Sunday, August 23, 2015

What Home Means to New York’s Oldest Old

At the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, in the Bronx, Helen Moses, 90, had news.

“There’s not going to be a wedding,” she said.

It was an afternoon in June, just one month since Ms. Moses had announced her plans to marry Howie Zeimer, the man down the hall. She spoke, as always, with absolute finality.

“I’d first like to live together for a while,” she said. “I don’t want to give up this room.”

Ms. Moses is one of six older New Yorkers who agreed to be part of a yearlong project looking at the city’s “oldest old”: people 85 and older, one of the fastest-growing age groups in the city. As summer arrived, their lives moved in directions as diverse as the city itself.

On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, John Sorensen, 91, was devastated: His trusted home attendant was leaving for a new job. In Brooklyn, Frederick Jones, 88, had parts of two toes amputated and was now in a rehabilitation center, wondering how he would ever return to his walk-up apartment. Ping Wong, 90, made a rare trip outside her building, accompanying her daughter for dim sum in Chinatown.

Ruth Willig, 91, said she was starting to make peace with her new assisted living residence, but she was still angry at being displaced from her old one. And Jonas Mekas, 92, the writer and filmmaker, returned home from the Venice Biennale in Italy to a formidable amount of work: book manuscripts to finish, a movie voice-over to record and a museum in Paris that wanted everything he had on the Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. “I have nothing promised for anybody else except this,” he said. “But it’s a lot of work.”

In the time I’ve spent with them, conversations have returned frequently to questions of home: what it means to live independently or in a residence for old people; how to balance safety and essential care with privacy and autonomy.

Home, for some, is a score sheet of all the things they have given up with age.

For others it is something they cling to. Only 12 percent of New Yorkers 85 and up live in group accommodations like nursing homes, according to census data analyzed by Susan Weber-Stoger of Queens College.

Most live in their own homes or with relatives, cobbling together networks of support: 53 percent say they have trouble living independently; 58 percent say they have trouble walking; 31 percent say they have cognitive difficulties.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
What Home Means to New York’s Oldest Old


StandUp said...

I love this!

Betty said...

Very nice.