When I was young, I often visited my grandmother in the nursing home where she lived after a series of strokes left her unable to live alone. While the nursing home was bright and clean, it felt like a hospital. After she died, I often heard my parents say they hoped they wouldn’t have to end their days in such a depressing environment. They were lucky. Both stayed home until they died in their 80s – my dad was healthy until the day he had a massive heart attack and my mom bought a house with my sister, enabling Mom to spend her final years in the comfort of her own home.
Today, many seniors live longer, healthier lives.
And society, perhaps driven by the aging baby boomers who don’t want to end up in a sterile nursing home, has recognized that more options are needed.
Today, modern nursing homes are truly homes, not long-term hospitals. The sterile, depressing environment has been replaced by warm spaces with personal care.
And retirement communities now offer a range of options including independent living, assisted living, rehabilitative services and skilled nursing care. Additionally, the proliferation of villages, aging-in-place communities and home-care options now allows many people to stay at home much longer than they did a generation ago.
Inspired by the fifth commandment to honor one’s parents, the Jewish community has long had a progressive attitude toward senior care. This year, thanks to funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, several agencies have created a variety of ideas to enrich the aging process. The menu of services they’ve cooked up will be the topic of their 15 Conversations with the Community. These focus groups will seek to find out what people want and need to make their lives and those of their parents more fulfilling into their 70s, 80s and beyond.
This issue of Oregon Jewish Life includes stories about the past, present and future of senior care in Portland’s Jewish community.
But the article I find most reassuring is the one that looks at two octogenarians and one nonagenarian who haven’t let age slow them down. Swimming, tennis, golf, racquetball and gardening are still enjoyable pursuits that they do well and often. Being active has its rewards.
My own father-in-law is 90 and still hikes, bikes or walks every day. Last year he went on a 10-day hike in Italy’s Dolomites. This spring, he decided to skip the trans-Atlantic flight, which he said was the hardest part of last year’s adventure. Instead, he opted for an eight-day hike in the Grand Canyon.
It’s all so inspiring.
So, now I’m looking forward to those golden years when I’ll have the time to enjoy the leisure pursuits I now cram into evenings and weekends. If my father-in-law and the fit seniors in this issue are any indication, my evening and weekend cycling could be a passion I pursue for decades to come.