Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Point of View on Places for Seniors to Live

In response to my previous post, my brother, John Marshall, of Hurricane, Utah, asked for equal time to present his contrasting point of view. Isn't it funny how senior siblings brought up together can end up with such opposing views? Here is his statement from his yearly calendars:

"In the interest of fairness to those of us that appreciate small town America! Why Hurricane, Utah?

"Several years ago, when I first moved to Hurricane, my sister, a long-time Chicago resident, sent me and EMAIL in which she gently chastised me for hating civilization; she referred to me as a “rural hermit” intent on escaping from society. My response to her, which follows in edited form, explains, at least to me, why I am here. The following was first written in December of 2000 and it remains an essentially accurate description of my feelings about where I live and why I live here. Regrettably, “progress” is beginning to take its toll and the area is expanding recklessly; Hurricane, UT has been “discovered” and is the fastest growing city in Southern Utah; paradise lost?

"Lebensraum in Utah
There are many things that caused me to “escape” and become a “rural hermit” in Hurricane, Utah. Biologists have long known what will happen when you crowd a mammalian population into too small a space. For example, when over-crowded a significant fraction of an arctic lemming* population will run to the sea and drown themselves. However, their noble and selfless approach to maintaining the social order is virtually unknown in mammalian populations higher up the evolutionary ladder. Normally what happens is both violent and chaotic. The human approach, as we are the most intellectual of the mammals, is the most horrible of all. Hitler articulated the crowding problem when he spoke euphemistically of “lebensraum,” or room to live. History has recorded his quest for lebensraum, and it serves as a horrific example of just how far this quest for space can drive an otherwise sane and compassionate people.

"Primarily because of crowding, the major urban areas in America have become virtual battle zones, filled with directed and undirected anger. This contributes to a mentality of violence on a national scale and war on an international scale. To me such environments are not pleasant places to be, so I chose not to be there. In Hurricane, UT, specifically, and in the rural southwest in general, there is very little of the endemic angst so pervasive in the crowded urban centers. Here, you are trusted until you prove that you cannot be trusted; people wonder what they can do for you, not to you. People want to know how they can help you, not how they can use you. There is relatively little crime; there is no place in Hurricane or the surrounding area that I would fear to go at any time of day or night.

"So, while problems with pollution, both human and industrial, and heavy traffic, both human and vehicular, are factors in my dislike of urban areas, the main factor is the general quality of the social order. And, the quality of the social order depends on the quality, integrity and mood of the people with whom you live. For me and my house, I choose Hurricane, UT.

Lemmings are small rodents, usually less than 5 inches long and weighing only 5 or 6 ounces. There are many known species, some living in the United States. However, the collared or arctic lemming of Scandinavia exhibits the behavior described. While the sacrificial lemming migration to the sea seems a noble and selfless solution to overcrowding, the real truth is not so noble. When an arctic lemming population gets too large for the local food supply, they migrate aimlessly, eating everything in their path. As they migrate, they swim rivers and lakes in their relentless quest for food. Eventually, as they live on a peninsula, many of them reach the ocean. They do not realize that swimming to the other side is impossible, nor are they smart enough to return to shore when they discover that.Finally, while the lemming behavior may not be as altruistic as it would at first appear, it is universally true that crowding in mammalian populations leads to irrational, antisocial and destructive behavior. For example, contemplate what happens when vast numbers of your relatives come for a visit for the holidays, and stay too long."

Photo: My brother's home, sweet home (on right). John Marshall photo.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Defense of City Living

This photo was taken on the ninth floor terrace of The Clare. Yes, we have flowers, and some residents even helped John, the gardener, plant them. I offer this photo as evidence that living in a big-city highrise does not require divorce from the beauties of nature.

Then there's Lake Michigan; I enjoy seeing white sailboats in brilliant blue water from every window, but especially from my living room, which faces east. The sunrise is lovely there too, especially in winter. At any time of year, I'm likely to see skies gradually turn pink or red in the early morning hours.

There are several small parks nearby, with benches for observing nature, human and otherwise. For walkers, the lakefront and Lincoln Park are within reach. For bicyclists there are the lakefront bike paths. The planters in the Michigan Avenue median are filled with seasonal flowers from spring through fall; the tulips there are often early signs of spring, marking the end of the cold season. I realize that some of you southerners are eager to avoid snow and cold, but for me, the changing seaasons are a delight. Summer and fall in Chicago are wonderful times.

Of course, especially for elders, convenience is everything. Every kind of store, restaurant, cultural institution, and entertainment venue is close by, and cabs and busses are everywhere when walking is not convenient or possible. I've admitted before that I grew up on a farm near a small town, but I dreamed of big-city skyscrapers and far-away places as soon as I was able to read. I respect everyone's right to prefer other environments, but please keep your minds--and your options--open. Of course city living is expensive, and big cities have problems. However, for me, Chicago is fascinating.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another Honor for this Blog!

I just discovered that the Story Circle Network featured this blog in its July National e-Letter. Here is the article:

"Marlys' award-winning blog is titled "Never too Late! In the very beginning, she makes her intention plain with a quotation from George Eliot: 'It is never too late to be who you might have been.' In every blog post, Marlys opens up another angle of vision on "never too late." She retired from college teaching in 1999, began serious writing in 2005 (at age 73), and published her first book not long after. Five months ago, she moved to a high-rise retirement community, where she immediately started a resident newsletter (of course!) Marlys continues to write, win recognition for her work, and keep her commitment to the blog world, documenting her progress through the years and giving us all a wonderful lesson in how to age consciously and deliberately. Thanks, Marlys, for your gifts to us!"

Check out Story Circle Network at www.storycircle.org.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Elder Images

I've seen two newspaper references to elders recently. Of course we're all concerned about how older people are thought of and treated by society as a whole, but these cases seem to shift the emphasis straight back to our own behavior.

Of course you were shocked by the story of the 80-something white supremacist shooting up the Washington Holocaust Museum. And obviously the problem there was the man himself, not the way society views him. Anyone, regardless of age, who acts as he did, resulting in the death of an innocent person, deserves condemnation.

A more problematical story involved the 70-something woman who was stopped for a traffic violation, resisted the officer, and was felled by a taser gun. Of course it isn't nice to be treated that way, but what about the woman's actions? Apparently she refused to listen to instructions, and threatened to drive away.

I know that if I were stopped by a policeman, I would follow his directions faithfully. If he's wrong, I can fight the ticket in court or file a law suit. However, as many gun-weilding gang members have discovered, it's dangerous to fight back against an armed officer. What was that woman thinking?

I don't believe that old age is an excuse to defy the rules of society in dangerous situations. Peaceful protest can be all right, but these stories suggest that some elders are creating their own bad images. We elders may be special people who deserve care and compassion, but that doesn't excuse us from social responsibility. We don't want people to think that all or most old people are cranky, defiant, and/or dangerous.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Life Goes on at The Clare

People keep asking me how I like living at The Clare. My answer is always "I like it," and I do. Still, it's taking me a very long time to adjust (five months so far). There's something about moving to a lifetime care building that seems so final! Then, I am still trying to recover financially from the reduced price I received for my condo.

What's good? The food. I am not and never was a cook, so it's nice to know that three meals a day are available here (although our monthly fee covers only one full meal--I usually work in breakfast and lunch).

We have a Town Car and driver to take us places, but I've used it only twice. It seems luxurious, though. We have a great location; If I could walk better, I could walk almost anywhere I want to go. As it is, I sometimes relax too much and stay indoors, especially if the weather is dreary (which it is today).

We have seemingly endless activities available. I am still exercising three times a week, still at the beginners' level, but those exercise classes do keep me from being a total couch potato. We have excercise machines too; I sometimes use the cross trainer and the stationary bicycle. I haven't joined the book club yet, since I have so many unread books piled up to read (and sometimes review). I have plenty of time for reading, but I waste too much time on puzzles and magazines and TV. Bridge and gardening and several other activities don't interest me, but it's nice to know they're available.

My favorite activity is The Clarion, the resident newsletter I started. I have help from a starff of five or six, and I really enjoy the process of creating the newsletter each month. I'm still trying to get residents to contribute more. Why are people so afraid of writing? This is a building full of MDs and PhDs, so I am sure I'm not the only writer here.

The included one-a-week cleaning service is nice, although I no longer get my microwave oven cleaned, as I did when I hired my own service. I'll have to get out of my recliner and clean it myself soon. Package delivery is prompt and courteous. Mail and newspaper delivery are efficient. TV reception on my new HDTV is great.

I participated in the Printers Row Lit Fest (formerly the Printers Row Book Fair) on Saturday. It was nice to have Bob, the doorman, get a cab for me. I enjoy these fairs, even though I don't sell many books. The main problems this year were cold and rain. I left a bit early.

There's no way to escape aging, but a place like this gives a somewhat unwelcome look at the realities of growing old. The number of broken bones from falls, the number of hospitalizations for one thing or another, the number of knee replacement operations scheduled, the problems of healthier partners faced with the care of ailing spouses, the number of hearing problems (I have one myself) all give me cause for concern. On the one hand, it's good to know that nearby care and sympathy are available, but who wants to be reminded of all these realities? Fortunately, I've never been a head-in-the-sand person. As a realist, I believe I'm in the right place at the right time. Who knows what the future brings?

It seems to me that a lifetime care community is a good choice for someone like me, over 70 and childless. The luxurious Clare is hard for me to afford, but since I can't get my youth back, I'm happy here. Will I be so happy if and when I need to move to assisted living or nursing care? For now, I'll just enjoy independent living and my beautiful lake view and hope for the best.

Chicago Tribune photo.