By Kate Wallace Johnson
“You are too young to think about aging!” Wrong. Probably like you, I have had to think about aging a lot. In fact, planning now for our later years is a good idea. As a 51-year-old steering committee member of Methow At Home, I would like to share with you the four reasons that I enthusiastically support Methow At Home’s creation.
• For myself. My membership and volunteer time today insure that Methow At Home will be a going concern when I need it decades from now. As I think about the future, I worry that I will burden my own children with my care just as I have struggled to care for my parents and grandparents.
While aging is inevitable, I know that I can reduce the negative impacts on my own future caretakers by planning ahead. Every hour I volunteer and every dollar I contribute are like an insurance policy I am happy to pay for. And like you, I feel the quickening passage of time in my own life; I know that just as age 30 seems like yesterday, very soon I’ll wake up and wonder: how did I get to be 75? Because time passes more quickly with each day, I want to act now to create Methow At Home, so it is there when I need it.
• For my family. My husband’s and my own parents are nearing their 80s, and we are watching them begin to need more help, just as their parents did in their later years. I know how important it was to our grandparents that they maintained some independence as they aged.
I also saw how much trouble a single burned-out light bulb, a leaking pipe, or a prescription waiting to be picked up could cause them. I learned the emotional toll of my grandparents’ worry that their increasing reliance on family and friends stressed those relationships. And I saw what happened when some of our grandparents eventually moved out of their homes and into senior housing, assisted living, nursing homes, or adult family homes: the ones fortunate enough to remain at home the longest were the happiest at the end of their lives.
Families want to help their elders, but often don’t know how or live too far away. Methow At Home’s support of aging in place offers a lower-cost, higher-benefit option to its members, reducing the wear and tear on families.
• For my neighbors. I know that the well-being of our oldest members is a measure of how humane our community is. Seniors rank along with children as our most at-risk neighbors; they experience greater rates of depression, isolation, poor diet, medical complications, and other problems. I want to be a part of an effort that directly enhances the health of our elders in concrete ways.
Our society benefits from their active participation, and they participate most meaningfully when they feel supported, independent, and interactive. When they can attend an evening city council meeting or show up for a picnic with homemade pie in hand, they will feel like valuable contributors still. As they should. And, too, the act of providing support to those who need it positively impacts the giver, enhancing the quality of life for all of us. Methow At Home’s services will improve the quality of life for all our neighbors.
• For my work. As a Life-Cycle Celebrant, I work with individuals to compose ceremonies that acknowledge, address, and honor the profound impacts of life’s major transformations on the whole person. I see, as I know most of you do in your own lives, that change impacts seniors unrelentingly. Seniors experience some of the most powerful and disorienting life-transitions than at any other time in life. The increasing frequency of the passing of loved ones, endings of careers, loss of hobbies that are now too challenging or dangerous, and ever-more frequent health crises all wear away at an aging individual’s sense of well-being and resilience.
Methow At Home can offer real support that directly and positively contributes to daily health. And if such support promotes and does not diminish the recipient’s sense of self-competence and self-determination, he or she can better weather the many changes that naturally arise with aging. When that support is structured in a service-oriented system, whereby members pay for services they receive, seniors have more control. More dignity. Methow At Home will provide tools that help preserve seniors’ independence, strengthening their ability to navigate life’s natural transformations.
To my way of thinking, Methow At Home is not only a worthy investment, it is also a really good idea. Whatever your age, I hope you’ll think about it.
Kate Wallace Johnson is a Methow At Home steering committee member. She lives in Winthrop.