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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Planning for retirement

As I contemplate the ideal activities of my future worker farm and/or house the needs of the elderly are at the top of my list. As expressed in my previous post, I have seen my maternal grandmother who did nothing but take of family her whole life be turned out of Christian homes, despite her request, and into an apartment.
There are many seniors, like my grandmother, who are not wanted in their children's' homes not because of a lack of finances but due to a clash of personalities and the unwillingness to make sacrifices or changes in an otherwise cushy lifestyle. In my case however, I know that as my grandmother's health declines, her children will step forward and make sure she gets the medical care she needs, constant visitation and ultimately, comfort at the time of her death.
The greater problem is those seniors whose families abandon them to care facilities or seniors who have no family to begin with. (The later could become an increasing problem as couples have fewer children or avoid having children altogether.) We struggle through 60 hour work weeks and sacrifice bonding time with our children to provide the luxuries of life. Or we forgo children altogether in pursuit of material goods. When we are left alone at age 80 with limited abilities, a large bank account and no visitors is it any wonder euthanasia comes to mind? Family gives us something to live for and faith helps us through the suffering together.
As the elderly population grows with the aging boomers, the care and visitation of seniors needs to become a concern for Catholics. Living on a fixed income is a struggle for some elderly who need expensive prescriptions and medical care or devices. Many homeowners in our area are burdened with outrageous property taxes on old homes that already require more money in upkeep. Since society made the immediate family two generations per household instead of three, we are struggling to find ways to support people who traditionally have never had to take care of themselves. We've created whole government programs to take care of seniors and help keep them independent, so they're 'not a burden' on their families. But in the process we've created a population of people trapped in their homes; nursing or private.
We need to rethink how we help seniors. As I mentioned earlier, bringing elderly relatives home is the first step. Secondly is reaching out to those whose families cannot or will not do so. Meals on Wheels is great idea. So is offering rides to seniors to appointments or to see friends and visiting seniors in their homes, especially at the holidays. We also need to help seniors plan for the end, through proper explanation of medical procedures and forms so they can choose a truly Catholic response to whatever condition may arise.
I'm still working on serving the homeless, but I am helping the elderly. It doesn't take much to send that extra card, make the call or visit. Most importantly, I'm trying to raise my children to respect and value their elders. I know my retirement depends on it.