Walking into an assisted living facility (where elderly couples can live together) with Katja brought a lot of joy to some elderly people tonight. I'm glad that we were able to be the material source of these happy moments.
For me though there is some mixed feelings. I mean why aren't these people living with their families? Where are their grandchildren? Are we living in a broken society that ships grandma and grandpa off to an independent living facility without a second thought? I understand that sometimes there are a lot, or complex medical issues. For instance my grandpa had Alzheimer's and he was a bit much for my full-time-working-aunt to care for towards the very end of his life (she had worked with him for several years prior). I understand that tough decisions have to be made all the time. I just wonder if the lack of age integration in the United States society (family) leads to stunted or detrimnetal development in the family structure and relationships. If our stratal age based society in some way robs our children of proper development and experience with aging. Just tonight I can see that it seems to rob the elderly of proper joy from interactions with the young.
It makes me think about my future, not where do I want to live, but how do want to live. I don't want to live in an assisted living facility. It might rather die young.
But we weren't just walking into any living facility. We were going to see Betsy and Eddy, the people who spent a significant amount of time raising Becky when she was little. I met them before they moved to the assisted care facility. So there was a bit more context for me. It's also a bit hard for me to watch Becky as she processes their aging. Eddy has always been "old" to both Becky and me - he served in the second world war. It does not make the task any easier when we have a little 11 month old who likes to run and get into things - everything. It sometimes seems as if we are a nuisance, but I know that the visits mean something to everyone. There just has to be a way to make this kind of social function amenable to little kids... if someone has something that has worked for them, please comment below.
For me visiting these places reminds me of visiting my dad's elderly relatives in New York City. I understand that they meant something to him. I mean he had more relational context than I did for those relatives. As a child I remember sitting for what seemed like hours not being able to do anything interesting and not being engaged with the adults in any way. Sometimes it was in a hospital, sometimes a long term care facility, sometimes it was an over crowded apartment. As a young child it was boring - as an adult it is not much better. I think it was appropriate for my dad to visit his relatives. I even think it was appropriate for me to be there. But I wonder if there's a more appropriate way to integrate children into the lives of the elderly who are not elderly care givers to the children.