I met Roger one weekend this summer as he was walking with his cane from his home to the local restaurant in his town. The day was hot and Roger was looking for a ride. I stopped to help him. While we drove the short distance, we talked a little about his current transportation issues. He told me proudly that he could still drive, but that he had recently crashed his car which is why he now walked to the restaurant twice a day for his meals.
A week later I ran into Roger at the restaurant where I was having breakfast. I asked him to join me and we talked for a while. He told me about his family, a son who lives in Texas and a brother who lives out East; about his love of reading, WWII and current issues; and about the work I was doing to gather stories from individuals around Wright County.
He told me that he didn’t have any concerns. He was able to live on Social Security in his house which was paid off. He said he seldom went anywhere, except to the restaurant twice a day for meals (he doesn’t cook or have food in his home). Right now, Roger said he was doing fine, but I can’t help but worry about what will happen to Roger when it gets cold or if he should get sick or injured and be unable to walk to the restaurant for food.
His is just one of the stories of people in our community who are aging in place.
I also recently spoke to Jean. She lives in a small elderly community of individual condos. She also has recently run into transportation issues. Her last vehicle broke down and she is unable to afford a replacement, so she begs rides from her friends. She desperately wants to move to some place where she can more easily find transportation, but she is overwhelmed by the many barriers to finding affordable housing on her small income. She also spoke about the conditions of the condos in which she lives. They are poorly maintained and sometimes plagued by bug infestations. She has become very disillusioned with living in Wright County and wishes she could leave.
In Wright County more than 50% of our community are over 50. Many of them are aging inside of homes they purchased when they retired and are unconnected to services, reliant on the good will of neighbors and friends and saddened by their isolation and dependency. Still others live in assisted living homes, sometimes moving in at an early age after becoming ill or injured. There they are cared for, form friendships and are watched over, but still feel the effects of dependency and lack of funds.
One of my goals this summer is to reach out to individuals who live in these isolated situations and capture their stories. If we are going to serve those of our community, we must understand their needs and the barriers they face to leading fully engaged lives.