Below are two American tales, and one Syrian tale, each bringing up an important global issue for older adults – housing security.
This week the Washington Post published an article by Peter Holley about an elderly woman who has been asked to leave the only home she has known for decades, a rented cottage. Apparently, the owner has chosen not to honor the verbal agreement of the previous owner, whom he was related to. The situation could become a death sentence for the tenant in more ways than one, if indeed, she must leave.
Here’s a link to Story #1:
Here is a photo of 97-year-old Marie taken by her neighbor Lisa Kriger:
If you work your entire life to build what you have, and you cherish and are thankful for it, why should comfort and a sense of security be taken away if you are elderly, vulnerable, and not blessed with infinite financial resources? What are the possible solutions? Moving and making major changes at an advanced age is not easy.
Furthermore, is it Marie’s fault society is crumbling down and things are drastically changing? Could she have known to prepare? No matter where she moves, if it turns out she has to move, it will be psychologically and physically traumatic. Since she may not be able to afford to move, it means she cannot afford to move to senior living, even though the article mentions she was asked about it. As a former senior living administrator I can comment that some seniors, not all, have a hard time adapting to senior living even if they can afford it, especially if they are mentally competent and independent minded.
I trust someone can help Marie and others in her situation create healthful ways to maintain independence, dignity, and sanity.The only saving grace seems to be that Marie has children. I hope they are in a position to come to the rescue.
Story #2 I recently witnessed a situation with an unhappy outcome, similar to Marie’s
A building on my block in West Hollywood was being torn down to build condos (each condo currently worth between $1-$2 million). Most of the tenants were elders under rent control who could not afford to move. Result? Almost every single elder died within the six months or year they were given to leave. No kidding. Heart-rending.
What are the lessons in this? Could Marie or the seniors of West Hollywood have known to prepare for such an eventuality? Should we learn to be flexible, start paring down to basic clothing and furniture at age 50, give up all that makes us comfortable and content, and not enjoy what we worked to create? If Marie were Buddhist, and attached to very little, it would still be a challenge to make a move because of one main factor, age. Added stress as we age can be a contributing factor to a faster demise.
Story #3 takes the issue a step further.
Imagine being an 80 year old Syrian woman who has watched her loved ones killed, her home bombed, and has somehow managed to get to the Jordanian border for rescue. She is alone, has no clothing except what she is wearing, no funds of any kind, no way to make a living, and her home is a camp until a proper roof can be found, if one can be found. She is totally dependent on people she does not know. Quite frankly, at age 80, how would she have the energy to keep on despite the deep trauma and loss she must be feeling? What if she has a chronic health condition and needs meds? What would it be like to live in exile? She is one of tens of thousands in this inhumane situation created by external circumstances.
For further reading on elder challenges around the world and in Syria, see the on-going rescue efforts being made by Help Age International, http://www.helpage.org . See also one of many stories posted on Syrian elders in exile at http://www.helpage.org/newsroom/press-room/press-releases/syria-three-years-on-older-refugees-in-exile-the-silent-casualties/. Another telling story with facts about how disabled and elderly refugees are treated is at this link… https://medium.com/@DFID_Inclusive/minimum-standards-for-age-and-disability-inclusion-in-humanitarian-action-e1932b32c141#.jd4061wxv .
At a recent conference on The Future of Housing for Grown-Ups: A National and Local Perspective, Dr. Anand Pareka, Senior Advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center is quoted as saying
“I’m quickly realizing that housing is in many ways health. It’s a very important determinant of health.”
Liz Seegert of the Association of Health Journalists wrote an excellent piece about those who live with the stress of homelessness… they age faster than those who have a roof over their heads.