My women’s group is in a kind of mourning because our good friend and long-time member is moving with her husband to an out-of-state assisted living facility in April.
Though there are promises to visit and stay in touch, of course it won’t be the same and our group will be immeasurably changed. We will, of course, acclimate to this change, as we did upon the deaths of several valued members in the eight or so years we’ve been together. Life is change, but old age is change upon change and it doesn’t get any easier as those changes accumulate.
This group is, and has been for many of us, the glue that holds our week together. As the health of some of us decline, as our grandchildren grow older and need us less, as we are no longer able to do the things we once did, the group supports us and is there to cheer us on. We will miss our friend a great deal, and while wishing her the very best, are very sorry to see her go.
This is not the first story I’ve heard of long-time New Yorkers picking up to move to assisted living facilities. In fact, someone I knew had her second bathroom renovated to accommodate live-in help if it were someday needed. Now she is moving to assisted living, deciding that it was the best option after all. It seems there comes a time when a person, or a person’s grown child, decides that it’s no longer feasible to live alone and “age in place.”
Undoubtedly, there are benefits to assisted living. No more shopping or cooking, lots of company and activities, and sometimes, depending on the type of community, advanced nursing care if needed.
But there’s a catch, of course: money! These facilities are scarily expensive, and I myself could never end up in one. That’s where NORC’s can be life savers. NORC’s (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) are usually supported by a mix of public and private funding. NORC programs may include case management, health care management, recreational and education activities. NORC’s are usually flexible in identifying and providing the services needed by the seniors who live there. A NORC can be a single building, a community (such as Penn South, the first NORC in New York) or a neighborhood. NORCs are now found in more than 25 states around the country. My hope for myself, of course, is to stay in my apartment and, if necessary, be able to find the help I need to do so, if and when that time comes. Bloomingdale Aging in Place (BAiP) is the community NORC I belong to, and someday I may need some of their services and will be grateful for them.
A miracle happened in my family. We all actually went away together for a long weekend. It’s hard to arrange even a day when everyone is free, so this weekend in the Poconos was special. It included my two daughters, four grandchildren, two sons-in-law and my partner. That’s the upside. The downside was that it was one of the coldest weekends of the year, and many of the activities took place in buildings away from the main lodge.
The weekend consisted mainly of eating three (excellent) meals a day and following the children from the arcade to the jungle gym and back to the arcade, where they could easily have taken up residence. What can I say? There has been contention over the years with my daughters. Isn’t that the way with mothers and daughters? I think we all decided that this weekend was going to be conflict-free and pleasant, and it was.
It took me days to de-ice, not to mention regain my cat’s trust, but it was worth it. We have a group photo with me standing in front. I felt like my Aunt Chana, who was the matriarch of our clan when I was a child. In the photo, we look like the perfect family, but we’re far from that. Like Facebook posts, pictures can be misleading. But we are bonded by blood and love, and being all together for one whole weekend is a blessing that I truly appreciate.