Survivor: Old age

Loretto's second annual forum on aging outlines evolved caring for elders.

One presenter, Robert Jenkins, asked for a show of hands for those who had visited a loved one in a nursing home. About 80 percent of the audience raised their hands. Then he asked, "How many are looking forward to moving there?" Not a single hand was elevated.

Loretto's second annual Forum for the Future: Pursuing a New Community Vision that Celebrates Elders laid out a strategy for de-institutionalizing elder care.

Panelist Renee Downey Hart presented a compelling look at cultural differences between generations, ultimately focusing on the current aging population, Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964 - estimated to be 77.3 million in the USA). A generation of change agents she said, "We (baby boomers) aren't done yet; we are part of a cohort that wants to make the world better."

Hart quoted a survey on concerns:

Serious illness - 48 percent

Paying for health care - 53 percent

Needing a nursing home - 48 percent

Dying - 17 percent

She concluded that people worry a lot less about dying than they do care.

The Eden Alternative and the Green House Project

Loretto has adopted a new national model for elder care created by Dr. Bill Thomas based in Ithaca, called The Eden Alternative. It is relationship based moving away from traditional institutionalized care. Thomas is author of "In the Arms of Elders," and is consulting with Loretto.

His alternative sees the National Green House Project as the ultimate environment to care for elders. The idea is to build smaller structures for 10 to 12 people that share a kitchen, dining and family room, staffed with five people a day.

Jenkins, who is the Director of the Green House Project, said these Green Houses are about "creating caring homes for meaningful lives."

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