Letter to the editor: Aging and dying in the Valley

Nobody wants to age, nobody wants to die; yet it is what we all ultimately have in common. We are all going to die, when and how nobody knows. In the meantime, we are aging and some will lose their independence earlier than others. I have seen over the years the difficulty our infrastructure brings for older as well as ill people. It has to do with long drives on washboard roads, living alone, and money.

There are several categories of elders – some folks will want to be closer to medical care, some have children and want to move near them, some have enough money and plan to get care at home or at an assisted care center. Those who want to stay here and don’t have adequate funds end up depending on their friends or in the care Social Services.

Most of us have in common a strong desire to stay at home and be independent as long as we can valuing our autonomy.  This is exceeding difficult for many.

Come on people, we have to think about this!

Losing our independence can have physical, mental and emotional ramifications…not to forget loneliness! We humans need each other because we are mammals. We need to live in a community conducive to a healthy life when we start to lose our independence.

I love the idea of being looked after by a whole community and having a neighborhood. Because of this, I have been envisioning a place with up to 24 people living together in small units, sharing some common spaces, watching over each other, driving to doctors together, partying and dancing to the Stones! Living Wisdom Village, Elders Creating Community in Crestone could be a place where visitors will “come and go”, because it is close to town, within walking distance to the store, the Post Office, Credit Union or The Brewery.

We can’t build a nursing home or even an assisted living facility in Crestone because the regulations are so stringent and costly. But, we can build something that resembles cohousing, a self-governed village for people over 55 that see the beauty of a neighborhood. Another value would be taking a load of responsibility off of friends and neighbors feeling alone and responsible to care for an elder.

Nobody would have to leave Crestone because they are dying. Hospice del Valle comes for visits. Caregivers, nurses and other therapists could come and make several visits in a day to different people, as needed. Not to forget, that we would be helping one another too.

Don’t forget, elders have wisdom to share! Steve, my husband, said his mother taught him how to die when she lived with us for her last months. He is tremendously grateful for this experience.

Another piece is that downsizing into a smaller place and adjusting to what our last stage of life is about, is easier done early rather than later. We can still enjoy being together, make friends and find meaning by helping one another. Dying is a slow process of letting go that we can do together, supporting one another.

Living Wisdom Village, Elders Creating Community is a non-profit (501c3) project whose board has been meeting regularly for five years. We are now seriously looking for people who would like to join us in creating this village; people who have the time and energy to invest in any way they can or be insightful in how to accomplish this. The County of Saguache has been very supportive over the years with Tax Grants as they are aware of the housing need for elderly in our rapidly greying county.

We are inviting all interested parties to join us in Crestone on Sunday, August 13TH, from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Elephant Cloud Market/Cafe, at the corner of Cottonwood and Silver Avenue. For more info, please call Barbara Hoeppner at 256-4320 after 10 a.m.

Kirsten Schreiber