Gould might refer people to [email protected], which launched in May. Members volunteer for each other, doing chores such as driving someone to the hospital or visiting another member confined to his or her home. They also have referrals for plumbers, electricians, and other tradesmen offering their service for a discount. They host regular social events.
The organization is limited to Rhinebeck residents. There are similar aging-in-place networking groups in Poughkeepsie, Woodstock, Kingston and other municipalities.
Gould said often the most healing part of the process is simply having someone to listen and talk with. “I’m here to help guide the person to their own process of working through their problem,” she said. “For every person, the way they cope is different. Some people have been depressed from age 20 and are still dealing with that. Other people have had emotionally stable, happy lives and are dealing with something that suddenly causes depression and anxiety for the first time.”
Gould, who previously worked with children and adolescents, said the emotions experienced in old age are no different from those of any other age. “We hope our coping mechanism changes as we grow older and wiser, but our general needs and mental desires and responses are universal. I’m always encouraging people to look for a support system. People who are socially connected, whether it’s with family, friends, by volunteering, or with professional aides who come into their home, tend to do better emotionally and physically than people who isolate themselves.”
The challenge for some seniors used taking care of themselves and their families is acknowledging they need help. “Having to depend on others is a hard adjustment for many people,” said Gould. “They’d rather not try it than admit they have a need.”
Educating people that aging doesn’t have to be “this scary, upsetting process” is part of the support that Friedman and Gould provide. “A mentor once described it as the aging renaissance,” explained Gould. “It’s a time when you can really embrace life and enjoy the freedom of not have dependents or financial responsibility for your children, nor have the responsibility of reporting to your employer. If you have your physical and mental health it’s much easier to enjoy the fruits of your long life of labor and stay socially connected.”
Fortunately, more baby boomers will likely maintain their health as they age compared to their parents, Friedman said. They’re also much more pro-active. The World War II generation “never complained and don’t ask the doctor questions. They’re more passive and comfortable with a paternalistic style. The baby boomers will be much more involved in their care. They’re asking questions and are active in a good way. They’re choosing to be healthier. They have the benefit of knowing you’re supposed to exercise and eat healthy, so probably they’ll be healthier when they’re 90.”