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Where is permaculture for the elderly?

 
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Has anyone heard of an alternative to assisted living/nursing homes/ etc. incorporating permaculture methods?
I find the concept of an elderly village very interesting. Although I am just 19, caring part time for my great grandmother has encouraged me to think about this. I am glad that my family has been able to care for her, because it allows her to participate in normal activities. Many nursing homes seem very isolated. I have read about some elderly villages that are like small towns. They allow for more autonomy. However, they are very expensive. It would be wonderful if there were ways for the residents to bring down costs. For example, they could have gardens to reduce the cost of food.
I don't know how feasible this is, but I would love to hear ideas! Considering a career working with the elderly in some way.
 
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I wonder if intentional communities with people of all ages are a solution?

One that I know of encourages residents to help each other out informally, so elderly people get help with their gardens, and then sometimes give help by teaching children things like knitting and music lessons, and just by being elders that children can look to.

I'm not sure how this approach would work for elderly people that need a lot of day to day help, but the older members of this community seem to be thriving, and some are participating in the permaculture design course there.
 
pollinator
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A caregiver friend of mine is actually looking at trying to develop a community for aging "hippies" to stay out on the land and get care rather than getting shipped into the cities.

Not specifically aiming at permaculture, but he is trying to develop an idea where the folks who moved off to the land in the area here in the Okanogan can continue to live where out on the land.

He is probably still several years off from making it a reality, but he is trying to get it together.
 
Nora Ewer
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Thank you, Kate!
I think that's a great idea. It sounds like a big family. I definitely don't think segregating people by age is natural or healthy, and that's what permaculture is all about
 
Nora Ewer
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That's awesome, Devin. I'd totally be interested in helping with a project like that . Although as a Jacksonville native that's probably too far for me to travel
 
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I have a family member in a long term care facility.  It's for people 60+.  The have cottages, a few different types of apartments, assisted living, health care and a dementia unit.

A lot of the older people don't want anything to do with permaculture, because it's not a tried and true method in there eyes.  Very fall for the last 3 years I have put in a pit in 2 cinder block raised beds, 5' wide 15' long and 20" high.  The first year a lot of people were upset as I filled them with logs, wood chips and cow pies, and covered them with 4" of compost.  After the first summer of gardening they wanted me to fix the rest of the beds and you should see the yields they get out of everything.

There is a group that has set up raised beds in nursing home and assisted living court yards.  They also do activities and maintain everything.  There is to much liability with something like this form me.

There is a church group near me that has set up some raised beds.  I was told it was kinda permaculture set up, but did not ask anything.  I know a group meats there a few times a week and they give fresh vegetables to members that need help.  I know there building more raised beds this fall and I took them 10 yards wood biased compost beginning of September.

I would love to see more church biased permaculture where churches help there members more.
 
master pollinator
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I would not expect the elderly to actually do the permaculture themselves, but I think a permaculture environment could be very healthy for elders.  Beautiful flowers, trees, fresh fruits and vegetables, birdies, etc.  What's not to like?

(I'm caregiver for my 89 year old dad who has Alzheimer's)

The important thing about elder community - the folks should (in my opinion) move to the place before or as soon as they have any Alzheimer's symptoms.  It's very difficult for Alzheimer's folks to get used to new surroundings.  
 
Bob Anders
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Your right about Alzheimer's.  Once you move them out of the environment that they know and have "rules" and "ways" to make things work then they go down hill fast.
The issue is where to draw the line to where there still "able" in there environment, have not gone down hill to far to readjust, and convincing family's that sooner can be better, but weight to long moving them will do a lot of damage.
 
master pollinator
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My father is moving in this direction, and he is elderly and has Alzheimer's. The man was like my Grandmother and coud grow veggies on ledgerock it seems. He wants to convert some of his land into a raised bed strawberry U=Pick farm, and I am okay with that, and will help him out.

Our recent plans of getting out of sheep, selling two of our houses, really have to do with my aging parents. My Mom is really bad, and I expect a call at any minute saying she has died. Katie and i are in a position to not only care for my father, but also my two adopted isters who live at home who have Down Snydrome. It really is going to be hard because I have three people who cannot really function with a lot of change in their lives, but we are family, and that is what we do here.

We differ a bit in that our family does not use nursing homes. As I tye this, I am sitting in the exact spot where my Grandmother took her last breath, and my Grandfather, and my Great grandmother. It is also where my father was born, and that of my uncle. I mean that literally; they came out of my Grandmother here in a home-birth. We are a farm family in rural Maine, we literally are born and die in the same spot. We have been here for 9 generations, and I really do not see that changing. Homesteading, farming and permiculture are just a huge part of that next-generational transfer.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Travis Johnson wrote: It really is going to be hard because I have three people who cannot really function with a lot of change in their lives, but we are family, and that is what we do here.



That's why I think extended family and/or community is so important.  It's almost impossible for one or two people to take care of a bunch of ill or disabled relatives - especially if the caregivers are ill or disabled themselves!  As our immediate families age, many of us may find ourselves being caregiver to multiple people at the same time, which is not a good situation.

I also do not believe in nursing homes except as an absolute last resort.  There are better and less expensive options now, as home care is a growing field.  But this is not as good as the ideal of community care.

 
Travis Johnson
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This has hit a crisis in Maine. In other posts I have said that we are the oldest state by population, and it is very true.

This year we went over the tipping point, there just are not enough young people to be care givers to the elderly. This just hit the national news a few weeks ago. What it means is, the elderly have NO ONE to care for them. People may qualify for state help, but there just are not enough nurses to do home health care, nursing care, etc. Family members are filling in the gap, but its people working full time jobs, then driving an hour to their parents home to help out. Needless to say these are people with their own families who lose out too.

It is a true crisis, and Maine is just the first. In the next 5 years, 15 more states will hit the tipping point like Maine has.

My wife starts nursing training next week, fully paid by the State of Maine including mileage, uniforms, books, tuition, everything; all she had to do is agree to work at a nursing home facility for one year after graduating. It is that much of a crisis here.


 
Bob Anders
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I have a daughter with Downs syndrome.  There is a huge difference in her health during the middle of winter when there are not as much fresh food from the garden.
I have not worked around the elderly much, but I'm sure there is a difference in there health also.
The difference in nutrients levels between commercial food to good home grown food is huge.
 
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This is a great topic and its front and center to what my partner Carrie and I (Scott) are attempting in Klickitat WA. We are integrating Homsteading, Hospitality and Hospice (end of life caregiving). We are a permaculture inspired property on 40 acres with a Strawbale home and guest cabin. We are working over the next year to build out 3 caregiving cottages in a beautiful treed meadow. Carrie has been caregiving for 19 years and I am focused on the build out and infrastructure. The name of our endeavor is Basalt Blossom. The website is almost up and we are on Facebook. We are also looking for like minded folks to undertake this work with. Feel free to reach out with questions scott@basaltblossom.com

Peace
Scott-
 
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This is why me and my mom moved together to build the permie place I dream of. She is 81, her dad died of Alzheimers, her mom was blind. We are assuming that at some point I will be her caregiver, and we are both good with that. We share similar habits and lifestyle, and philosophies of life. I have health issues that she helps me with, and I help with hers.

She isn't a big fan of doing the garden work, but she's good at wander through and pick stuff, and being the other half of big cooking and canning type projects. I have designed in good safe paths for her to walk, because she likes to walk, and they'll still be useful if her vision gets worse etc.

She will NOT be at a nursing home unless I die first. Then hopefully one of my sisters will make sure she's not.
 
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I don't know if it's still there, but in the early oughts I visited a place somewhere in upstate NY (right along the Hudson, you could see the lights of NYC from the hill the place sat on, I think it was close to the Tappan Zee Bridge) that was a mixed-age intentional community whose central focus was eldercare.  Unfortunately I don't remember a lot of details or even the name of the place (I met a guy on the internet and went to meet him; I was only there 3 days/ 2 nights), and Google isn't helping me either.  I think it was super expensive and catered mostly to rich Manhattanites, but the place itself was a working farm that grew most of the food for the community.  They were just getting back to using horsepower for some tasks, like pulling the wagon that held all the tomato plants going in the field.  It was really cool to participate in planting, 20-30 people of mixed ages all working together to get the tomatoes in the field.  They did group meals, too, and I remember dinner being compulsory for everyone except the staff on kitchen/ dining room duty that day.  

I'm pretty sure the place had been established in the 70s, at least as a nursing home, though it may have been an intentional community for longer.  It was Theosophist, and they were kind of strict about what the community members were allowed to do.  The atmosphere was a little too restrictive and too cult-like for me (and I'm no wild child or anything, it just wasn't my scene), but I really loved the idea of it.  Everyone there seemed pretty content, and not like Manson-family blissed-out--truly satisfied with their existence in that place and time.  I think they had like 150 elderly residents, I don't know how many staff.  They did have some kids there, though not many, and I think there was a Montessori school nearby or they homeschooled the kids in that manner.  I remember the staff stayed in houses on the property (the one I stayed in was a 19th century farmhouse, I think 4 or 5 people lived there) and the elderly residents were in different buildings, so it wasn't a truly integrated community.

I know all that isn't much help, but I just wanted to add my (very limited) experience.  If your googling is better than mine, maybe you can find more info on the place (if it still exists).  Seems like it would be a cool place to live/ work for a while to gain experience.

Edit: I was wrong about some of the details (hey, it was almost 20 years ago), but I found the place-- The Fellowship Community in Chestnut Hill, NY.  

 
master pollinator
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I think when deciding to care for the elderly, within the family, it needs to be set up so as to not to impoverish those who do it. Often, elderly people have assets. I think it's important for them to give over some control, to the people who look after them. If there is a major asset that can produce an annuity, that would be great. Otherwise, liquidate anything that's not needed, and have it pay the family a given amount monthly.

Of course there will always people who reach old age in a penniless state. That's a tough one. My mother-in-law will almost certainly be one of these, since she's never accomplished much of anything or acquired assets. She will be given a small plot of land within our farm, and if she gets to the point where she needs a lot of help, I will hire someone to do that. Luckily, that costs about $6 a day in her country.

I've seen numbers ranging from 20 to 40%, on people who aren't putting aside anything or enough for their old age. It doesn't have to be money, it could be property, or stalks or who knows what else. It's about the worst thing someone can do to themselves or their children, if they actually have adequate income, but choose to spend it frivolously.
 
pollinator
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My daughter and I bought our property with the expectation that I will be allowed to die here. I don't ever want to be shipped off somewhere again. That being said, my parents want to live in a care facility. I don't get it, it's been very painful for me to accept, but they get to make their own choices, as they are completely fit at this point and have made their wishes clear. We are very different people, and I respect their choices. If/when their choices change, I will adapt.
 
Dale Hodgins
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They probably don't want to become an incredible burden.
 
Stacy Witscher
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I get that but my mother was incredibly hurt that her mother wouldn't allow her to care for her, and now she is doing the same thing to me. I don't understand the disconnect. Things have not been simple between my parents and myself, but I wouldn't wish them institutionalized.
 
Travis Johnson
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In the Amish culture, the youngest child is assumed to get the farm of the parents, not the traditional eldest. This makes sense because the youngest child will be just about right in age and vitality to both care for the parents, and yet maintain the farm. If it was the eldest, the caregivers would be some 20 years older, putting them at an age where they are beginning to slow down.

Not that my family was ever smart enough to do it this way. I am the youngest child, and I ended up getting the family farm, 9 generations here to be exact, but my lineage is so long on this farm because it was traditionally given to the oldest son. I often wondered why my Great Uncles went off to California, and other parts of the country? Well it was simple, my Great Great Grandfather 9 times removed was the eldest so he got the farm, and stayed here, while the others were forced to forge their own way.
 
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Stacy Witscher wrote:I get that but my mother was incredibly hurt that her mother wouldn't allow her to care for her, and now she is doing the same thing to me. I don't understand the disconnect. Things have not been simple between my parents and myself, but I wouldn't wish them institutionalized.



While your mom was hurt, when her mom chose to go to a facility, there may have been other information that came to her, afterward, that assuaged her hurt feelings, and brought understanding. I know that personally, when I used to think of a 'burden', it felt like the description of some onerous task. So, when my dad told me he didn't want to be a burden, to me, I balked, and was very hurt. I explained to him, that caring for him could never be an onerous task, but would be my honor, and something done out of love and appreciation for all he'd done, for me. Thankfully, this conversation came about when he was strong, healthy, and fully independent. We were talking about something in the supposedly 'distant' future, not an imminent, looming event. But, it came about, because of an accident he'd had, going fishing, a few days, prior. He'd gone alone - as he always did. He was fishing from the rocky cliffs around the lake - as he always did. He'd just decided, when he woke (at about 5am), that it was a beautiful day for fishing, and went out on a lark - as he always did. He didn't tell anyone he was going, because that was his way. He was very social, when he wanted to be, but very solitary, most of the time, because that was his way. So, no one thought anything of it, when we didn't hear anything from him, that day, because that was his way. But, that day, he lost his footing, on his chosen cliff, and tumbled about ten feet, to the next one down. He lay there for a little while, because he'd had the wind knocked out of him, and when he got up, discovered he'd sprained his wrist, and twisted his ankle, in addition to the bumps and bruises. It took him two hours, to climb back to the one all his gear was on, then had to make a couple trips to his truck, to get it back there, because that one hand was pretty messed up - and he'd climbed to the first cliff, to get there, in the first place. By the time he got back home, he'd missed an entire day of meals, and he had been diagnosed, years before, as hypoglycemic, so he was feeling very sick, by that time. He didn't tell me about it, for days! That's why I felt it was time for 'the talk'; so we could map out a plan, before it was a real need.

He told me that, from his perspective, he wasn't thinking of only the hard stuff, like when his childless aunt and uncle aged, and got to the advanced stages of their ill-health, but even just the stages when family naturally begins to worry about whether it's 'safe' for their loved one to continue doing things, on their own. He saw that loving family concern as a form of burden, too. He explained that he knew it was normal, and natural for us to worry, and he felt very loved, knowing we were concerned. But, he also wanted his freedom, and to not have me worried, and clucking over him, like a mother hen. He didn't want my mind and heart burdened, any more than he wanted my time, body, and finances burdened. I told him, "Well, tough shit. I love you, and I'm going to worry about you, whether you approve, or not!" He laughed, and confirmed that was a given - but, he didn't want to see and hear it, so I was just going to have to adjust, because he was going to make his own decisions. We compromised by talking about his end of life choices, and making a plan, for that, instead of making a plan for his life.

What it all boiled down to, was he didn't want the burden of FEELING like he was a burden, and there was nothing I could do, to keep him from feeling like that, if I was the one taking care of him. He wanted me (I was the closest, geographically, and his oldest) to continue living my life, to the best of my ability. THAT was the one thing I could do, to make him happiest - not changing his diapers.
 
Pearl Sutton
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I replied this (with the link edited) to another thread, it's part of both threads, so I made it it's own thread...

How do we rebuild the extended family without requiring blood ties? This thread is all tangled up in my head with one (in the cider press area, requires a certain number of apples to post there) Too much chaos A young mother overwhelmed by the daily nonstop stress of kids. It's two ends of the same problem. I'm in the middle age-wise, I could use "family" kids who are 10-17 or so and could help me sometimes. It's all the same thought, extended families are how humans work well if they aren't in a totally urban lifestyle, and we who are trying to rebuild rural life are discovering we need that, one way or another.

I'm dragging this offshoot to it's own topic, to not derail either of these. How can we rebuild the extended family?
 
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Kate Downham wrote:I wonder if intentional communities with people of all ages are a solution?

One that I know of encourages residents to help each other out informally, so elderly people get help with their gardens, and then sometimes give help by teaching children things like knitting and music lessons, and just by being elders that children can look to.

I'm not sure how this approach would work for elderly people that need a lot of day to day help, but the older members of this community seem to be thriving, and some are participating in the permaculture design course there.



I'd love to be a part of something like that. I'm living on my own "Ranch-stead", but can just manage to pay my own way. If my health slips too much, it would be nice to have a small extended community  nearby. Plus the research work I would like to undertake needs some WOOF (?) help. Don't quite know how to start. I've been here since July, but the Google Maps screenshot is before any of my 'improvements'. Couldn't seem to find any pictures of the RV and Sshed iIm living in... The need for Shade and wind protection are first level vectors here.

Sorry if I sound like a craigslist ad...
GoogleMaps-AZProperty_3D_2019-04-11T16-51-55.701Z.png
[Thumbnail for GoogleMaps-AZProperty_3D_2019-04-11T16-51-55.701Z.png]
Hermit Crab Desert Research Center
 
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I think you may have hit on something very interesting. The caring industry is exactly that 'an industry' my experience of working backs up what you say about isolation, the segregation of groups of people goes against all aspect of permaculture (interdependant and interactive zones/people). all that said the solution can be worked out in the problem, first we need to observe what is going on then we can see quick and sustainable wins. By that i mean if you can find out what people want to grow/do you then have a starting point. Growing plants/food is such a great achievement, nurturing and looking after, sharing the joy and the falls. Who ever you are you can deepen your relationship with extended family/friends choose some plants and grow together...
 
Travis Johnson
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I see a potential solution to elder care with the creation of an auditing system. I know this sounds crazy, but please hear me out.

Most issues within a family is because of perceived power struggles, and money is a huge part of that power struggle.

Well in my own family, soon I will be taking care of my Father and (2) sisters with Down Syndrome, and I can be assured that my real sister and brother are going to accuse me and Katie of stealing my parents money. That is not the case, nor would it ever be. In this case it would just be my sister and brother KNOWING what they should do, being unwilling to do it, and so in misplaced blame, Katie and I surely will get accused.

Now taking advantage of the elderly happens a lot I know. And accusations for caregiver's more so.

So what if we put my parents finances in an automated auditing system, where at any time an auditor could check them. Kind of like how Town's have their finances checked. Knowing this would happen, a Caregiver would be less apt to try and steal money, caregiver's like Katie and I who were honest, would be able to prove our honesty, my parents would know going in they would not be stolen from, and my sister and brother would have no reason to accuse of impropriety because there is full financial transparency.

I would like to think with the financial power struggle eliminated, there would be more caregiver's willing to keep the elderly at home.
 
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The whole elder care discussion has to include the needs of elders. When I lived in Ontario we lived in a small town, hospital nearby, which was handy. I quit a very good paying job to stay home and look after parents. Initially because my mom needed total care (washing, dressing, toiletting, etc) and dad was still independent but no longer able to do the hard stuff. We turned our attached garage into a granny flat and moved them in. Within 6 months dad suffered a blod clot from an aneurysm resulting in not only amputation below the knee, but the start of dialysis. Now there were two who needed a lot of care. Fortunately our property had a lot of green space, we had a lovely pond with fountain and fish we built for them to sit by but still in town. But because it was a town you have to live within regulations and so permaculture/homesteading ways can only go so far. They both died at home 6 yrs later. Following this my husband and I moved to Prince Edward Island to a proper 'homesteading' type of property where we can if we choose go off-grid, have livestock, chickens whatever. Lots of room to grow food. All with the hopes of being able to provide for ourselves more so that small social pension will go far enough for us to live on. Which brings me full circle to the point I made at the start. We can have a lovely permaculture lifestyle here for as long as we can stay healthy. The nearest hospital is 30 min away, often closed due to staffing shortages, and it's not open nights or weekends. For emergency care outside of that it's a 45 min. drive to the capital city hospital. Willing or not, there is no way I could have cared for my parents here because of that. And with nursing homes full up and people waiting for beds, I don't know what we are going to do if the day comes that we can't manage where we live. We love living rural and being close to the land, but the nagging realization that this lifestyle depends 100% on our health being there, leaves a knot in my stomach.
 
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Nora Ewer
However, they are very expensive. It would be wonderful if there were ways for the residents to bring down costs. For example, they could have gardens to reduce the cost of food



you have to remember that this is a business not a way of life ,every penny you saved for them would just go to stock holders.
 
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I remember my mother, way back in the fifties, talking about her idea of establishing communities where the older folks would take care of the children during the day while the able adults did whatever work they had to do. She thought the elderly adults would treasure the children and make them feel loved and teach them and they could kind of babysit each other. (She had not yet gotten old enough to realize the dangers inherent in that thought, but with proper management, it could work out well, methinks.)

I know for a lot of elderly folks (and I'm headed that way quickly, at 67), we still have strong mental faculties but physically cannot do the work of putting in permaculture infrastructure. I think it's important to think in terms not just of caretaking but also of the skills and acquired wisdom that older folks can contribute. I'm pretty good, for example, at coming up with creative ideas, conceptualizing structures, and plotting them out in software. I can do research. Digging and putting them into place, not so much....

Another related idea is using the limitations of the elderly as a kind of prompt for creative thinking. The idea of the hugelkultur-style raised beds for elderly folks at retirement communities and nursing homes mentioned earlier in this thread, for example, made me realize I've already got a relatively easy weekend permaculture project available to me that I CAN do: fill up the concrete-block edged low raised beds I put in two years ago but couldn't do now with a bunch of the now-lighter logs I've got lying around my yard after felling some trees. When I rake up the leaves, I can dump them on top. Here I've just been agonizing over how I can't dig trenches in other parts of the yard to put those logs in, so it's nice to be able to shift perspective a bit to see a different way of doing things.



 
Travis Johnson
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jimmy gallop wrote:

Nora Ewer
However, they are very expensive. It would be wonderful if there were ways for the residents to bring down costs. For example, they could have gardens to reduce the cost of food



you have to remember that this is a business not a way of life ,every penny you saved for them would just go to stock holders.



I am not sure counting other people's money is a good idea. I have yet to see anyone come out ahead when they do that.

In this case, the work done, and food produced is way more important than any monies saved at the facility. Connie said it best, "the whole elder care discussion has to include the needs of elders".
 
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The first principle is that no person must be seen as a burden. Even if it's hard, taking care of each other is the right thing to do. Even if it means giving up some of what we want so they can be taken care of too.

The second principle is that the family is the absolute most fundamental unit of society. Family should take care of family as much as possible. Then there aren't needs for these invented "industries" of child care, elder care. etc.

I would agree that when possible, integrating the elderly/extended family into your living situation before they reach a stage where dementia starts to set in is the most ideal. In my case, I have a sister in law that lives with us for free and in return provides toddler care and after school care (I pay her a tiny amount, but only a fraction of what I would be paying). It is beautiful. An older person might not want to take care of the toddler, but they could definitely be an extra adult to provide that little bit of after school supervision for school age kids. And they're an excellent resource when you forget a favorite recipe and for imparting wisdom.

Downsizing is hard. Letting go of many of your possessions and house is hard. I think that might be one reason older people tend to not want to "be a burden". They don't want to deal with it until there is on other option. Plus there is the needing to get along, dialogue, forgive when you make mistakes with the view that you are in this together until the end, in a society that labels anyone less than a supermodel or doctor as a burden to society and where divorce and non-committal is expected.  

Unless we respect the dignity of each person and refuse the notion that ANY person is a burden, true community will be hard to achieve.
 
Connie Zoeller
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Gina Capri wrote:rovide that little bit of after school supervision for school age kids. And they're an excellent resource when you forget a favorite recipe and for imparting wisdom.

Downsizing is hard. Letting go of many of your possessions and house is hard. I think that might be one reason older people tend to not want to "be a burden".



It's not just about downsizing. I think we are a widespread group here on permies, and we have to remember different places can mean different challenges too, when it comes to doing what's right by looking after family. Let me elaborate on my example. To look after my parents was what I felt was right, hubby was the first to suggest it. My parents were both deathly afraid of dying in an institution. I took them in and promised them I would do everything I could to allow them to be home. I did that, although dad was hospitalized at the end for several days. When they told me there was no hope I scrambled to get him home to die ,on a friday of a long weekend, with very minor home nursing care available on short notice. He spent his last 3 days at home.

I would do it all again without regret, but let me tell you what it cost us beyond 'downsizing'. I quit the workforce to stay home and 7 years later when I tried to go back I couldn't get a job. No one wanted an over 50's woman who had been out of the workforce for 7 yrs. Three strikes right there. Although I was previously in a highly skilled job, my skills were now sorely outdated without a year or more of schooling. I now do odd jobs and work from home. Everything from cleaning cottages to bookkeeping just to bring in a few dollars. So during that 7 years with no income...there was no deductions from salary that are normally done into the social pension program. Hence now, as I am 60 the monthly amount I'm going to get when I start to collect pension is miniscule. And at the time I found there really wasn't any sort of social program to give me a living. Parents get child bonuses for every child but children don't get a dime for looking after their parents beyond a deductible on income tax. When we bought our house we had a sizeable downpayment and our mortgage was manageable. But the cost of building a suite for them and all the other physical property changes we had to make (elevator outside to bypass stairs, special electrical hookup for a generator in case of power outages, etc.) doubled our mortgage. Hence when they were gone, we made the decision to move where we might be able to conceivably be mortgage free at some point when we are most financially at risk. During the time I looked after mom and dad, they paid what they could from their pensions, often covered the cost of small unexpected bills and did what they could. But in no way was it the equivalent of the huge salary I made at my job I left, less then half in fact. So husband was really the sole provider of the two of us and a son he had to pay a huge child support payment for (not that we begrudged that).  I thank God that we at least have universal healthcare here or we'd have been on the street a long time ago. The number of times we went to hospital with them, one health crisis after another would have crushed us. So I'm grateful for that.

And if you think it's just as simple as taking care of another person like a child, that's not always the case either. With all the health crises we had, and the emotional friction that sometimes came from their own difficulties dealing with infirmities and the realities of aging and being ill it was a 24hr/7day job that took a lot out of me. The toll it took on MY health was enormous. I ploughed through and did what had to be done and after they were gone had a complete collapse with a diagnosis of PTSD. It took me a couple of years to recover from that. The stress of their care left lasting health issues I now deal with. But my point being, if elders are more or less independent and somewhat healthy great. But if your elders are ill this changes the whole discussion by a LOT.

It's not as simple as saying 'it's a family's duty to care for elders'. And yes, my parents felt they were a burden no matter how many times I held their hand, looked them in the eye and said 'you are absolutely not' a burden. I loved them and don't regret a minute but they weren't blind and they could see the toll it was taking. So when I see people putting their elders in homes/institutions, I can't fault them. The problem lies, as I see it, in the creation of places where people can be cared for that are nurturing, and humane. But anytime you have something run by a company or a corporation, profit will always be the #1 goal and that will always result in shortcomings that affect the level of care. Add to that the fact that where I live, there is a severe shortage of nursing home workers so even in places where they do their best, the care is sometimes below par. Hence the reason I kept mine at home. Yes, a hundred years ago families took care of elders and the community supported them in that effort but it's not as easy as that anymore as times have changed. You grew your own food, you chopped wood for heat and maybe you didn't have much and life was hard, but you had the basics. You were mostly home with elders to care for them. But life has evolved and now we have technology and bylaws and rules and governments and greedy corporations all pulling at us, and what was possible to do a hundred years ago isn't as easy to do now. Yes, you have to make some sacrifices to care for them at home and I did. But those sacrifices have now put me in a position where MY old age years are at risk. So now I have to figure out how I will manage...I never had children and my husband's son will likely not be around to do much for us. We have to take care of ourselves, with a lot less resources to do that with now. Care of elders is a very complex subject. Many variables. I'm not sure there is one solution to solve it. And considering that younger generations are having less children, often moving great distances away for careers, and we are already a bit top heavy with the size of the aging population, it's not hard to see that there's a growing problem.


 
Diane Kistner
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Connie Zoeller wrote:
It's not just about downsizing. I think we are a widespread group here on permies, and we have to remember different places can mean different challenges too, when it comes to doing what's right by looking after family. Let me elaborate on my example.



Connie, thank you for your wise and moving post. You have left us with so much to think about.
 
Travis Johnson
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Yes, thank you Connie (Hugs)
 
Nora Ewer
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Scott Davison wrote:This is a great topic and its front and center to what my partner Carrie and I (Scott) are attempting in Klickitat WA.


This is super awesome! It's a bit far for me to travel at the moment, as I'm in Jacksonville. But if I ever want to travel that way, I'll definitely look into your work stay options (I saw that mentioned on FB). I did a workaway once before, and it was really fun.
Good luck with everything!
 
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I don't see a lot of input here from actual "elders". At 77 I may or may not be old. I may or may not become burden but I am doing my level best not to become one. I am fortunate not to have diabetes, cancer, or serious heart disease, some hypertension not withstanding. On the other hand I work hard at staying healthy, go to the gym for Zumba and other exercise at least two or three days a week, volunteer at the local animal shelter on alternate days. I mostly eat what I should, floss my teeth, and walk the dog a couple of times a day.

I intend to age in place and to that end my home has no stairs, halls and doorways are at least 36 inches wide, doors have handles rather than knobs, toilets are raised, I had wall sockets placed 18 inches above the floor, and my dishwasher is also elevated about 11 inches.

My point is that I take seriously my responsibility to remain as healthy aand independent as possible. I also take seriously my responsibility to provide my far flung family with a place where they can live sustainably as our climate warms. My home is earth sheltered, I heat easily with wood stay cool in summer, and I garden on the roof. I am planting fruit trees and sturdy But Oak.

My original plan was to enslave a grandchild who would learn to love the woods and wildlife that surround me. So far no go. On the other hand my adult children are beginning to lean toward being here as they themselves grow older. They are drawn to the natural beauty here, we have mountains and water. A daughter and husband plan on building in a year or so. A son-in-law will build a few year after. An additional well or two will make me feel better about water security.

The kids put in two cords of wood for me. That should get me through most of the winter. I suspect that they decided that they'd better keep the old lady warm "or she'll end up in Florida with us". Ha. I guess that I can handle spending some time in a warmer place part of the year, especially during March and spring breakup. But the dogs are coming along.

We used to think that people over 80 were the oldest old. This is no longer the case. Although it's been awhile since I was middle aged I sort of wonder what happened to my sixties. So all in all I have decided that old is as old does. Certainly we can't control everything that happens to us as we age but we had darn well better take as much responsibility as we can for the rest of it.
 
Carla Burke
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roberta mccanse wrote:I don't see a lot of input here from actual "elders". At 77 I may or may not be old. I may or may not become burden but I am doing my level best not to become one. I am fortunate not to have diabetes, cancer, or serious heart disease, some hypertension not withstanding. On the other hand I work hard at staying healthy, go to the gym for Zumba and other exercise at least two or three days a week, volunteer at the local animal shelter on alternate days. I mostly eat what I should, floss my teeth, and walk the dog a couple of times a day.

I intend to age in place and to that end my home has no stairs, halls and doorways are at least 36 inches wide, doors have handles rather than knobs, toilets are raised, I had wall sockets placed 18 inches above the floor, and my dishwasher is also elevated about 11 inches.

My point is that I take seriously my responsibility to remain as healthy aand independent as possible. I also take seriously my responsibility to provide my far flung family with a place where they can live sustainably as our climate warms. My home is earth sheltered, I heat easily with wood stay cool in summer, and I garden on the roof. I am planting fruit trees and sturdy But Oak.

My original plan was to enslave a grandchild who would learn to love the woods and wildlife that surround me. So far no go. On the other hand my adult children are beginning to lean toward being here as they themselves grow older. They are drawn to the natural beauty here, we have mountains and water. A daughter and husband plan on building in a year or so. A son-in-law will build a few year after. An additional well or two will make me feel better about water security.

The kids put in two cords of wood for me. That should get me through most of the winter. I suspect that they decided that they'd better keep the old lady warm "or she'll end up in Florida with us". Ha. I guess that I can handle spending some time in a warmer place part of the year, especially during March and spring breakup. But the dogs are coming along.

We used to think that people over 80 were the oldest old. This is no longer the case. Although it's been awhile since I was middle aged I sort of wonder what happened to my sixties. So all in all I have decided that old is as old does. Certainly we can't control everything that happens to us as we age but we had darn well better take as much responsibility as we can for the rest of it.



I want to be you, when I grow up!!
 
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"Oh, your fingers hurt?"
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Connie Zoeller wrote:

It's not as simple as saying 'it's a family's duty to care for elders'. And yes, my parents felt they were a burden no matter how many times I held their hand, looked them in the eye and said 'you are absolutely not' a burden. I loved them and don't regret a minute but they weren't blind and they could see the toll it was taking. So when I see people putting their elders in homes/institutions, I can't fault them. The problem lies, as I see it, in the creation of places where people can be cared for that are nurturing, and humane. But anytime you have something run by a company or a corporation, profit will always be the #1 goal and that will always result in shortcomings that affect the level of care. Add to that the fact that where I live, there is a severe shortage of nursing home workers so even in places where they do their best, the care is sometimes below par. Hence the reason I kept mine at home. Yes, a hundred years ago families took care of elders and the community supported them in that effort but it's not as easy as that anymore as times have changed.




THIS.

I am currently the sole caretaker for my elderly mother who has Alzheimer's. 3 1/2 years ago I left my home, my job, my own family, my small farm I'd been growing for over 20 years, and everything I had to take care of my mom when my dad died from cancer. I'd been "caring" for them before he died, on weekends, doing yard work, taking care of the house, managing repairs and maintenance, doing grocery shopping, etc. But when dad died, mom had no one. She couldn't drive a car, cook a meal, do a load of laundry even. People think Alzheimer's is a memory disorder, but it is so much more than that. There is no facility in the world that can nurture and humanely care for anyone with alzheimer's or dementia or other medical illnesses that seem to increase in prevalence as one ages.

Building a community that cares for the elderly is a great dream. But then reality hits the fan. For me it came long before my mom presented me with a handful of her own poop and wanted to know what it was. I'm in multiple groups for caretakers and the one consistent thread among every one of those groups is that as soon as the work shows up, everyone leaves. Families are the first to abandon ship and the worst of the lot because not only do they not help in any capacity, they complain and condemn the one person who is doing all the work. They stand back and say "this is how it should be done" without having a clue what needs to be done. There is a LOT of talk, a lot of ideas, a lot of planning, a lot of research and information and promoting the cause. And meanwhile, the caretakers just have to get on with it.

Despite all the talk, the millions raised for research and funding for various diseases that effect the elderly, the good intentions of individuals or communities such as this one, ... no one cares on a day to day basis about giving up their own needs and wants and desires to care for other people long term. And should they? Is that an ethic of permaculture? Is being self-less a good permaculture practice?

I have a new farm a few minutes from my mom's house which allows me to have something to fall back on. My spouse and I have debated selling it and focusing entirely on mom and then buying something new once she passes ... but we can't. As much as we sacrifice and give "to do our family duty", we can't give up our own wants and needs. So how would we ever expect anyone else to do so? I mean, what are the choices here? A family duty to  care for your aging loved ones that results in soul-crushing caretaking? Or paying someone to do it for you? That's it. There are no other choices out there. Not even permaculture has managed to create fairy godmothers.

Putting everyone together in a mass community/village doesn't change the fact that someone needs to change my mom's diaper while she screams at them that she doesn't need help and to leave her alone. It won't change the reality that Uncle Joe won't leave his clothes on and Cousin Mary is a hoarder. Although I would love help. I'd love to have a community that supports us. Having someone come in once a week to clean the house and someone else who will sit with mom while I go to the grocery store and someone who will spend an hour doing therapy with her and someone who will bring their kids over to have tea would be amazing. But who does those things anymore? Especially without being paid $25/hour or more?

I guess my point here is that permaculture doesn't exist in a vacuum. For it to really work it has to be incorporated in life as we know it in such a way as to make it better for everyone and no village for the elderly will ever function that way. We dream of permaculture on a grand scale, encompassing everyone and everything, but we practice it on an individual basis - one-on-one, face-to-face, intimately, passionately, and compassionately. Permaculture for the elderly already exists in the lives of every single caretaker paid or unpaid, family or friend, neighbor or stranger, who takes the time to care.
 
Connie Zoeller
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Bernie Farmer wrote:




Building a community that cares for the elderly is a great dream. But then reality hits the fan. For me it came long before my mom presented me with a handful of her own poop and wanted to know what it was. I'm in multiple groups for caretakers and the one consistent thread among every one of those groups is that as soon as the work shows up, everyone leaves. Families are the first to abandon ship and the worst of the lot because not only do they not help in any capacity, they complain and condemn the one person who is doing all the work. They stand back and say "this is how it should be done" without having a clue what needs to be done. There is a LOT of talk, a lot of ideas, a lot of planning, a lot of research and information and promoting the cause. And meanwhile, the caretakers just have to get on with it.



Yes! Bless you, Bernie for what you do for your mom. And you are right, no village for the elderly is going to cut it, because the needs of those being cared for can be widely different.

Roberta, bravo! You are also commended on all the efforts you make to keep your health. I'm 60 and I'm probably not doing as much as I should in that regard as you are. But then, I'm trying to bit by bit renovate an old house, maintain 8 acres of property, and work as much as I can to supplement the family income. Fitting in a fitness routine is hard and there are some niggling health issues that for various reasons make it difficult too sometimes. My husband and I are trying to scramble to finish all the things that we need to do to make this property something that can sustain us. And we have to do it without any help from children. We will have to build some sort of retirement savings so that when we can no longer put in our own wood, we'll have to pay someone to do it for us.

A village for the elderly is a lovely idea and brings forth images from Currier and Ives, and if all of us were like Roberta, it would be lovely. However, there are things that can come along that don't happen due to a lack of health maintaining efforts. Family genetics, injury, circumstances and pure bad luck can grip any one of us at any age and leave us with a condition that will put us in a situation where caring for ourselves is difficult, no matter how much we did to 'stay healthy'. My parents were hearty people and despite the issues they DID have, the hospitals were always shocked that they weren't on a long list of medications. What took away their ability to care for themselves could not have been prevented by any lifestyle means. This is the scary part.

We have in the past suggested to other couples we know, when discussions of this sort come up, for them to build on our property and we would all share the work and the bounty. A small and limited village, if you will. Where each one does the duties that they are able enough for, share the property expenses and the bounty of the gardens, to help each other as we can. But no one seems to want to do that. So we just keep renovating and restoring and trying to turn this place into something that we can manage later when we are not as able. A steel roof so we never have to worry about roofing again. Augmenting the utility room downstairs so that in the future it can be our main bathroom; so that if we turn the dining room into a bedroom we can live on just the ground floor. Trying to figure out what we can do to change the cleared part of the property so that it doesn't take 4 hours of riding a mower. Letting it just go isn't an option because the taller grass brings ticks and mosquitoes like a biblical plague. Building a green house to winter garden in. The raised beds that are kinder to my back. And all of this takes a lot of funds to do so we have to take on as much paid work as we can to do it. But when you are busy working, you have the funds to purchase the supplies but where is the time to do the actual work? We recently purchased a large barn next door to use as a place where hubby can earn an income with vehicle storage and some auto repair work, as well as trying his hand at doing some electric conversions (older cars to electric). But the barn needs a bit of work...doors replaced, walls reinforced etc. He's out there every day by himself after a long day of working. There is no family here, and friends all seem to be 'too busy' to help. To hire help will cost us thousands. It's almost the same as the caregiver situation. Trying to get our vision in place before it's too late, while still working, is a challenge. And we constantly feel like we are racing against a clock.  Some days when I'm not feeling my best, visions of my folks come back to me and I find myself gripped with a level of anxiety that nearly paralyzes me into hopelessness. Watching my parents suffer as much as they did in the end (I still sometimes get triggered into hearing mom's screams of 'please let me die') I consider at what point and under what condition would I take my own life, to avoid a miserable existence somewhere where I would be trapped an unable to control  how I'm cared for.  I want to live for as long as I can, close to nature where my soul is nourished, and I'm doing everything I can to put into place ways for me to do that. We are only just learning about permaculture....slowly...when we have time to research. If I could afford it I would take a course. I would love to create a food forest. I would love to have something that has a sort of ecosystem that maintains itself with a lot less effort. Six years ago when we moved to this land we had no experience with wells and septics and all the differences in lifestyle that come with country living. We were both born and raised urban/city. I'm trying to learn about canning and preserving, seed saving and all the various facets of sustainable living and I'm trying to do it while working for hours on a computer for pay, cleaning cottages, renovating a very old house, caring for animals and trying to contribute to my community helping others so that we aren't shunned as outsiders. And we do this not just because we want a healthier lifestyle (fresh organic food, living with nature) along with free water and sewage, but also a lifestyle that we can maintain and control for as long as we can. But permaculture is by its very nature, a lifestyle that requires ability both mental and physical. What to do when those abilities slip away? Sorry if I sound a bit like a Debbie Downer, but that's MY reality.
 
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Bernie Farmer wrote:

I guess my point here is that permaculture doesn't exist in a vacuum. For it to really work it has to be incorporated in life as we know it in such a way as to make it better for everyone and no village for the elderly will ever function that way. We dream of permaculture on a grand scale, encompassing everyone and everything, but we practice it on an individual basis - one-on-one, face-to-face, intimately, passionately, and compassionately. Permaculture for the elderly already exists in the lives of every single caretaker paid or unpaid, family or friend, neighbor or stranger, who takes the time to care.



I like the thoughtful conversation about this, and I absolutely don’t deny it is super hard. I watched my great grandma die from dementia over 6 years, and all the things you mentioned about siblings fighting, not all children contributing equally, only a few sacrificing to do the work happened. And she still ended up being institutionalized, because it truly was too hard. She didn’t remember anyone and felt like those taking care of her (her own children) were strangers in her house. How unsettling for her and emotionally terrible for everyone!

But there is a place where elders are naturally taken care of by the community. It’s called Africa. At least Burkina Faso. But it is so different from mainstream white Western culture that it is hard to fathom all the mentality changes that would mean to make it work in a Western white context. And is it too late, at the point where you realize grandma needs care, but grandma is not African and has different expectations, perhaps?

I do take the point about loss of income and retirement... there is an inherent problem with the system in this respect too.

From my heart, my thought is that if the expectation from the time you are born is that you will care for your community’s elders as long as possible, then more people will be able to age in community for longer, and I won’t have to keep watching lots be cleared (at least two in the last year near where I work and live) to keep building senior care facilities because the need won’t be so much. Not everyone that is in a care facility/senior living arrangement is living with dementia, we all know that. And with the mandated community care mindset, it wouldn’t matter (financially, maybe it would matter to you personally) if you suffer loss of income and retirement, because the community should be taking care of you too when you are an elder.  I guess for this to work in this day when many people only had one or two kids, the answer would need to consider both family and community contributions. Even in Burkina it’s first family but then community too.
 
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