A sustainable Odia aging Community Plan in practice
In recent past decades, with a higher longevity factor almost all over the world combined with detached supporting children pursuing better careers away from parents, all elderly parents face similar problems when retiring. The special challenges for displaced elderly parents away from their own parental birth places, sometimes in a different continent, presents another dimension of adjustment to navigate the life style.
Another important factor is the rapid shift of demographic make up of the society in a number of countries including USA, Japan, and Europe due to necessities (birth rate decline and political instability as examples). The individual countries or United Nations have not been able to keep in pace with these changes. Once a sizable group of people establish themselves in a foreign country social demands warrant changes ( example: Muslim Holiday in the Montgomery County, Maryland).
We need to develop a sustainable community mutual support system, beyond social stigmas of religious and pseudo in nature. The least we should do is experiment with a system hoping that it can present us an opportunity to tinker with further.
Most of the needs, according to the reference quoted in this article, of the aging people are rather simple. Those are accompanying or driving to the doctor’s office or hospital, assisting for grocery, driving to a movie, driving to a temple, or changing a light bulb in the apartment or house they live in. Then demand of driving is about 80% of the time. People needing the assistance most of the times are capable of paying and appreciative of the assistance provided. Conceptually “paying” formula is better appreciated, without guilt of becoming dependent, by elders. How about also performing a little musical program for them occasionally, arranging a playing card game session, and a little coffee time in a McDonald (here senior coffee is discounted 60-70%)? Senior people have no attitude to steal our hard earned money, they appreciate our love and even better we connecting with their golden days in the childhood.
This article formulates a sustainable community network with mutual trust and exchangeable benefits to some extent. A group of us have already started it in practice and gradually it is taking some traction we want to share with you. We are inviting your actionable participation to further the cause.
The base line is taken from what is working in America, re-parameterizing it with our ancestral and adapted practices in a foreign country, and install and improve the system as we go. For an easy reading we refer you to a recent article published in the Washington Post.
In the last stop of the career an average American probably has spent longest time in a dwelling, after all children gone away on their pursue, we call it “our home” and we have gotten used to it so much and unwilling to look for another new house or apartment. The friends and neighbors gradually appear to be the most people we know, occasionally say “hi” or complain about the weather etc., and hang around. At this juncture of life we also have located a few of our own type, friendly, socially and culturally very connected who also originated from the same place as us and definitely is a comfort that cannot be ignored. The only problem is due to various reasons the host country could not completely integrate us in their culture not we adapted it (unlike our children who most probably were born here) completely. So, we need to formulate a different way to learn to live after retirements.
When we first came here (starting around later part of the sixties) the assumption in America was that they would move to nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. “But aging looks different now, and along with embracing dating sites and Zumba classes, today’s older Americans – 88 percent of those 65 and up, according to AARP study – prefer stay in their residence for as long as possible” according the Washington Post article. The general attitude is people don’t want to get old and sick and isolated.
The Odia specific problems arise from non uniformity for various reasons including social, economic, and other issues. In the past people from other advanced countries like Italy used to go back and manage a better life in the counties of their origin. But in the past decade for Odias there is no safe haven going back. Rather than feeling lonely and depressed we ought to find ways to mitigate the issues and unify our thoughts for a mutual cooperation for a happier life.
Fortunately many issues are common to Americans as well and there are solutions supported by the government and society that we have to capture as opportunities. This includes real estate (senior housing), mutual supporting groups, volunteer groups, and grants to be innovative.
We are trying to develop a formula that can develop a mutual support group based on culture, trust, and respect. The most we have now are the religious institutions and luckily more or less all Indians are aligned by Hindu temples. That resource is already over subscribed. Our thoughts are to go beyond and formulate using other shared resources.
We are fortunate to have a large group of technically qualified people in all aspect of life and education. We got to get these resources together for supporting each other. We have well educated people in the government, industries, and business. We want to develop a sustainable plan with openness. We want to service each other by exchange of work, voluntarism, and shared knowledge and capabilities. There still will be gaps that can be closed by outside services through interacting and exchanging with other entities.
We are trying to develop a monetary formula so that overall needs support can be normalized without over burdening any particular volunteer. The monetary model which will have a currency system to normalize services is not new.
While trying to institute this, some of us have started work in this direction. We have a few projects completed among those are light plumbing, door lock replacements, home inspection, gardening, lawn maintenance, house painting, and handyman work etc. We are expanding it to periodic educational classes given by professionals in weekends. We’re looking for businesses to be a part of this who can provide their services being a part of community. We are inviting volunteers to join us. Please stay tuned.