Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Growing Old In Lexington? (2)

Since we all realize that we will end up elderly at some point, it is now commonplace to think and plan that, in the future, an assisted care facility and maybe some visits from the kids is a done deal. You would think that we would site our planned facilities a little bit better.

It is only since the end of World War II and rise of the “Baby Boomer” generation that the idea of nursing homes and assisted living facilities has exploded as an industry. The image of the “The Waltons” TV show, where a multi-generational household lives and solves their everyday problems makes for great nostalgia, but it is not a lifestyle for today’s modern family. Living with your parents, or even fairly close to them, is looked upon with disdain and loathing. I think that it is something about having to be self-sufficient and making a life for yourself. Whatever the reason, in today’s world we have an ever increasing number of places to house our elderly.

Mayfair Village is located on Tates Creek Pike across from the Lansdowne Shopping Center. Hardly a great distance when measured form door to door, but there is a busy, four-lane divided highway and a very busy parking lot without a single sidewalk in sight.

Sayre Christian Village is off Camelot Dr and probably 1,000 feet, as he crow flies, from the Tates Creek Center. Winding through the neighborhood, down the hill and along Wilson Downing Rd makes walking to the center about three times as far, especially if you are going to the grocery.

Richmond Place is on Rio Dosa Dr. and not far from the Locust Hill Center but getting there without encountering heavy traffic and no traffic light is not something most seniors want to do.

Public funded facilities are not much better. Connie Griffith and Ballard Place, both located in the very walkable downtown are nowhere near a supermarket, pharmacy or general shopping type stores.

Church supported senior housing in the downtown area like Christ Church apartments or Central Christian’s place on Short St. have full access to the shopping that is downtown but again groceries and drug stores are a long way away.

These are just a few of the many elderly care facilities in Lexington but they all require driving somewhere for the basic necessities of life. Even recreational needs like walking to or in the park with the grandkids, or swimming, or….you name it, you HAVE to drive somewhere to do it.

Our seniors just don’t fit in out in the suburbs, stuck at home, unable to drive (or walk) to see friends, sometimes unable to do for themselves. They are then relegated to the facility of their children’s choosing (kind of like warehousing them for the time being) and visited by them if they have time. There they are safe, secure and we know where they are when we want to go see them.

Both of my sets of grandparents lived within a fifteen minute walk of where I grew up and I visited often. My aunts(one on each side) lived with them and we all got together on a regular basis. None of them went to a long term care facility. My maternal aunt did decide to retire to Florida when her circle of friends here began to dwindle and she could no longer drive. She had cousins and friends in Florida, but they were in the same shape as she and she soon returned to Kentucky, settling a block or two from where she had been.

Where we place our elderly care facilities is not so much an issue of land use or being allowed by the comprehensive plan or zoning because they are allowed in just so many zones. But where in those zones is the more important question. The higher density residential for the able bodied is usually placed adjacent to the shopping center and the elderly buffered just a little by less intensive uses some distance into the neighborhood. They don’t create as many peak hour trips as the apartments and shopping so their traffic impact will be minimal and won’t disrupt the neighborhood. We place them in the neighborhood but we don’t incorporate them into the neighborhood. And we wonder why they tend to just wither away.

We all will have to make a choice someday, either about your parents or yourselves, or it will be made for us. It seems to me that we should be working to make those decisions easier on ones who have to live with the outcome of those decisions.

Those are some of the things that we should be working on right now.

1 comment:

elric said...

I guess I just assumed that drinking whole milk from a cow I owned would prevent me from aging. :)