As a 71-year-old early Baby Boomer, I’ve been concerned about the present eldercare system for a long time. It is slowly beginning to change but not fast enough for most of us. Person-Centered care, dementia villages, and holistic principals for senior living are part of that change. But the majority of the eldercare facilities remain stuck in the past of catering to the post-WWII generation.
I live in Costa Rica and we have one three-stage facility that everyone with the money to use it thinks it’s the best. To me, it’s a condo building adjacent to a noisy freeway, resembling an upscaled hospital with cramped private rooms with windows too high for the person to see out of from a wheelchair. Most of the other private or public eldercare facilities are antiquated and we have few resources for those with dementia.
On the positive note, home care is very affordable and there are now several Universities and organizations that train and certify caregivers. We have several very qualified private hospitals and a nationalized health system. I think this country could become a leader in alternative eldercare. The cost of living is low, the financial investment in development is economically viable, and it is fertile ground for new ideas and concepts.
Co-housing could be one of them.
Years ago, there was a long-running television comedy in the US called the Golden Girls. (Picture in this post) It was about four senior women who shared a house together in Florida. They were each very different people, and the only thing they had in common was their living space and their love and commitment to each other. Each episode featured the predicaments they got into and it was really funny. What sticks with me to this day is that this could work as one alternative to a facility.
Co-housing is becoming quite popular in other parts of the world, however not many are created with the principals of love and commitment to each other. The types of co-housing I envision have a variety of physical aspects to it. Rural with a greenhouse and farm animals or a house in a small town, an urban setting with a large apartment where there’s access to cultural activities. But beyond the physical structure, the most essential aspect would be the relationship of those sharing the place.
I envision co-housing where you become a family. Where each person in the house is dedicated enough to each other that if any of you become physically or mentally incapacitated, the others help, manage the caregivers, medical visits and stick by you no matter what. A place where one feels loved, safe, and knows if this is to be your last home, you can die in your own bed surrounded by those who care.
The Golden Girls was fictional, but I don’t see why it can’t become a reality for us aging Baby Boomers, especially here in Costa Rica.