forum that many older adults want continued work opportunities past the traditional retirement age. That is fine if people truly want to continue in wage-earning jobs,and we should encourage this. However, I think some of this desire stems from the societal notion that only a paid “job” is valued by our society. If older adults were valued for their gifts, inside and outside of paid work, this would greatly increase our ability to tap into their wisdom and experience in many more facets of community life.
Which all leads to last evening’s event, when I jetted down to DC for a fundraiser for Emi Kiyota’s non-profit Ibasho (www.ibasho.org).
Ibasho is a Japanese word for a space “where you can feel like yourself”, a place of balance and harmony. The purpose of Ibasho is to help societies build communities that value their elders throughout life.
In my opinion, this is the next phase. Ibasho embraces concepts and values that take us beyond the current spectrum of options for elder care (either in communities or care homes), and create a new level of interdependence.
Emi and I have been working on these ideas and we are now exploring the concept of resilience, and how it can apply to communities. How can age-valued communities be created such that they can thrive despite shifts in demographics, economics, even natural disasters? And how they can continue to value and benefit from their elders throughout all times? Stay tuned.