I am fortunate that I have a daughter and five grandchildren who, until recently [as the older kids left home] lived just three miles from me. Two of the grandkids, ages 12 & 15, are still at home, and two of them are within a 20 minute drive. [The luckiest one is teaching yoga in Hawaii!]

Actually, that’s more than fortune. I made the deliberate decision eight years ago to move close to them after my son-in-law died. Before that I was 750 miles away in a city where I had no relatives. When Erik died I decided I could not bear to be that far away from them when the next crisis happened. That wasn’t about them supporting ME, but about me supporting THEM.

I don’t like to be super dependent on them. I want to be the grandmother who’s the extra parental figure, not someone who leans on them — tho that day will eventually arrive. Although I do occasionally ask my daughter for help [for instance, the time I tripped on a curb and sprained my ankle badly], but for the most part I’m there as THEIR resource. I’m “only” 70, so I’m still able to do that despite my multiple disabling chronic pain & fatigue conditions.

The move brought other, non-relative resources for me. I live in a “senior” apartment building, which, in addition to supplying me with numerous helpful neighbors who keep an eye on each other, is also built to help keep seniors living independently — such as handrails in the hallway, doors wide enough for a wheel chair, emergency alarms to pull when you need help, etc. When those alarms go off, everyone in the building comes running to see what they can do to help.

Most importantly, we have a community kitchen and dining room where we can hold events, do crossword puzzles together, or enjoy doing various craft projects together, and a community “living room” where we can watch tv or just sit around talking.

In addition to that, the town I live in has an excellent senior center with all sorts of activities — AND transportation to get there. The center also offers transportation to shopping centers, medical appointments, and the like, as well as a social worker to give advice to both caregivers and seniors themselves. They have tax professionals come in at tax time, as well as social security advisors, medical insurance advisors, etc., to help with advice on other matters.

Every community should have these resources for seniors. If they aren’t present, perhaps a bit of politicking would be an excellent “old age” activity that also brings seniors together for common cause and friendship.

Old age shouldn’t mean loneliness even for seniors who have no family near them.

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Georgia NeSmith

Georgia NeSmith

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Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.