It Takes a Village: The Village Movement for Aging at Home

The Village Movement, sometimes called Staying Put or Aging in Community is a grassroots social movement reshaping and changing the thumbprint for senior living.  The goal is to help elders who so desire, to remain in their homes as they grow into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The simple idea behind this concept is to create self-governing, community based organizations within already established communities to provide the necessary resources and people to make this possible. 

This new concept for adult living is so important because the population of senior citizens is the fastest growing demographic worldwide.  There are now more Americans 65 and older than at any other time in history.  Currently, there are approximately 40 million people over 65 (2010 Census) and by 2030 it is estimated that that number will increase to over 70 million.  2040 will see that 40 million doubled to 80 million.  Currently,1 in 8 Americans is over 65.  By 2030, that will change to 1 in 4. The cost of senior living options and health care are becoming increasingly prohibitive and the simple truth is that 88% of people 65 and older want to remain in their homes for as long as possible.  Staying Put, Aging in Community and creating Villages is not only what seniors want, it is far less expensive for those who do not need comprehensive assistance.  It is a cost effective solution to maintaining independent and quality of life choices for those who can and want to remain in their own homes. 

This new concept in senior living was born In 2001 when a group of neighbors in the Beacon Hill area of Boston got together to discuss how to remain in their homes in their beloved community rather than have to move to retirement or assisted living environments.  And since then, this concept has taken off.  Today, there are 120 urban, suburban and rural Villages in the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. There are 100 more in development.  As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” And these trailblazers are doing just this.

So what exactly is this Village?  Each Village is unique unto itself. The overriding principle is to help seniors remain in their homes with as much independence as possible by building a network of local support and services within the community.   Villages are localized and grassroots driven.  Memberships are required to support the services and yearly fees can range from $50 – $1000 per year. They are run by volunteers and salaried staff whose responsibility is to coordinate access to affordable services. Some of the services may be free.  Others may be eligible for negotiated discounts with authorized participating local merchants and businesses. Each Village is designed around the needs of the individual community and may include all aspects of life:  social needs, intellectual stimulation, physical well being. personal care and home maintenance.  Here are some examples of the services provided:

Transportation

Grocery shopping & delivery

House cleaning

House repair & home maintenance

Home health and personal care

Legal Assistance

Financial services

Health education

Mental health

Social work

Exercise groups

Organized cultural events

Current events discussion groups

The Village Movement is a wonderful example of how todays elders are changing the paradigm of how and where one gets to grow old. Want to get involved?  Want to get your community involved?  Want to start your own village?  I do……..Here are some resources…….

The Village to Village Network.

Beacon Hill Village

Brian Williams interview with his in-laws who live in a Village community……

By  Roberta Teller

From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older – A Book Review

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From Age-ing to Sage-ing written by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller presents a new vision for growing older……one that looks at old age as the natural and meaningful next step in our life cycle- the journey to the full completion of life –  not a dead end as we travel the latter years of life’s road.    

Challenging cultural norms and beliefs that see old age as a time of deterioration and decline, this paradigm redefines the third stage of life as one that can be active and spiritual, contemplative and practical  and purposeful and realistic. What is required is to do the inner work – through contemplative practices that allow us to look back, reflect, explore the lessons learned, harvest the gifts, make peace with the mistakes, understand the challenges – we ultimately see the vast panorama of our lives and from this, the wisdom flows.  

Elderhood, besides being a time of deep personal reflection and introspection carries much responsibility.  Following in the footsteps of many indigenous cultures where elders are revered for their great wisdom and honored for their contributions to the society, Rabbi Schacter calls upon elders to not only tap into their wisdom, as a form of personal growth, but to take the lessons learned, the life long skills  and to share it with others through mentoring, volunteering, becoming a steward of the earth and creating a lasting legacy that lives beyond our years. 

The strength of this book is that it is very real, honest and practical  It addresses the realities of growing older while offering a multitude of choices and options to live an old age that allows for a deeper and more profound experience of life and an acceptance and preparation for death. And yes, Rabbi Schacter takes death out of the closet. Instead of denial, he views dying “as a unique opportunity for spiritual awakening.” He articulates the importance of being fully prepared for the experience of ones death. He explores spiritual beliefs about a life after death. He even provides exercises in the preparation for death. 

And it is through stories, personal accounts, extensive research, exercises and practices, the authors offer the reader a road map into what Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi calls “an elderhood that is the anticipated fulfillment of life.” Age-ing to Sage-ing is a beautifully written and most important book that redefines what it means to grow old, be old and how to live fully, with meaning until we draw our last breath.  In a culture that glorifies youth and demeans the elderly, the teachings of Rabbi Schacter-Shalomi offer a new way of living and being alive.

 By Roberta Teller

 

Age Never Mattered to Me……Until Now

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The truth is age never much mattered to me.  I have always joyfully celebrated every birthday-especially the ones that started a new decade.  I remember my 30th birthday party with the slinky male belly dancers gyrating  around my Berkeley living room with plates of lit candles on their heads…….And my 40th birthday party with all my friends stuffed into my tiny Mabel Street living room.  And that short black dress I wore to my 50th and the long skirt I had on for my 60th birthday……..hmmmmmm……maybe that was a clue of what was ahead……..

My enthusiasm about birthdays was not always in synch with those around me. Some of my friends were devastated at turning 30 (yes, that is true) and some of my friends wouldn’t tell their boyfriends or husbands, or even their girlfriends how old they were (how could they get away with that?  If you were their boyfriend, or fiancee or husband, or girlfriend, wouldn’t you wait until they were in the shower or fast asleep and sneak into their wallet to look at their driver’s license?  I would……).  And then of course, there was my parents generation, where not only did women not tell their age, it was considered rude to even ask or hint at her years. And, if there was some legal or compelling reason that you had to ask her age, there was the obligatory, “You certainly don’t look your age” lie. 

But the truth is age never much mattered to me…….until now.   And to be honest, I’m not sure that it’s really the age thing…..I think it’s more of what I see and notice and feel….. Where is that energy that allowed me to go out partying at 11pm instead of now being asleep by 9?   Why do I prefer to be home before dark instead of arriving home as the sun rises? Where has happened to the thickness of my skin….?  Now, if I happen to  poke myself with a bracelet or tap against something, I get these purplish, red blemishes that sprinkle my skin.   And then there are those things they call “age spots” that appear all over my body.  Can’t they call it something else, like wisdom mounds or beauty dots?  I have a special relationship with the ones on my face…..I just bought a product at Aveda this week called a “concealer” so I can hide these facial intrusions.  I keep forgetting to put it on……

And then there’s my neck……that protrusion of soft skin that no longer wants to adhere to whatever it was attached to before…….and the gray hair that I strive to color back to its natural state that I can no longer even remember.   And, oh how I miss my naturally wavy hair that the grey hairs insist on keeping straight.   If I happen to be in “just the right light” (really the very wrong light), and I look at myself in a mirror, sometimes I hear myself saying,  ““Oh, my God, who is that person peering back at me?  Look at her skin. When did those wrinkles move in?  Then I feel a sense of shame about my judgmental self.  And then I feel more shame and guilt because I shouldn’t be thinking these thoughts, at all.  But I am.

“Well”, I tell myself, this is just superficial crap.  It’s the youth mentality of our society or the fault of the media for not honestly portraying real older people and I don’t buy into any of it……But I do…..on some level at least.  That’s why I color my hair and I bought “the concealer”  the other day.  I want to look good, be considered attractive, pretty…….young????   Younger than I am??????.  And while  I probably would never really consider plastic surgery, I can kinda understand why (mostly, but not only) women spend huge amounts of money buying all kinds of cosmetics and promises of a youth returned, and pay exorbitant amounts of money to remove wrinkles and tighten up that loose skin.  And yet, not long ago, when I was watching the Academy Awards, I was shocked and revolted when I saw the new and improved John Travolta who looked mannequin like and other worldly.  Or have you seen Joan Rivers lately?  I don’t want THAT either.  

So I guess what I’m saying is that I too, am a victim of the youth oriented society and the ageist language and imaging of the culture we live in.  But with that said, never liking to consider myself a victim, I am also a survivor.  And while I haven’t come to completely embrace my physically aging self,  I have stopped trying to hide it or deny it or fix it…….I am moving towards  acceptance of it and of myself as a beautiful  67 year old woman with some wrinkles and beauty dots.  

Oh, and if you happen to see me in the middle of the summer with a gorgeous shawl wrapped tight around my neck, remember, I am a work in progress……and wink at me in solidarity.

By Roberta Teller

 

Greedy for Life: A Review

Greedy for Life, the first film of The Beauty of Aging Project is a wonderful 35 minute film that demonstrates the richness, vitality and spirit of women who live full, fun, creative lives well into their 80’s.  Through these wise women elders’ personal stories we finally get vibrant, positive role models so sorely needed in our overly saturated youth oriented culture.  Watching and listening to these women debunks the myths and images we have of older people.  Instead of the decrepit,, listless, sexless images that are prevalent in the media and in our cultural and personal belief systems, we see images of old age that not only challenge this outdated paradigm, but create a new vision for the third stage of life: one that is active, stimulating, and full of opportunities for growth, renewal and happiness. This is a “must see” film not only for 60+ women but for young adults as well.  Check out the trailer……And enjoy!

 

By Roberta Teller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wise Woman Storytime

WISE WOMAN STORYTIME

STORIES FROM REAL LIFE TOLD BY OUR OWN SONOMA COUNTY WISE WOMEN

Everyone welcome and encouraged to attend to hear life stories from our Elder Women

Stories are important because they connect us to one another, expand our horizons, preserve our history, communicate values and help us understand the world.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

3-5pm

Free Event

Coffee Catz

6761 Sebastopol Ave.

Sebastopol, CA

For more information, contact Roberta Teller at womenownyourcrone@gmail.com or 510-301-1706

Check out my blog:  robertatellerblog.com

The Warmth of the Heart Prevents the Body from Rusting…..A Book Review

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The Warmth of the Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting by Marie de Hennezel is a book worth reading if you are contemplating the third stage of life and looking to get some insights into how best to live these years. With humor, lessons learned by the author, wise words from elders and ideas presented by laymen, poets and philosophers, this gem of a book advocates what the title implies; With an open and loving heart, one may grow physically old, but the heart, that center of spirit, creativity and vitality can remain forever young….up until our last breath.

One of the great values of this book is that it is a treatise on how to grow old and not become old.  Growing old is natural…..we start growing old from the day we are born. Being old is a state of mind characterized by feelings of bitterness and sadness about life. It is a refusal to age, to accept this life stage, and paradoxically, results in the inability to step in and embrace the “golden years” and the richness that it has to offer.

One of the greatest gifts this book has to offer is that while very positive and supportive about the opportunities that become available to us as we grow older, it acknowledges the realities of aging as well.  As someone in the parking lot of my gym said the other day, “Growing older is not for sissies.” Ms Hennezel doesn’t sugarcoat what happens as our bodies begin to fail us. But instead of leaving us there, she offers us a new paradigm of living WITH all the frailties and failings while embracing a deeper and richer connection to oneself and the world around us.

This new paradigm requires each and every one of us to show up in our own aging. It demands that we not fall prey to what we no longer have or what we can no longer do. Instead, it calls upon us to let go of our youth, accept our inevitable death and to use the time we have left to discover parts of ourselves that we never knew existed: To see things we may have missed and to hear what was  up until now, unspoken. It is a time for new realizations and self discovery – a time to be get in touch with our deepest selves and to be open to what is revealed to us. And, it is through the warm and open heart that we make this journey back to ourselves.

By Roberta Teller

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How AARP and the Media Whitewash the Realities of Growing Old

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Carol Orsborne’s Article,  AARP: Mortality Whitewash hits it on the head when she discusses how AARP, the largest publication for boomer adults continually whitewashes and dresses down the realities older adults face about growing old. We know that there are very happy and thriving 60, 70 & 80 year olds. We know that older adults are enjoying life, reinventing themselves, honoring their pasts and opening up to new vistas of travel. We get it that seniors are living and exploring life, all the while enjoying active and healthy lifestyles.  Most older adults experience this and are witnesses to this in others. It is a reality for us.

The problem is that there is more to the story…….We also get sick, have physical challenges, and experience the deterioration of our own bodies. Loved ones fade away through disease and die. We grieve and mourn not only those we have lost, but parts of our lives that no longer exist or that we know one day will disappear and never be what was. We struggle and begin, to varying degrees, to come to some acceptance and peace about our own mortality.  Being older is a time of paradoxes and complexities: a time of joy, yet a time of new challenges; a life stage of great opportunities mixed with loss and knowledge that things will never be the same. It is a time of life mixed with the light and the shadow. 

Dr. Orsborn describes AARP’s romantic depiction of Valerie Harper as she was facing her mortality: “Faced with inoperable cancer, the beloved star of Rhoda, reacts just the way we’d want her to; with gritty determination and a hearty laugh.”

Reacts just the way we’d want her to???????  Are they serious?   

That’s not the depiction I want to see of anyone facing death.  I don’t want to see some sanitized version of the real story. I want the truth. I want to know how she grappled with the diagnosis: what choices she made about her medical care and how, and if she accepted her own death…… 

And that “hearty laugh.” Did she have a hearty laugh when she got the diagnosis or as she lie on her deathbed, surrounded by her loved ones? 

We don’t want to see a happily dying Rhoda……We want to see the real Valeria Harper.

As older adults, we deserve and I would say, demand that we be represented with images, language and stories that mirror who we really are – complex, beings, living life as fully as we can, as we embrace both the gifts and challenges of growing older. We do not want our lives trivialized, simplified, purified and sanitized. We do not want the media  fabricating who we are to make us look “pretty’ rather than real…….

Pretty may work for Hollywood, but not for us seniors……

Those of us who are getting older need real stories and we need to have real role models. Yes, we need to see images of vital, active, thriving 60+ people  We are out there and we are doing great. But we also deserve and demand to see the truth: people grappling with serious life and death choices, families having to make challenging and difficult decisions. And we need to see the unaltered faces of older adults who, wrinkles, and all, are real human beings facing the challenges of growing  older with courage, questions, spiritual quests, tears, fears and many unknowns.

I believe that it is incumbent upon us, the aging boomers, to step in and  step up and to become the change agents ourselves. We must speak out, write, dramatize, tell stories about who we really We must let it be known who we are, what we are doing and how we are living.

So, get your pens out or open your computer. When you see an article or even a photo in a newspaper or magazine depicting a senior that is supposed to represent us, let your opinion be known whether it works for you or not.  Write a letter to the editor or make a phone call. Write your own blog; read blogs written by real seniors.  Talk to young people – your grandkids or your neighbors children.  Let them know who you are and what you are doing.

We, as seniors, do not want to be whitewashed by the media nor do we want to be brainwashed about the realities of aging. We are complex, dynamic beings living our lives while facing the challenges of growing older.  We are real. We have wrinkles, aches and pains and and are confronting the eventual reality of our demise in this life form.

Let’s face it, seniors live in in a youth oriented society where we become more and more invisible the older we get. We say, NO MORE…….AARP  and all the other media……See us, feel us , take the time to know us……And to my fellow seniors, take charge and let us join forces to be the real voice and image of growing older.  That’s really the only way that we will be honestly represented and truly visible….

By Roberta Teller

Growing Older is Quite Different from Being Old

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We are always growing older.  It’s a fact of life. We begin to grow older from the moment we are born.  When someone is young, we say that the person is growing up. Growing up implies the physical changes that the years bring to the body as well as learning the life lessons required for the next stage of life. At some stage, usually after adolescence, but not always, we drop the language of growing up and we start talking about growing old and being old.

I contend that growing older and being old are not the same.

As long as we remain on this earth, we grow older. Being old, however, is a state of mind. One can be chronologically young and be “old,”  while an 80 or 90 year old can lead an active and full life. We call this young at heart for it is in the heart that age becomes irrelevant and attitude means everything.

I love what the great Chassidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said,

“It is forbidden to be old. Grow older but do not be old: that is to say, do not be bitter and despairing. Do not oppose reality, but do not prevent life from fulfilling its potential to bring forth new things, right up to your very last breath.”

I want to continue to grow old  like that. I want to live each and every day of my life with vitality, enthusiasm, enjoyment and with acceptance for who I am, where I am in my life cycle and yes, with the reality that one day I will die.

Growing old is not for the faint of heart.  Moving into the third stage of life can be daunting.  Physical challenges, loss of loved ones, isolation, loneliness, the emphasis on youth in our culture and the societal dismissal, disdain and subsequent invisibility of elders certainly contributes to the dilemma.

AND, growing older has the potential for being a rich, fulfilling, and incredibly stimulating, fun and adventurous time of life. It is a time to reap the rewards of one’s life lessons and be true to who we have come to be.

Being old, however, is quite another experience. It is giving up on the enjoyment and joys of being alive and living in suffering and despair.  It is a death before its time.

I want to grow old in a realistic way. I want to embrace all aspects of living with curiosity, enthusiasm, vitality, connections, awareness and intention to be completely alive. I want to do this with my eyes wide open; aware that changes are already happening and will continue;  that physical and mental decline is inevitable. I want to meet this head on………realistic, aware, alive and in my ageless heart.

I am learning to accept growing older. The older I become, the more I am coming to appreciate this as a great gift. And, as with any wonderful gift that I get, I treasure and savor the unwrapping, the unfolding and in this case,  find the gift of life itself.

By Roberta Teller

Betty Friedan Got it Right…….a Wise Woman Quote and Comment

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Betty Friedan got it right when she said, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”  I cannot remember a time in my life when I was happier and more fulfilled than I am right now in my 66th year of life.  Retired from my 35+ years in education, I now have more opportunities available to me than ever before. Unburdened by NOT having to adhere to a work week of commuting, earning my paycheck, squeezing in a workout at the gym and running myself ragged on my days off to get all my errands done, I am now free to explore the world however I want. I have the options to do whatever I want, when I want or quite honestly, I can sit on my ass all day and do nothing……

I choose to pursue what I derive great meaning from and dive in. 

I’m one of those people who thrives on feeling fully alive. What feeds that aliveness is being connected to myself, my loved ones and the world.  And now, more than any other time in my life,  I have the opportunity to do all of this. I have the time to nourish myself with ample rest, relaxation and exercise. I have more time (never enough) to spend with loved ones. And my world has been broadened by travel to foreign places expanding my personal horizons, mastering new skills, meandering through creative projects, and moving out of my comfort zone by doing things that I’ve never done before.

And it’s not to say that I haven’t had my challenges.  I have had some health issues that have required surgical procedures, hospitalization and months long recuperation.  I have lost loved ones and some dear friends  have died way too young. People I care about are getting sick and suffering. I look at my body sometimes and wonder, “Who are you?”

And yet, I find strength – some comes directly from lessons learned from the myriad of experiences of my life.  Some strength comes from the wisdom of those around me and honestly much of it arises from a wellspring of understanding, empathy, compassion and humor that I am able to offer myself when the going gets tough or the road becomes a little rocky.

To me, when Betty Friedan says, “Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength,” she offers us a view of growing older that is rich with possibilities and ripe for personal growth.  And to me, what is much more important than being a youth or young, is that feeling of being alive and vital coupled with the wisdom of life’s lessons and learnings and understandings.  Some say, “youth is wasted on the young.”  I say, “Young’ums, the best is yet to come.”

 

By Roberta Teller