Thursday, January 31, 2013

Issues in Community: Aging

I have a new model of aging since I've been to Twin Oaks.  While I was there, a group of us put on a showing of the cult film 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' and my favorite memory of it was seeing their oldest member, a woman in her late eighties, dancing away to the 'Time Warp'.  Makes me rethink what growing old can be like.

My favorite year at the community I helped build in Cambridge, MA, was when we had someone in every decade of life there, from a child under ten and a child over ten to a man in his fifties.  Twin Oaks was even better than that, with an age spread from toddlers to eighty-somethings.  In contrast, while Acorn has some folks in their fifties and sixties, there is quite a different feel to the place because most members are in their twenties or thirties.  The place feels very young.

Since that community in Cambridge, I've lived in several different co-ops in the Boston area.  In the first two everyone other than me was in a range from late teens to early thirties, with the vast majority in their twenties.  At that point, however, I was in my fifties.  While I was treated like anyone else, I still felt out of place.  I got upset when someone suggested we could advertise the community as multigenerational.  I pointed out that I was the 'multigeneration'. 

On the other hand, the next co-op I lived in, almost everyone was in their fifties and sixties.  I felt sorry for the twenty-something woman who moved in with us.  While I felt more comfortable there, I missed the liveliness and young energy. 

I have enjoyed community the most when there really was a spectrum of ages; when community becomes a place where the young can learn from the old and the old can learn from the young.  I feel community needs both--the old and stable and the young and wild.

Community can be a place to age, to take care of each other as we grow older.  Just as it takes a village to raise a child, a village--or even better a community--can care for their elders.  True multigenerational community becomes a place of support for everyone.  It's not always easy to get the right mix, but I think it's worth it.

Quote of the Day: "Communication and rapport become essential if we shall be looking after each other--sometimes in quite intimate ways--as we age." - Margaret Critchlow and Andrew Moore


Austan said...

I vote for the age spread. The two times I lived in such households- when I was a child and recently when I was flooded out of my house and stayed with friends- were wonderful. The little ones are funny and random, and the old ones are calm and dependable. And when you get into a larger community with all ages around, there's a harmony and ease you don't find in limitedly defined places.

MoonRaven said...

Absolutely. And I like your description: funny and random, calm and dependable--and, of course, harmony and ease. Everybody has something to offer.

Nice to see you back.