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Aging in Community Class and Upcoming Events

By Linda Giltz (Published September 6, 2016)

We are excited about the upcoming “Aging in Community: Exploring Options” class that will be held this fall at OLLI at UNC Asheville. Many of us are preparing pieces of the curriculum and looking forward to the new people we will meet and the class interactions and discussions. We taught this class last fall and have made a number of modifications to it (inspired by the feedback we received from last year’s participants), to provide more “how to” information and more time for personal and group reflection and action planning. Below is a very brief overview and outline of the class and here is a one-page flier with more details.

Aging in Community:  Exploring Options
8 weeks, Fridays 9-11 a.m. from September 23 to November 11, 2016
OLLI at UNC Asheville

Each week the class will explore options for meaningful and interdependent lifestyles in our later years, from staying in your own home to a variety of other options. Using the articles in Aging in Community* as a jumping off point, guest speakers to provide different perspectives and expertise, discussion, questions, activities and a virtual field trip, participants will develop a personal action plan and relationships with other classmates.

Session 1 – Age and Ability Friendly Communities & Starting Where You Are
Session 2 – A New Frontier & Virtual Field Trip
Session 3 – Designs and Policies for Aging in Community
Session 4 – The 3 Key Aspects of Healthy Communities – (1) Project Management
Session 5 – The 3 Key Aspects of Healthy Communities – (2) “Glue”
Session 6 – The 3 Key Aspects of Healthy Communities – (3) Communication Skills
Session 7 – Community Services and Resources
Session 8 – Moving Forward
*Suggested Reading: Aging in Community (ed. Janice M. Blanchard, Second Journey Publications, 2013)
To register, go to https://olliasheville.com/.  For more information email lindagiltz@gmail.com.

Upcoming Events/Opportunities
You may also be interested in some of the upcoming events, listed below, related to aging in community and changing the culture of aging.

Successful Aging – Sept. 7, 9:00-3:30, at the Reuter Center, UNC Asheville. Presented by The Council on Aging of Buncombe County. Speakers and workshop sessions on a variety of topics. See www.coabc.org/#!successful-aging/in13z for more information and to register ($20 fee).

Healthy Aging Day – Sept. 19, 8:00-12 noon, at the Reuter Family YMCA, Biltmore Park Town Square. A kick-off event for Healthy Aging Week, with a variety of information and activities. See www.ymcawnc.org/healthyagingday for more details. Free event.

Aging in Place. It’s in Your Future. – Sept. 22, 8:00-3:00, at Blue Ridge Community College Conference Hall, Flat Rock. Presentations and resources for aging in place. See agingprojectsinc.org/HendersonNC/api/events.php#B for details and to register (free, but registration is requested).

City of Asheville Comprehensive Plan Update – Provide your input about Asheville’s future by completing a survey (ASAP) and/or attending one of the public workshops. The first public workshop will be Sept. 28, from 4-8 p.m. at The Collider in downtown Asheville.

Gentrification has a simple dictionary definition - May 2016

By Lori Palaez (Published June 6, 2016)

“The process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

Yet such a simple sentence does not capture the complexities of social disruption and grief brought about by gentrification. The history and worldwide scope of this socio-economic process is far beyond the scope of this article but, instead I will offer my explanation of this process as it applies to modern day Asheville, North Carolina. 

It may be said that there are two types of gentrification which I will classify as user and non-user gentrification. They both have in common the “invasion” of a lower class or run-down neighborhood. The homes or warehouses are bought for low prices and then the properties are restored and upgraded to much higher standards which make them appealing to people with higher incomes.

In the case of user gentrification, groups of artists, LGBT, single parents, or other groups who have benefits to gain from inner city living, are the initiators of a movement to upgrade a neighborhood. They often displace the poorer residents who can no longer afford to live there and/or work there but the new user residents tend to form strong community ties. They contribute their skills and contribute to the community, they are typically concerned for the well-being of the community as a whole and they support local services and vendors.

In non-user gentrification the acquisition of the properties to be upgraded is done by investors who are primarily motivated by their own profit. They may have no concern or interest in the well-being of the community as a whole or for the people that they displace. Their actions are based on rate of return. Some of these investors improve the homes and sell them to locals or people relocating here, for higher prices than those living in the neighborhood could afford to pay.  Other investors create homes to appeal to very wealthy people looking for a second (or third) home so they can spend some of their time in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains. When the owners do not live in the area for most of the year, they cannot be as engaged in the community or connected to people and businesses in the neighborhood. They may not be concerned about the quality of the schools or infrastructure or be interested in protecting the uniqueness of the area. This type of gentrification threatens the qualities that make our area so special and unique. 

One of the most chilling things that I have heard about gentrification in recent months was about San Francisco. The reporter said that the City Council of San Francisco was afraid that so much investor money was coming into the city and making the city into a short term rental hub that they would lose the residential aspect of San Francisco and never get it back. They were already seeing a reduction of public school attendance which was necessitating school closures..... short term renters don’t have kids in school. Soon the news told of an Asheville school that was closing due to decreased attendance and a more recent article proclaiming “Second-Home Sales Showing Signs of Life” in the Citizen-Times of Asheville.  New York City is having a restaurant crisis due to the lower paid chefs and workers no longer being able to afford living in the city and are unwilling to make long commutes from affordable remote communities.

This is a very complex issue to be sure, unfortunately what I see happening in Asheville is non-user gentrification which is changing the very fiber of this unique city and casting out some of its most interesting, talented and community oriented residents. 

To learn more about gentrification I would recommend that you start with a reasonably comprehensive write up on Wikipedia and then search their bibliography. There are a lot of opinions both for and against this process, I say use you eyes and ears to see what is happening to your community.

You may also want to look at a recent report done for the City of Asheville on gentrification that looks at tools and best practices that the city and other organizations can use to help mitigate and prevent gentrification: Alternatives to Gentrification in the East of the Riverway.

Living in Community: A New View on Accumulating Social Capital - April 2016

By Sharon Lamhut Willen (Published April 13, 2016)Before

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Nevada, Genworth showcased their R70i Aging Suit. This is an exoskeleton designed to make those wearing it feel many of the physical limitations and challenges they would encounter if they'd aged 40 years. I don’t need to wear one of those. Ten years ago I experienced not only the physical challenges of a compromised body, but also the emotional earthquake of being disabled, socially sidelined, and facing impending death. Within the four months from April to October 2006, my liver rapidly failed due to an autoimmune hepatitis we thought had been conquered decades before, but which instead had stealthily morphed into end stage cirrhosis. As my liver went down, I became too frail to climb stairs or lift myself from the toilet independently. My hearing and breathing were labored. Ammonia build-up in my bloodstream caused me to suffer from encephalopathy, a condition not unlike moderate to severe dementia. I won’t go on. You get the idea. I aged 20 years in four months and my friends cried on the way down the ridge from a visit to our home, thinking I’d be gone within weeks.

In November of that year my life was saved by a Staten Island family and the superb medical team at New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation. The life of a 70 year old grandmother had been cut short by a sudden brain hemorrhage. That generous family decided it would be a terrible waste for her healthy organs to go into the ground, and I was blessed to be the most seriously ill person with the matching requirements on the liver recipient waiting list. This is just the crib notes version of a roller-coaster story of fits and starts, joy and despair. You can read more on my website (shameless plug). I’m mostly telling you this because April is National Donate Life Month, and I hope my tale will move you to register, if you aren’t already, as an organ and tissue donor. But what I want to focus on in this article is not the miracle of organ transplantation, which saved my life, but the impact of community, because that was the true foundation of my success in surviving this medical crisis. Community connections led me to the information and deep lessons that both kept me healthy and determined enough to survive an eleven hour operation, but also resulted in my coming out of it transformed as well as transplanted.

AfterTrust me, social capital is more important than consumer capital. I was not one of “the popular girls” in high school and, as a career woman living in a community where my peers were mostly retired, I wasn’t making friends in the clubhouse or on the golf course. Nonetheless, my neighbors stepped up – running errands to the library, the pharmacy; chauffeuring me to the lab, to the doctor; shopping, cooking, and delivering meals. They helped save my life. One of my cousins had a connection to a liver specialist in Boston who directed me to New York Presbyterian. Another cousin drilled into my head the value I was bringing to people by letting them do what I was no longer able to do for myself, as taking without being able to reciprocate was hugely uncomfortable for me. These cousins and so many little fairy godmothers helped save my life, enlarge my understanding of who “I” am, and transform all my relationships with “others”. A friend of a friend loaned us a guest-house not far from the hospital, which became our convenient residence during my prolonged recuperation. Free of charge. People I knew and people I didn’t know, who were connected to people I know, prayed for me individually and in groups; I felt them there with me when I was transferred from the gurney to the operating table. Their faith bolstered my faith and my ultimate survival reinforced their faith. And that’s how it goes. This kind of wealth-beyond-riches, also called social capital, is not something we need to work at accumulating as much as it is something precious we need to become aware of, be grateful for, and tend to.

The worldwide Transition Initiative is devoted to rebuilding the old-fashioned “our town” resilience that has been somewhat disrupted by the rapid-paced, mine-yours, so-called civilized lifestyle of modern times. Local resources are becoming more and more important in the face of national and global economic and environmental uncertainties. Transition thinking says, “If we try to do it alone, it is not enough. If we wait for the government or the market, it will be too little, too late. If we do it together, it may be just enough, just in time.” My near death experience and my observations as a caregiver for my mother the last four years of her life tells me this motto applies on a personal level as well, especially for us Elders.

Aging baby boomers will lift the number of older households aged 65 and over 42% in the next ten years, and double the number aged 80 in the next twenty years – and our communities simply are not ready to accommodate this silver tsunami. In the areas of housing, transportation, medical care, supportive services, and personal well-being our society’s current attitudes, policies, and practices fall far short of being elder friendly. Thus, my closing plea is that you not only become a member of the Donate Life community, but that you participate actively in the Culture Change in Aging Network in WNC. It’s up to us to be the change we want to see; cooperating with one another to make our communities good places to grow up and grow old.

Transitioning Into Act 3 - March 2016

By Patricia A. Fair (Published March 9, 2016)

Act IIIA friend recently said to me, “I need to end Act 2 so that I can move on to Act 3”. Her comment reminded me of the difference between change (the situational) and transition (the psychological). Often we take great care in identifying the changes we want to make, developing the plan to make the change, and actually implementing the change. Less often, we recognize the transitions we will need to make as a result of the change. As a result, we are surprised at our emotional reactions, at times seemingly at random and out of proportion to the change and not in keeping with our normal character.

People, organizations, and communities all face transition as they change. And, we all know that there is nothing as constant in the world as change. William Bridges’ books, Transitions and Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change gives us a common framework for discussing, planning for, and handling the transition that is part of every change – whether for each of us individually, as part of a family, or as part of the larger community.

Transition begins with endings, an important psychological truth. The old must end before the new can begin (thus my friend’s comment about ending Act 2). As with all endings, there are feelings of loss and sadness (remember Kubler-Ross’s stages of grieving?). My friend has decided to end her consulting work and focus on “being retired”. She is dealing with the loss of interesting and challenging work and interacting with energetic and engaged clients. She is feeling this loss even though she has made a conscious decision to make this change.

Next comes what Bridges calls the neutral zone - an uncomfortable place where the old has not completely ended nor has the new completely begun. We don’t know what we are or where we belong. We aren’t sure we’ll ever be in a comfortable place again. Just to keep things interesting, usually, during transition, we are in several neutral zones at the same time! My husband and I moved to North Carolina 2 ½ years ago after 33 years of living in New Hampshire – 27 of which were in the same house. We are still trying to find things, often feeling lost, but able to tell you exactly where a particular item was in the “old” house. The change was fairly uneventful but the transition has been an often surprising challenge.

Finally, we come through to the other side and experience our new beginning. Once again, we feel engaged and in control. But, we know that we will be facing other changes – those of our own making and those that we did not/would not have chosen; those that are planned and those that are unexpected. With those new changes come new transitions and so we continue on life’s journey.

So, how can we better prepare for transition?

  1. Recognize that transition is a process. As with all processes, we must work our way through them – sometimes in control, sometimes not so much. Just as knowing the stages of grief, knowing the stages of transition gives us a helpful road map for our journey.
  2. As we transition, we will have moments of joy, moments of frustration, and moments when we question our choice for change. It’s all normal and to be expected.
  3. Be kind to ourselves, cut ourselves some slack and enjoy the journey. Who knows what interesting change will come our way. Embrace it but also be prepared to work on the transition into Act 3.

Culture Change in Aging Network (CCAN): A Work in Progress - February 2016

By Gaya Erlandson, PhD (Published February 12, 2016)

HousingIn its desire to make a difference for elders, one of the things I really love about CCAN is it’s willingness to learn from and adapting to what seems to be the next call.

First headed by Linda Kendall Fields, the Buncombe County - Culture Change for Aging Network (BC-CCAN) began in 2011 with the intention of building a Dr. Bill Thomas elder “Green House” – a home-like assisted care facility for just 8-13 people who have a say in how the place is run (meals, events, etc.), much like a family. Soon it was clear, however, that this project would require significant funds and the group quickly shifted gears.

By the summer of 2012, plans were underway to educate the public on all the various housing options for elders. ElderSpirit, the first “senior” cohousing community was contacted and it’s renown founder and self-taught developer Dene Peterson was interviewed on video to document how they live, and what it took to get there.

It was then that I joined the group and got to travel with other CCAN members to Abington, VA to witness that historic interview to be posted later on our then up-coming website. Part of it also was to be featured during a two-day conference we planned to take place the following fall.

Expanding Our Reach
The conference in 2013 was a big success. Held in the Land of Sky large conference room, attendees included officials from the city of Asheville and from Buncombe County, as well as staff from various elder-focused agencies and non-profits, plus many elders themselves. The range and depth of information on housing options was extensive, enough to fill a book, but it was decided to post it on our new website for full access to all.

Of particular interest to attendees was the information on NORCs – or Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. These are neighborhoods where a significant proportion of residents (30% or more) are of retirement age – people who didn’t move there recently to be with other retirees but who moved there decades ago to raise their kids, now grown and gone.

Like most neighborhoods in the United States, however, these people don’t know their neighbors and wonder how they can “age in community.” Several attendees exclaimed, “That’s what I live in, and I never heard of a ‘NORC’ before!” They also realized they could get to know their neighbors and begin to co-create a truly caring, collaborative community.

Then in 2014 – with the help of Land of Sky Regional Council, the website went up and included extensive resources and information, and the ongoing invitation posted for people to participate in our monthly CCAN meetings. Also a blog article (written by one of the members) began to be posted monthly, and an e-newletter sent out to our growing email list with a link to the website.

More Organized and Professional
By early 2015 we put together a business card in the shape of a bookmark to give to people. We again brainstormed and decided it would be great to find funds for a paid position of Aging in Community Coordinator whose job it is to interface with the various relevant agencies and organizations in support of members and our mission.

We also committed to another ambitious goal – that of teaching a class at OLLI (the Osher Life-long Learning Institute located on UNCA campus) with the first class offering in their fall term. Similar to the 2013 two-day conference, that class was well attended and well received, with requests to make it a regular offering at OLLI.

During the summer, some things shifted unexpectedly. Linda Kendall Fields took another job and her assistant, Rebecca Chaplin took over leadership with assistance from Linda Giltz. While Linda K Fields will be missed, the transition was seamless and somehow seemed to generate more momentum. Rebecca and Linda Giltz, in fact, hosted all of the OLLI class sessions, each of which featured a unique presentation by a different CCAN member.

Before that first class was over in October of 2015, the CCAN group moved forward with the Director position and again explored what else might we offer – to expand our reach and our benefit to people. With the sanctioning and continued support of Land of Sky, we expanded our reach to include Transylvania, Madison and Henderson counties to our Buncombe. (was there one more?)

We also decided that since CCAN promotes the governance structure known as sociocracy (aka Dynamic Self Governance) for people to use in community, that we as a group would learn and implement sociocracy ourselves – running our meetings and organization accordingly!

And so just last month (January of 2016) we began anew again. Linda Giltz provided an introductory training and the attending members practiced what they learned during the last half of that very meeting – how exciting! We decided to create an Educational Committee (or “circle”) that would make its first major project the creation of a full training in sociocracy! And I was elected to head that circle. OMG!

Learn Sociocracy and Join CCAN
I have been studying and singing the praises of sociocracy for years, as perhaps the best form of governance for a group and for a community. What’s especially exciting is that as CCAN adopts this organizational and decision-making approach, so too we position ourselves to be able to teach it to others – at least an introductory training.

Sometime this Spring, we plan to have a workshop on Sociocracy for anyone interested, including those considering being members of CCAN. It likely will be a low-cost, sliding scale training and it is hoped we get more members as well as support people in their community-building efforts.

So if you are interested in learning sociocracy or participating in this dynamic and passionate group, stay tuned, come to our monthly meetings (3rd Wednesday from 10-11:30 at Land of Sky on Leicester Highway), email us of your interest, and/or visit our website regularly: BC-CAN.org.

While our future endeavors are likely to change and evolve as needed in ways you might like – especially if blessed by your input, what we know for sure is that we can do more and have more fun doing it together!

Post Script Note: Dr. Bill Thomas will be joining Mainstreet, a company “known for having hotel-like amenities and design features.” As director of innovative health care, Dr. Thomas will help create its “NextGen” long-term care model and incorporate community-based health care services with “10 projects in the pipeline for development and operation this year.” (for full article, see:

Another Leap into the Unknown! - January 2016

By Meg Manderson (Published January 12, 2016)

LeapYear“Old people don’t take chances.” It’s one of the most irritating canards floating about these days. After a “certain age,” whatever that is, we are supposed to be too frail, too battered by the vicissitudes of life, too scared to make major changes. At the, ahem, advanced age of 72, I am in the process of moving to a new house in a new city, making a new commitment. I’m not the only geezer I know who is still stepping off the cliff, believing that there will be a net. In fact, as we collect years and experience, I think we do it more easily in some ways. We ask: what’s the worst that can happen? Answer: It doesn’t work out. Well dang, I’ve been there in spades. Survived. Discovered new strengths. Thrived. Do I really want to be dying and think,” I wonder what it would have been like if…”

That’s the thing. After a lifetime of chances taken, we know there is no happily ever after, just new and, we hope, wonderful experiences. And we know that if there is no net and we hit the ground, we will pick ourselves up and go on. We may not bounce with quite the same speed, but we are reassured by the knowledge that it is not the end of the world!

It’s good for the brain and the spirit to have to learn new places, new routes, new solutions. It’s an adventure to try new restaurants, hikes, even food stores! Yes, moving itself, is bloody tough. Especially for a mixed media artist and quasi-hoarder! But even the challenge of finding new places for things refreshes our lives.

I love the new house with all its quirks. I love it being noticeably warmer. I love living near a lake. And I have eagles that visit every morning! It’s that time of year. I can awake to eagle porn! Was it George Eliot who said, it is never too late to be what you might have been?

The Gift - December 2015 - December 2015

By Charlotte Wade (Published December 11, 2015)

FlorenceHave you ever received a gift that became so much a part of you that you really didn’t recognize it for what it was until many years later? This happened to me when my parents gifted me with a beautiful spinet piano one year on my birthday. Growing up as an only child in a small West Texas town, I was part of a large extended family, many of whom played the piano.  Frequently when aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered at my grandmother’s house, we kids would put on musical reviews for our parents with my Aunt Florence’s baby grand holding center stage. Florence had polio when she was a young girl, and it left her with a paralyzed right leg.  Even so, she was very active, and became an accomplished pianist. She made sure music was also an important part of the lives of her many nieces and nephews.

It was only natural for my parents to enroll me in piano lessons when I started first grade. In order to gauge my interest and musical ability, they bought me an antique upright which had a bit of a rinky tinky  sound and keys that stuck.  Imagine my surprise when I arrived home from school on my tenth birthday to find two men unloading a beautiful Lester Betsy Ross Spinet into our living room.  The upright had already disappeared. 

PianoI took piano lessons for 11 years, playing in formal recitals, serving as Rotary Club Sweetheart during high school, taking organ lessons in the local funeral home during the summer, and playing for a few weddings and other events.  As I progressed, my mother insisted that I practice several times a week with Aunt Florence who would stand beside me, supported by her crutches. She would tap my fingers with a yard stick to correct my hand position, or use it to beat out the rhythm of  a piece by slamming it down on top of the piano. She taught a few students piano lessons, undoubtedly planting fear into all of them, as she did me.

Daddy’s role in my music education was to provide support while being my biggest fan.  Most nights after dinner, he and I would adjourn to the living room for me to practice while Mother cleaned up the kitchen.  What joy Daddy took in listening to my practice sessions even if it were only scales and exercises. He would drill me until my annual recital piece was well memorized and he and Mother always made sure I had a new formal and a corsage to wear at the event.

I went away to college, married, and had my family, only to play for him on my trips home.  When we bought our first house Daddy and my uncle loaded my piano into his van and delivered it to us in Austin, where I played it often, while letting my two girls bang on it to their hearts content.  Daddy, who thought we were settled when he brought the piano to us, had no idea that it would crisscross the country five times and be located in nine different houses. My children started taking lessons when they were in elementary school, and Daddy would sit by them and listen to them play as he had done for me.

Description: C:\Users\Charlotte\Documents\HD New D\My Pictures\Craigslist\Piano Craigslist\Cropped from right.jpgWhen Florence died, my youngest daughter, who according to my aunt, had the most talent in the family, inherited the baby grand which meant that for the next 18 years, it sat in my living room, first in Arizona, then in Maryland. A Kimball circa 1922, it was indeed grand with a fringed shawl and beautiful lamp sitting upon it, but in spite of being a great conversation piece, it was unplayable.  Even so, as long as it was in my presence, I felt tied to my family history in a very special way, much like my own piano was a connection to my parents. When the time came for us to relocate to North Carolina four years ago, we knew the baby grand could not come with us.  We paid $250 to have it dismantled and hauled to the dump.

My piano made the move, and held a place of honor in the house we had built, complete with reinforced floors to support its weight, but it wasn’t being played and was occupying space we needed in our much smaller house. After much deliberation, I decided to sell it and use the money to buy new furniture.  When my ads went unanswered, I tried to donate it to a school of music but they turned down when a tuner discovered that the block was cracked and it would not hold a concert tune. Following his recommendation to list it at a lower price, I sold it the next day to a group of college students who shared a house and wanted to learn to play. They picked it up on a wet spring afternoon, with five of them hoisting it up into the back of an old beat up van with no seats. When I remarked to one of the young men that they were having an adventure, he said “I now have a great memory I can share with my future children – the day we moved the piano!”  And so the gift my parents gave me many years ago has been passed on to a new generation.

As our life changes, we often have to let go of things which we no longer need or for which we no longer have space, both mentally and physically.  This was brought home to me by a speaker I heard at a conference that I attended. She was a professional “declutterer” who shared the experience of helping a woman clear out a china cabinet.  In the very back corner sat an ugly black piece of pottery that the woman’s aunt had given her shortly before she died.  The conversation went like this:  “Do you like or use this piece of pottery since it’s hidden at the back of the cabinet?”  “No, I think it is ugly and useless and I don’t like looking at it.”  “Then why do you keep it?”  The answer was “Because my aunt gave it to me just before she died.”  “Does having it in your cabinet make you think about your aunt?”  “No, because I don’t see it.”  “Do you need it to think good thoughts about your aunt?” “No I don’t.  I think about her often and miss having her in my life.”  “Then get rid of the pottery because it serves no useful purpose other than to make you feel guilty for not putting it out.  Your good memories of your aunt do not depend upon having this piece of pottery.” 

That story became my mantra as I sorted out items to sell, give away, or toss as we prepared to move, with its truth resounding in my mind as I let go of both pianos. Today, I picture my Aunt Florence standing beside me beating out rhythms on top of her piano, and I remember how her clunky leg brace had damaged the edge of the piano bench during the long hours she used to sit and play.  I remember my Daddy and his gentle encouragement to me to play that recital piece again without using my music, and stopping me when he heard me make a mistake because he had heard it so many times.  I remember watching my children perform in their own recitals, and practice voice lessons, and all of that and so much more which makes up the very fabric of my being. It was time to let the pianos go, but the countless gifts I received over my life time from them will remain in my heart forever.  


Charlotte Wade, MS, is a gerontologist who was formerly the Director of Senior Housing for the National Association of Home Builders Research Center in Maryland.  Her primary interests lie in the use of Universal Design to assist seniors to age in place and the application of the federal Fair Housing Act to insure equal housing opportunities for all.  A resident of Asheville for four years, she lives in an accessible house which she helped to design in collaboration with the builder.

Is Our Aging Demanding Change? - November 2015

By Rae Booth (Published November 17, 2015)

Nov BlogAs I look in the mirror I ask myself, “What is the impression that my society has developed based on my greying hair, slowing mind, and the wrinkles that seem to appear daily on my face?” I ask these questions because there has been a huge cultural shift in the past 20-30 years. In my opinion, we’ve moved from a culture that embraced our elders to a culture that ignores our elders. As a child in the 60’s, our community embraced all generations. Several of the homes in our neighborhood housed intergenerational families. I loved going next door to visit a courtesy grandmother!  We had fantastic conversations that expanded my worldview and frankly; expanded my acceptance and love for our elders. Something has changed in our culture, where we now look at the youthfulness in folks as being the golden key.

In the 1990’s, I worked in corporate America. During that time, laying folks off was the strategy for increasing profitability. The types of folks that were getting laid off were many of the folks that were in middle management. Those with knowledge, experience, age and making a decent salary.  The younger, newer workforce were considered as adding greater value.  They didn’t earn as much and would take on the work demands that organizations were asking. This was confusing to me. The aging generation had laid the foundation for many of these corporations. They had the experience and the knowledge to lead these companies into the future and bring the next generation along side. Shortly, after this awareness, I began to notice that the intergenerational families weren’t as plentiful. More and more 55+ communities and assisted living facilities were being developed. I realized that our society had shifted from inclusion and appreciation of our elders to having our elders be invisible.

Currently, I believe that the tides are changing again. Everyday, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. This generation is enabling us to re-think what aging is and how to remain a vital member within our communities. The millennia generation will soon realize a new way of thinking about their elders. The invisible elder will be outspoken and demand to be seen.  The baby boomer generation were never ones to sit back and have life go by. This generation was the movers and shakers in our society that required us all to wake up and take notice.  I am very excited about our future. We have a lot of work in order to make the necessary changes required to support our aging communities. The elderly will soon out number the youth. What kind of a society do we want to create? How can we benefit from the wisdom of our past as we consciously turn the tide?

A Possible Stratgy:

Speaking of Aging is a platform that will enable us to have open conversations about solutions and strategies that can have a great impact on our future. This program will be rolled out in Henderson County in early 2016 followed by Buncombe County in the Spring. The program invites an active engagement of aging conversations about our communities, the resources and needs for aging with grace and dignity as well as giving voice to the society we all want to develop for our elders.

Our desires are NOT to age in an institutional environment but to have alternatives that can provide the services and resources we need for our later transitioning years. “Speaking of Aging” is an advocacy process for new and creative ideas. Our mission is to give the community a way to develop a collective voice and influence the direction of change. This is a starting place to change the image of aging through a facilitated discussion “We the people….” can become game changers.

For more information or to become part of the discussions, contact Rae Booth, owner and director of Griswold Home Care and co-founder of Speaking of Aging and Susan Wrzalinski, co- founder of Speaking of Aging at speakingofaging@gmail.com.

Together we can make a difference in changing our perspectives on aging and develop solid resources that can empower us all within our communities.

This link takes you to a video that features inspiring stories of four centenarians, their views about aging and their plans for the future. -http://www.bma-mgmt.com/blog/?p=5436

Living in a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) - October 2015

bikingBy Linda Orowitz (Published October 12, 2015)

My husband and I knew that when we retired we wanted to move to a new area. Now the hard part, where? OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, at UNCA offered a course called CREW, the Creative Retirement Exploration Weekend.

We had always wanted to visit Asheville and this seemed like the ideal opportunity. As soon as we got here, we knew this was our destination. The food, music, arts and outdoor activities, along with all the great classes for seniors at OLLI, were a perfect fit.

Now to find a neighborhood with a sense of community.

We wanted to be with in 10 minutes of downtown Asheville and OLLI, so that we could take advantage of both. We wanted a new home so that neighbors would all be sociallooking to make relationships. We were hoping for a clubhouse for shared social events. We found all that and more in Pinebrook Farms.

Every home had 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms on the first floor and the development naturally morphed into a NORC, a naturally occurring retirement community. I'm on the social committee helping to plan monthly activities. Individuals have started over a dozen special interest groups, including golf, book club, hiking, poker, scrabble, and lady's night out. We are all on an internet communication site, NextDoor.com, that allows us to keep in touch and pass information to one or all households. We have a great network of neighbors. There is an informal system of care that goes on whenever anyone needs assistance.

If you become ill, you will have people making you meals, walking your dog and watering your plans. Put out a call and you'll have a ride to the airport. I recently had to borrow a high chair and a pack and play for my grandchild's visit and had several people offering me a loaner for the weekend.

I've been here for almost 6 years and I feel lucky that I found both Asheville and my neighborhood.

Older and Wiser and how I turned my negative self into “Wonder Woman” - September 2015

By Sharon Craig (Published September 11, 2015)Sharon Craig

What’s to think about? Thinning bones for a start, living a lifestyle that was too “busy” and stressful most of the time. I had a house full of “things” and was in debt for my lifetime. Now I share a small and cozy house with the homeowner and friend on the side of a mountain in Weaverville. It’s a wonderful experience in which we help one another keeping up the homestead.

Still considered one of the “younger” mature adults, I look towards my 60’s with living in a larger community with “like minded” people. My daughter Shanna once told me that she would take care of me as long as I took care of myself. I aim at her never having to take that role, but my end directives have been written.

Entering Act 3, quiet on the set, as I tell you about my journey to stick-to-itiveness and ForEverFit. The concept of stick-to-itiveness was presented at CrossFit Asheviile’s New Year’s day events by Jana Kellem a CrossFitter herself as well as a relationship coach. It was a word not often found in my vocabulary or life. That is until I moved to Asheville in 2013 and began the functional design program at the CrossFit Asheville.

ForEverFit under the CrossFit Asheville umbrella originated from the need to change the way we are aging. It is different from a gym in that we utilize functional movements in which we lift, squat, push, pull, carry, drag, and run to build strength and coordination for daily living. Whether you are already active, have been inactive for a while, have aches, pains/injuries or find that your daily activities are becoming more limited, ForEverFit welcomes you. After 30 years as an Intensive Care Registered Nurse specializing in Cardiovascular care, Coach Dawn transitioned to Health Promotion and Preventative Lifestyle management. She’s a licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist, program designer, and
CrossFit participant. Dawn's background in nursing gives her a depth of knowledge and experience in assessing for tolerance of activity. Her knowledge of medical processes and medication effects provides a safe environment in which to perform at your best as she leads the brigade at “ForEverFit.”

Why Strength training, why not “Aerobic Conditioning”?

As we age (starting around 35-40 years old) our bodily processes become more catabolic -- meaning to break down. This process continues to accelerate as the years continue. We are losing cells, tissues more quickly than we are adding (when you are 1-20 you are building and only minimally losing tissue). As a readily apparent example, think of your skin.

The typical “aerobic conditioning” model of health is great for 1-30 year olds. After that our focus should be on slowing, counteracting the catabolism our body is naturally doing. We continue to need to condition our cardiovascular system, just in a different way. Appropriately applied strength training causes our bodies to produce more growth hormone, testosterone, estrogen, insulin-sensitizing factors, etc. that are “healing” or recovery hormones and helps to support our immune system and the “building” processes. Running several miles causes the release of cortisol and adrenaline which are “stress” hormones causing more breakdown and acting detrimentally on our immune system. More recovery hormones equals fewer aches and pains, less joint damage, and a brighter/more active mind.

Why “functional” strength? It won’t make a long term difference to you if at age 50 your 5K run time is slower…..it will make a difference to you if at age 65 you can’t get out of the tub by yourself. We are unique in that our focus is on overall and balanced strength; strength that helps the rest of your life be easier...not on a “buff” body.

A community in which we respect and support one another to age pro-actively is a goal of mine, and why I participate in the “ForEverFit" Program and a voice in The Culture Change in Aging Network of Buncombe County.

Aging in Community: Exploring Options courses coming to the Osher Life Long Learning Center this fall... - August 2015

By Rebecca Chaplin (Published August 11, 2015)

When I was a child, I loved visiting my grandmother at the nursing home. The energy of mutual support and community was palpable. This valuable time with my grandmother and her friends at the nursing home evoked an interest within me to study gerontology. I visited, volunteered and worked at nursing facilities as I matured. It was through this process that I learned that either my experience in Grandma Harper’s nursing home was an anomaly or nursing homes were becoming increasingly medical.

Many of today’s Skilled Nursing Facilities are more like hospitals than the apartment-style nursing home were my Grandma Harper resided. I rarely talk to some today who wants to age in a nursing home. Most of us want to age in community.

Where to start? The Culture Change in Aging Network is a collaborative team of community members and providers who have explored, lived and researched options to age in community.

Every year our network creates goals to guide efforts for the upcoming year; in 2014 we created a goal of presenting a series on Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) at the Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI). This goal has expanded to include an educational series that will guide participants through a journey of exploring the spectrum of options for aging in community, and create a individual action plan to live into your personal aging in community goal. Join facilitators, Rebecca Chaplin and Linda Giltz and a great line-up of presenters for Aging in Community: Exploring Options at OLLI on Fridays, September 25th to November 13th. Details and registration information are available here.

How to Talk About Dying - July 2015

Introduction by Robert Patterson (Published July 14, 2015)

My dad died in 2000 and my mom in 2010. He was 86 and she was 95. The “final” time was a matter of a few weeks for each which our whole family considered very fortunate. We had heard about heroic questions being posed to adult children, but our situation never came to that. In the six years that I have owned and operated Seniors Helping Seniors in Asheville I have witnessed a number of families who were not as lucky as ours. The article below by Ellen Goodman was recently in the New York Times and it is the best review that I have seen of the way for a family to approach the inevitable subject.

The End

How to Talk About Dying
By Ellen Goodman

suitcaseI was 25 when I flew home for my father’s last birthday. His cancer had returned and he would die three months later at the age of 57. What I remember most about that weekend was the large rectangular gift box he opened. My mother had bought him a new suitcase.

I don’t know if that suitcase qualifies my family for the Denial Hall of Fame. There are so many contenders for that honor. But I’ve carried the psychic baggage over the years. I have never forgotten that image and how we lost a chance to say goodbye. I still wonder if my father was lonely in the silence that surrounded our inability to talk about what we all knew.

Decades later my mother began a long slow decline. By then, I was a newspaper columnist, a job that I often described as “telling people what you think.” I was professionally outspoken. But little had changed since my father’s death.

Yes, my mother and I talked about everything — but we didn’t talk about how she wanted to live toward the end. The closest we ever came to discussing her wishes was when she would see someone in dire straits and say, “If I’m ever like that, pull the plug.” But most of the time there is no plug to pull.

Gradually and painfully, my mother lost what the doctors call “executive function,” as if she were a C.E.O. fumbling with Excel spreadsheets, not a 92-year-old who couldn’t turn on the television or make a phone call. Eventually, she couldn’t decide what she wanted for lunch, let alone for medical care.

In some recess of my mind, I still assumed that death came in the way we used to think of as “natural.” I thought that doctors were the ones who would tell us what needed to be done. I was strangely unprepared, blindsided by the cascading number of decisions that fell to me in her last years.

I had to say no to one procedure and yes to another, no to the bone marrow test, yes and yes again to antibiotics. How often I wished I could hear her voice in my ear telling me what she wanted. And what she didn’t want.

When my mother died from heart failure and dementia, I began to talk with others. It was extraordinary. Everyone seemed to have a piercing memory of a good death or a hard death. Some of these stories had been kept below the surface for decades, and yet were as deep and vivid as if they’d just happened.

Too many people we love had not died in the way they would choose. Too many survivors were left feeling depressed, guilty, uncertain whether they’d done the right thing.

The difference between a good death and a hard death often seemed to hinge essentially on whether someone’s wishes were expressed and respected. Whether they’d had a conversation about how they wanted to live toward the end.

So, a small group of us — each with his or her own story — started the Conversation Project, a nonprofit, out of the belief that surely we could make this easier. Our partners at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement gathered experts frustrated at the pace of change who believed that the health care system wouldn’t change until the culture changed. So we are trying to change the culture.

There is now, finally, a real momentum for improving end-of-life care. The signs range from the Institute of Medicine’s report, “Dying in America,” to the success of Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal.”

There is also a growing public awareness of the need to break through the reluctance that has kept us tongue-tied for so long. A survey we did last year showed that 90 percent of Americans now think it’s important to have the conversation. But the same survey showed something else: Only 30 percent of us have actually had these conversations. So the gap remains huge.

We still need to transform the cultural norm from not talking about how we want to live at the end of life to talking about it. The real work to close the gap is not just for doctors and patients. It’s for mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, families and friends. We have to bring people to the kitchen table to talk with those they love to have the conversation. And to do this before there is a crisis. Not in the I.C.U.

In our survey, the primary reason people gave for not talking to their loved ones was “It’s too soon.” But it’s always too soon … until it’s too late. Half of all elderly people in hospitals cannot make decisions for themselves at the end of life. Far too many health care providers are uncomfortable and untrained in these conversations.

From all the stories shared with us, we know that what people need most is help getting started. They need a travel guide to take the first steps down an unfamiliar and difficult road. So we created a Conversation Starter Kit, which deliberately avoids being a technical medical checklist for the dying in favor of a careful discussion guide for the living.

Our starter kit asks what matters to you, not what’s the matter with you. It asks what’s most important to you in the last phase of your life? Who do you want to make decisions for you? Where do you want to be? Do you worry that you won’t get enough care? Do you worry that you’ll get overly aggressive care?

About two-thirds of the nearly 300,000 people who have come to our website download the starter kit, which is free. We’ve been told repeatedly that conversations that had loomed as frightening and overwhelming repeatedly turned into the most intimate and rewarding moments.

Is it important to have the health care system ready to respect and record our wishes, to have health care providers become more comfortable beginning these talks? Of course. But the hard truth is that we have to begin ourselves — by thinking about our own values, by sharing them, by bringing our own beliefs into the center of the room when decisions will be made.

In my own adulthood, the culture of birth changed. It wasn’t doctors who first tossed out the stirrups and ushered in fathers and video cameras and “birthing rooms.” It was parents who said, birth is not just a medical experience, it’s a human experience. Now we are finally saying that dying, too, is not just a medical experience, it is also a deeply human experience.

Last winter we held a national dinner party to break bread and taboos, to eat comfort food and talk about dying. I shared the table with Nancy Frates, who is known for starting the A.L.S. ice bucket challenge to honor her son Pete. “Now I understand,” she told me. “The conversation is a gift to your family.”

When I helped found the Conversation Project, I thought we were doing this for people who were dying. I thought of my parents. I thought of “executive function” and “baggage.” What I have learned is that the conversation is also a legacy. This is the gift, maybe the last gift, we can give one another.

Ellen Goodman, formerly a syndicated columnist for The Boston Globe, is a founder of the Conversation Project.

Mountain Neighbors - Successes & Pitfalls - June 2015

By Pat Grimm (Published June 9, 2015)

Mountain Neighbors began as an Aging in Place idea, the seeds of which were planted by Bob and Carol Cumbie of Weaverville, NC. Bob and Carol are members of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Mars Hill, NC. They and several other parishioners first began meeting about two years ago to discuss the needs of aging individuals residing in North Buncombe and South Madison Counties. Members of this steering committee reviewed reports of existing programs such as Elder Spirit and The Greenhouse Project. They researched the literature, including “Aging in Community”, and explored the internet sites of Village to Village and Culture Change in Aging Network. Their own experiences with aging parents and other family members also provided many important insights. The mission of this effort was identified as intentionally form an organization operating in the North Buncombe/Madison County population that allows members 55 and older to remain in their homes with dignity as long as desired and practical (Aging in Place)

My husband Gerry and I joined the group in June of last year. One of our initial tasks was to identify the services already available for elders in the identified geographical areas. We learned that not only are there are a multitude of services already available, there is also much overlap and duplication of these services. From this review, the decision was made that our effort would not add to this duplication. Group members visited Neighbors’ Network, an existing program in Conover, NC. In meetings with the director, further insights into the logistics of establishing our program were obtained. Group members also met with Linda Kendall Fields of CCAN, and began attending CCAN meetings. Linda and her colleagues provided strong and helpful support and ideas. At this point we needed a name and Mountain Neighbors was born.

In order to further organize our plan for presentation to community leaders and recruitment of support, we developed a one page summary of our vision, mission, membership benefits, membership expectations and membership fee. Our initial goal was to recruit a membership of persons 55 years and older who would pay a yearly membership fee. Membership benefits would include: socialization opportunities, a vetted provider list of health and other services, volunteer assistance for personal needs, education related to issues of importance to seniors, and advocacy for members. The fee would support the funding of a part-time coordinator of services, social activities and other organizational expenses. An expectation of members would be their volunteering to assist other members in meeting their needs, such as transportation, shopping or errands. Follow up stakeholder meetings with the mayor of Weaverville, a librarian at the Weaverville branch of the Buncombe County Library, and a civic leader in Mars Hill indicated general support for Mountain Neighbors; these stakeholders also helped us to identify the challenges of requesting a membership fee. Several other challenges identified are listed below.

First of all, how do we market this program to the identified communities? Focus groups and small educational programs were considered. As mentioned, the membership fee might be a real stumbling block in this geographical area, particularly Southern Madison County. Would people join at age 55 or would the membership be available to all be elders who would not be able to provide services to their neighbors? Where would social activities take place? Was our geographical area too large and therefore unmanageable? Over time, it was decided that we would limit Mountain Neighbors to Weaverville, NC, and that the program would be piloted in Kyfields. Kyfields is a townhome community of 130 homes, located in Weaverville, NC. Four of the steering committee members live there. We might also have to start with providing one membership benefit, such as transportation and shopping, and phase in the more comprehensive benefits over time. It also became clear that the trial of the program may need to be totally volunteer and free of charge.

Where are we now?
Over these two years there has been attrition of membership on the steering committee. There is a definite need to recruit new members. To this end, several neighbors have indicated an interest in the concept of aging in place and as the recently appointed chair of the Communications Committee of the Kyfields Homeowners’ Association; I may be able to initiate the pilot implementation of Mountain Neighbors in Kyfields. Historically, this community had a program called KYfied Kares. Kyfields is predominately what the literature calls a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC), although we have residents of all ages. In summary, it has been a long, difficult, but exciting journey. Hopefully in a future blog I will be able to report on the trial establishment of Mountain Neighbors.

Pat Grimm
Weaverville, NC

Aging as a Vivid and Enlivening Process - Meet Dr. Bill Thomas self described "Nursing Home Abolitionist" - May 2015

By Marianne Kilkenny (Published May 12, 2015)

Bill is not someone you would pick out in a crowd as a high powered dynamo. Unless you watched him interact with a few people.

He is a man who saw a problem, and decided to do something about it. Well, he has changed many paradigms, and continues to do so. As someone who knew from first hand experience, that nursing homes weren't an answer, he decided there needed to be alternatives to them before anyone could embrace his self described title fully.

After a time in a nursing home as the Doctor for the facility, he left knowing those places are not the locations to deposit our treasured elders. Bill talks about the "three deadly plagues of the human spirit: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom” that are often experienced as one ages. He and his wife, Jude, began to envision a care environment where elders could thrive, not just wait to die. They developed concepts and principles, as well as an education and training program to enable long-term care communities to undergo a culture change dedicated to creating a life worth living for those in their care. They called their approach The Eden Alternative.

The Eden ALternativeThe Eden Alternative gives residents in the nursing homes some control of something. It could be a plant, a bird or a dog or cat that lives at onsite. It's all about having personal choice. There is more to it but... up to you to find out. About The Eden Alternative -

That wasn't enough... Next was the Green House Project. Elders living together in a house, in a residential neighborhood, not an institutional setting, with others, with their own bedroom and bath, their own schedules based on them, not their caregivers. Like being at home! A large table and hearth for eating and gathering, and caregivers called Shahbazim trained in flower arranging, shopping and making delicious meals for the "family" and care of the elders living in the home.

The Green House has much to tell you! Their website - http://www.thegreenhouseproject.org/
FAQ about The Green House Model - http://jewishhome.org/future-vision-2/a-new-model-of-nursing-home/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-green-house-project/

Not someone to sit still the renowned speaker and author decided to perform. A different kind of book launch and tour for one of his book - “Second Wind: Navigating the Passage into a Slower, Deeper and More Connected Life“ Second Wind Tour named after his book in 2014 his many cities!

One other view of Bill doing a Ted Talk in San Francisco, titled, Elderhood Rising -- The Dawn of a New World Age. https://youtu.be/ijbgcX3vIWs

His latest endeavor is: Another Tour The Age of Disruption is Here
Where the question is posed? What if we all lived in a world that saw aging not as a process of decline but as a vivid and enlivening process that presents us with extraordinary risks, and rewards?

Thomas qoutes

Then there are all the ways you can connect with him work. There is more!

Find him on Social Media:
His Blog - http://changingaging.org/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-Bill-Thomas/43716439314?fref=ts

Some of the books Bill has written for us:
What Are Old People For?: How Elders Will Save The World 2004
In the Arms of Elders: A Parable of Wise Leadership and Community Building 2006
A Life Worth Living 1996, 2004
Second Wind (mentioned above) 2014

Join us! Meet him in some way... he is on the path to changing aging and what we think and feel about it.

The Modern Elder: Reclaiming What's Sacres in Life's Later Stages - April 2015

By Jordan Foltz of Mountain Xpress, Photo by Carrie Eidson (Published March 30, 2015, Posted April 13, 2015)
Mountain Xpress Article

Throughout history, elders served many societies worldwide by preserving tradition and bestowing the wisdom needed to foster regenerative and balanced communities. But in recent decades, our culture has shifted from venerating wisdom and experience to prioritizing youth and innovation. Likewise, our society has come to view elders as a liability rather than a vital resource.

However, as the boomer generation moves into elderhood, many are realizing what’s at stake when elders are lost from the social fabric. They’re aghast at the realities of our current model of care and are sparking a movement that seeks to redefine the later stages of life — not just for the benefit of elders but for the enrichment of all generations.

Lost in the dream
The 1950s saw the beginning of a post-World War II cultural tide, where economic prosperity lured young Americans away from their hometowns to follow the American dream. At the same time, medical advancements were dramatically increasing life expectancy. Combined, these two factors meant that, for the first time, mom and pop were growing old alone.

“Hospitals started becoming the place to go when the elders could not live at home,” explains Aditi Sethi-Brown, palliative-care physician at CarePartners’ Solace, an inpatient Hospice facility. She describes this pervasive cultural shift as “the medicalization of aging,” where growing old and dying changed from being seen as sacred, dignified and natural to diseases to be combated.

Sethi-Brown describes how the nursing home industry first developed in order to accommodate frail elders as hospitals could not continue as a longterm housing solution. In the ‘70s, around 13,000 of these facilities popped up throughout the country, establishing an infrastructure that has carried on through the present.

“The whole idea [in nursing homes] is to make sure people are safe, so they stick them in the hallway in a wheelchair so they don’t fall, and they end up staring at the walls,” says Rae Booth, who owns Griswold Home Care, a local provider of non-medical in home care for seniors. “Fear of being sued causes a lot of this. … Facilities are afraid to allow more vibrancy because vibrancy entails dynamism, and dynamism entails risk.”

Sethi-Brown and Booth are both members of The Council On Dying to Live, a local group of professionals who work to find solutions for the current systems of elder care, which they all agree is riddled with problems. Members say the root of the dysfunction stems from a cultural fear of death itself. If we reintegrate the premises of inevitability and dignity back into our understanding of death — if we face death bravely — then we would not end up sacrificing quality of life as we battle, deny and try to conquer that fate.

The current cultural mindset, they say, equates quality of life with material capability and consumption, and with that, our life’s purpose has slipped into the material realm as well — racing the clock and trying to achieve some permanence and meaning through how much we can experience and consume. Rather than ignoring and fearing our transition out of this world, members of CODTL ask that we view death as an inescapable reality that, when embraced, encourages us to live our lives to the fullest.

“We put elders in places we don’t want to visit,” says CODTL member Greg Lathrop, “rather than honoring what is left for them to share with us about wisdom and living.”

What’s more, in a world where doctors play God and youth equals power, Lathrop explains, many elders are simply afraid of voicing what they want.

“What do you want?” Lathrop recalls asking his grandmother, as the rest of the grandchildren deliberated putting her in a nursing home. “She said, ‘They tell me I have to go to a nursing home.’ And I said, ‘With respect, Grandma, that’s not what I asked you: What do you want?’ She said, ‘Well, … if I go to a nursing home, then I’m going to die.’”

Lathrop says he had to ask her three or four times before she was brave enough to say, “I want to go home.”

In fact, many families don’t want to choose a nursing home for their parents, but economic circumstances often press them to make that decision.

“In health care in America right now, it’s ultimately a question of, ‘What does your insurance pay for?’” Lathrop says. “You can’t stay home because Medicare and Medicaid will only pay for you to be in a facility. … It’s not working, and at some point, we have to enter into a more cooperative community model.”

Without the help of insurance, many adopt the role of caregiver themselves. “In our region, roughly one-third of the population are older adults, and when you count in the folks that are caregiving, you’re talking about over half the population,” says LeeAnne Tucker, director of Aging and Volunteer Services at Land of Sky Regional Council.

LOS’ Family Caregivers Support Program, run by Carol McLimans, offers $1,000 of annual assistance to families for professional care. Even at the lower-end rate of $20 an hour, McLimans says, the fund only affords families 50 hours of in-home care each year. The caregivers themselves are at risk, McLimans adds, “because they’re often only providing for the person they are caring for — forgetting about their own health and becoming extremely stressed.”

With salary and Social Security loss combined, McLimans says in the years caregivers spend looking after their loved ones they lose an average of $350,000 in potential income. And since caregivers often find themselves in that role quite suddenly, it’s not uncommon that they lose their jobs as well, she adds.

Often, people who find themselves providing care don’t identify as “caregivers,” which presents a problem when it comes to utilizing the resources available to them, explains Sandy Norbo of CarePartners Adult Day Center. “I always say that education is the biggest piece — right in the beginning,” she says.

The coming wave
ccan photoA 2010 Pew Research Center study finds that baby boomers are turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day. North Carolina’s State Data Center projects that this trend means Buncombe County’s population over 60 will climb from about 60,000 to almost 100,000 over the next 20 years — and North Carolina’s population of individuals ages 75 to 84 will increase by 102 percent.

The current system is ill-prepared to handle this shift, and the boomer generation is not eager to have their elder years compromised by systems that they’ve had plenty of time to see fail.

The boomers are the first generation in the nation’s history to see their parents experience late old age in such huge numbers, and as they see themselves approach that phase of life, some are starting to brainstorm ways to create a more sustainable, enriching and affordable way to live.

“They’re going, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to live in assisted living!’ But dealing with my own parents in their situations, I’m realizing that aging in place isn’t the whole answer either,” says Linda Kendall Fields, who heads the Culture Change in Aging Network of Buncombe County. “And so alternate concepts are emerging called ‘aging in community.’”

Fields highlights three models for aging in community that are starting to sprout up around the country. The first is shared housing, which she describes as the “‘Golden Girls’ model,” where seniors live together in communal property.

The second model, community-owned co-housing, spans generations. Of this model, which includes West Asheville’s Westwood, Fields says, “What’s happening is its members are aging, and the community is starting to ask questions like, ‘What happens when someone here has a stroke or starts to develop Alzheimer’s? How far does this community stretch, and how do we build in that kind of care?’”

The third example she describes is called Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. NORCs can be any given neighborhood and don’t require communal ownership of property. A neighborhood can become a NORC if its residents do strength-based assessments on how they can help one another and set up barter and support systems to meet varying needs. “Generally, there needs to be some small, core group that’s committed to leading that,” Fields says, though she notes that there is software available that residents can utilize to support NORC development.

The CCAN holds public meetings the third Wednesday of every month to address the “Living Environments” criterion of Buncombe County’s Aging Plan, part of an effort to make sure all the county’s seniors have the support they need for healthy lives.

“We have people walking into their 60s, 70s, and 80s without the savings that their parents had,” Fields explains. “And they’re going to have to figure out how to do it without the government and without their pensions.”

Finding elderhood
Aging in community is about more than just a network of support to meet elders’ basic needs — it’s also about a network where elders themselves are needed. Seniors today don’t just face a difficult system when it comes to housing or care; but they also face the existential dilemma of finding purpose, usefulness, an intergenerational connection and meaningfulness in today’s world.

We generally take it as true that age brings wisdom, but with a generation of elders hanging onto their youth, we lose the value and importance of those with the greatest messages to share. “What is very foreign to American culture is the importance of elderhood as a distinct, developmental stage,” Fields says. “Instead, there’s this concept of never-ending adulthood.”

Sethi-Brown adds, “We pride the 80-year-olds who can run a marathon. We put billboards up about it … and so other people who can’t run marathons at 80 are not considered as successful.”

If current cultural norms push elders to achieve value through youthfulness, not only are they lost in a search for identity and purpose, but we lose them as a source for inherent and unique abilities like wisdom — because with today’s dependence on technology, society no longer relies on wisdom to survive. What was once sage advice may now be seen as irrelevant, outdated, overshadowed by innovation — causing fewer seniors to cultivate wisdom altogether.

Born in 2014 from discussion groups at UNC Asheville’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the group Elders Fierce for Justice grew out of a sense of urgency to take action and rediscover the role that lies beyond adulthood and career.

“There’s an expression at OLLI that a large number of people there are PIPs: Previously Important People,” says Steve Kaagan, one of the founders of Elders Fierce for Justice. “[Without their careers], they don’t have a role anymore. All of us had decided to really change our narrative and that what we wanted to do was to reclaim the role of elder.”

The group kicked off its outreach with a series of op-eds in the Asheville Citizen-Times. The first letter, written by Mahan Siler, opens: “A new idea is rising to expression in our community. Persons over 65, officially retired from a variety of professions, are coming together and rediscovering the traditional role of elder in the service of a more just, healthy and compassionate community.” From the letters, more than 100 people signed on to attend an open forum at OLLI in early March 2015.

However, in the pursuit of this more traditional role, Elders Fierce for Justice, and boomers in general, may find that the role as it once existed is gone for good. Rather than reclaiming it from the past, they may need to redefine it in a way that meets modern needs.

The traditional elder fits perfectly into a society whose very survival depended on the renewal of customs and ethics that kept communities in balance. To achieve that balance, however, modern American culture is pressed to branch away from conventional ways of being and thinking, repeatedly eliminating the usefulness of “how it used to be.” As the elder role is redefined, it’s necessary to involve the many generations in discourse and decision-making, as one generation’s youth will become another generation’s elders.

“I think surviving in and of itself is a kind of wisdom,” says OLLI’s director, Catherine Frank. “You can say, ‘Here’s what we did.’ But as an older adult, I think you have to be open to the idea that there are other ways, and listening to younger people [and recognizing], ‘That’s not exactly the struggle we fought, but it’s part of the struggle. And here’s what we learned, and here’s what I can bring to the work that needs to be done.’ Even if that isn’t just wisdom — that kind of exchange is really important.”

If we’re looking for a way to engage with elders, the opportunity isn’t difficult to find, notes Wendy Marsh of Council on Aging of Buncombe County. In fact, aging services are always in need of volunteers. “There isn’t as much interest in helping older adults as there is in helping other groups of people,” Marsh says. “I think people have a hard time seeing their own futures.”

Pottersville Forever - March 2015


By Lori Pelaez (Published March 10, 2015)

Two years ago I escaped from sunny Florida and relocated here in Asheville. I left lots of good friends in Florida and as I would communicate with them they would always ask "how is it up there, do you like it, are you happy that you moved?" My standard reply was always, I feel like I went to heaven without having to die.

As most of us know, there is an unlimited number of things to love about Asheville, it is like an America that has been rebooted and returned to the days of the sanity and sense that we remember from out past. Recently the local newspapers have had more and more letters on the opinion page about changes in Asheville, "who are these people who are bringing $30.00 pork chops and $20.00 martinis to Asheville?" The same question being said in many different ways, but always the same intent, why are these outsiders changing our town.

And then this summer it hit home, new buyers, New York investors, took over the my own personal Camelot...the iconic Asheville apartment building that I called home. Not that we had everything perfect before the "TAKE OVER" there were always grumbles,
wanting something fixed faster or better than it was fixed, wanting lower water bills, wanting, wanting, wanting...

But we had a sense of community, we know most of our neighbors, we have a free table in a small lobby area where we share
the precious "Stuff" that we can no longer use or need so that our neighbors can add it to their stuff, we know who has family illness
and sometimes have fundraising dinners to help with expenses that illness might incur, we walk or feed each others pets, we give each other rides, we go to the movies, theater, hiking together. We worry about each other and TALK to each other,

Reading the new lease tells the story, the new managers have no liability, responsibility or participation in our community. They are the embodiment of Mr. Potter from "Its a wonderful Life." They are raising the rents as much as they can, spending as little as possible on the tenants or the building and have almost an obsessive desire to not communicate with us ( they just changed the office hours to add Saturday hours but never posted it anywhere, so have not transmitted that information to the tenants).

People are moving, the headlines say how difficult it is to find mid range and low range rents in asheville, the new houses/ apartments are all higher end....WE HAVE BEEN ON ONE TOO MANY BEST PLACES TO LIVE LISTS. We have attracted too many investors who do not care about or know about community, honesty, integrity and the joy of healthy human connections.

I have signed a new lease for 18 months, sadly I think that my next renewal may not be possible and many of my community will,
of necessity move out and go who knows where at this point.

And so, this article summarizes some of the feelings that I and other Asheville residents are experiencing, does Asheville have to look forward to becoming a version of Pottersville??? Where is our George Bailey

Who are we anyway? - February 2015

Feb blog 1

By Meg Manderson (Published February 16, 2015)

Recently, I had a discussion with a friend about what do we call ourselves?  What are we? Seniors? Elders? People of a certain age? Me? I’m with Henry Fonda in the immortal line from On Golden Pond. “I’m old. People do not live to be 140!”

Turns out my friend, when hearing the word old, thought decrepit, frail, incapable, past your expiration date. No such thing! You can’t deny the number of years on your driver’s license, but what “old” means in a particular case seems to be determined by three things: health, which can leave us at any age; money, of which very few have enough, but many have an adequate supply; and ATTITUDE!

I’m not talking about denial here, although it is useful to remember that these things are Feb blog 2called defenses for a good reason. Completely within the limits of whatever challenges we face, we can and should do whatever we have dreamed of doing. After a certain age, and you can pick the age, ideally around 12, you can do it. Not more should nots but more shoulds. You should grow your hair, cut your hair, take up ballroom dancing, grow a beard (OK, not all ladies can do this!), go on a zipline, volunteer at a shelter or a school or the library.  Take a class. Heck, get a degree! Keep moving, keep thinking, keep learning. Take chances. Fail. Get up. “Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett!) Bring to bear the entire force of your experience. That’s a lot of horsepower!

After all, we never know what will happen if we do something. But you know what happens if you don’t? Nothing! And that’s old!

"Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant" - January 2015

Introduction by Robert Patterson (Published January 13, 2015)

While the new year brings thoughts of resolutions and renewal, it also methodically reminds us that another year of our lives has clicked off. The steady progress toward the inevitable goes on no matter what modern technology can introduce into our lives. A recent book about the trials and tribulations of an adult child providing care for her elderly parents is titled "Can we talk about something more pleasant?" We do tend to avoid thoughts about end of life for obvious reasons. It is an unknown and we humans are pretty uncomfortable with things in that category.

However, some recent research on the subject has shed some light that I found interesting. It is published in the Encyclopedia of Aging and the Elderly. I hope you find it worth the read.

Click here for "Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant"

Earth Elder Initiation - November 2014

Introduction by Alex Mawhinney - Article by Randy Morris with Frost Freeman (Published November 20, 2014)

Elders in this 21st Century American society are more assertive, more active, in better health, (and probably poorer) than our parents' generation. But there are a great many of us...a hoard that is growing by 12,000 every day! This "Age Wave" will overwhelm the existing governmental and ecclesiastical resources as our aging physical, emotional and cognitive abilities inevitably require more attention. So it is up to US to take the initiative.

Many of our age cohorts are denying the fact of their status as elders, fulfilling the adage that "...with age comes wisdom...but for some, age comes alone!"  (Unfortunately, in this month's election, more of our unconscious cohorts chose to vote...with potentially disastrous consequences for our Elder community.) The fact is we have a choice to be Conscious Elders, and recognize, honor, and play the role intended for us. Quiet reflection on who we have become and the skills and knowledge we have accumulated will lead to an inner assurance that we are capable of this role, and give us an expectation and resolve for our ongoing participation in our community and the world.

After 35 years developing, marketing and managing conventional institutional elder "facilities" (nursing homes, assisted living and catered living facilities, as well as continuing care retirement communities), I have become a strong advocate  for encouraging and mentoring my generation to re-envision the second half of life and embrace the opportunities to create a new paradigm for living that is not the institutional paradigm...a community for Conscious Eldering...in the myriad of manifestations and iterations possible.

Acknowledging our new role as a Conscious and/or Earth Elder can be confirmed by the celebrant and recognized and accepted by his community through ritual celebration of the role and its responsibilities, moving into a respected position in community. The following article, from SecondJourney.org's Itineraries on-line magazine, struck me as a significant step toward a definitive starting point for us to take toward the role we, as Conscious Elders, MUST play as advisors and policy-makers in this society, so obviously in need of sober, confident, altruistic leadership.

The process of developing the ritual expressed in this article is elaborate, and some of us would prefer something considerably simpler, but the celebration of a new status can instill a desire and responsibility for embracing our chosen new position and status in our world. As this author eloquently reminds us: " As we pave the way for a “Revolution of Earth Elders,” it is good to remember Fred Lanphear’s call: “ The time is ripe for elders to reclaim their rightful role of speaking for Earth and future generations.

ArticleRandy Morris
A revolution of elders is taking place. Older people are accepting the responsibility to gather together in council and community to consider new visions for the role of elder in our culture. As conscious elders, some are choosing to step into this role by preparing themselves psychologically and spiritually through a rite of passage ceremony into elderhood. Of course, in past ages, elder initiation ceremonies were woven into the fabric of the culture, but in our current mainstream culture, we have lost the thread of these ceremonies. How can we revive the tradition of elder initiation in a culture that has forgotten its roots?

In past ages, new elders were chosen by initiated elders to undergo a rite of passage. But in a culture with few initiated elders, how does one get chosen? According to the principles of conscious eldering, a person of a certain age must choose to “heed the call” to eldership. This call is archetypal in nature; it springs from the instinctual, animal body of a human being who is in touch with themselves and with a “sacred other.” It can be discerned in dreams, visions, strong emotions of grief and joy, synchronicities, epiphanies, and other manifestations of the unconscious, what the great ecotheologian Thomas Berry called the “spontaneities” of the earth. To be able to perceive this call and respond to it requires that one be conscious of the very possibility of a “sacred other” and attentive to the voices of the more-than-human world. To be conscious in this way is to be spiritual, because it requires the ability to perceive, through heart-based capacities of intuition and feeling, the will of “unseen powers” at work both within the human psyche and the earth itself. This is one reason that conscious aging encourages encounters with the natural world where silence, solitude, and reflection open one’s soul to the voices of the earth. In principle, the ability to perceive the call to elderhood is the birthright of every human being who is consciously engaging the life cycle with integrity and meaning.

To view the complete Earth Elder Initiation visit http://www.secondjourney.org/itin/13-4/13-4__Morris.htm#Author (scroll up to the top of the page).

The Rhythms of Autumn - October 2014

By Charlotte S. Wade, MS (Published October 17, 2014)

In the chilly early morning of the day I am writing this blog, I am sitting in my sun room, sipping on my first cup of coffee while watching the change of the season from the warm and lazy days of summer to the cool, crisp days of fall as the first significant cold front of the season passes through our mountains. The leaves falling from our Sourwood trees are being blown about by gusty winds romping through the woods surrounding my house.  The deck is littered with acorns which first landed on the roof, often sounding like gigantic hail stones falling from the sky.  Chickadees are having their breakfast at the birdfeeder just outside my window.  My dog has returned from  her first walk of the day, and as she jumps into my lap to get warm, I feel her cold little paws touching my bare leg, and think that she pumpkin photoneeds booties to wear when she goes outside. 

There are unique parts of every season that are special, but I welcome this change. Fall is my favorite time of the year, especially here in Western North Carolina amid our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.  During a recent visit to the WNC Farmers Market, we were amazed by the incredible number and size of pumpkins and the bright colors of the late summer flowers and vegetables that were for sale.  A celebration of our harvest is underway in full force with corn mazes, festivals, and the beginning of the holiday season which now starts with Halloween.

Both the beauty and the bounty that we enjoy this time of year bring to mind this quote by L.M. Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables:

It was October again . . . a glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when the valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of autumn had poured them in for the sun to drain – amethyst, pearl, silver, rose, and smoke-blue.  The dews were so heavy that the fields glistened like cloth of silver and there were such heaps of rustling leaves in the hollows of many-stemmed woods to run crisply through.
For me, fall has always felt like the beginning of my new year.  With my husband being a university professor, the rhythm of my family has been dictated by academia and the start of the fall semester of school, be it grade school, high school or college.  In addition, my husband and I grew up in different small farming communities in West Texas.   Harvest time was important to both sets of our parents because they made their livings through it, but in different ways.  My parents owned a men’s clothing store, and the success of the summer wheat harvest, and to a lesser extent, the cotton harvest in the fall was critical to the financial success of their business.

inlaw photoMy in-laws were farmers who primarily depended on their income from the fall cotton harvest to provide for their large family throughout the year.  While growing up, my husband worked on the farm alongside his parents. He had a small plot designated for him to farm and had pigs to raise and sell to help pay his college tuition.  Through it all, he developed an abiding love of the land that was reflected in his career as an agricultural economist.  In retirement he has become an avid gardener who has blessed our family and our neighbors with the results of his careful tending of the small crops he grows in our flower beds.  His rhythm has changed as each season brings fresh starts in the garden and in what he must do to be prepared.  Like on the farm, seasons count in place of semesters.

As my October thoughts once again turned to my fresh beginning, I read another quote from an unknown author who said “Autumn is the perfect time to take account of what we’ve done, what we didn’t do, and what we’d like to do next year.”  A good way to do that is to create a list of some of the highs and lows of the past year and write down what we would like to do or accomplish during the upcoming months. New Year’s Day is not the only time of the year to reevaluate and set new goals!

The squirrels busily picking up those fallen acorns in my back yard remind me of the need to prepare for what lies ahead. As much of our memories and perceptions of fall may be idealized, mine included, thinking about what is to come helps us focus on very real issues with which we may need help as winter approaches.  The upcoming months are predicted to be more severe than usual this year, so now is the time to recognize our needs and plan for them.  What has come to your mind? Are you worried about the condition of your home which may need some repairs, or being able to afford higher than average heating bills?  What about having transportation to the grocery store or to doctor’s appointments? Are you worried about getting snowed in for days at a time without having enough food on hand? If you are a caregiver, are you feeling increased levels of stress, knowing you may be even more tied down to your responsibilities when cold weather makes it difficult to leave the house? Are you feeling the effects of depression and don’t know where to go for help?  It’s a fact that a lack of sunshine, isolation, or changing health can increase the intensity of depression in the winter.  (Watch for a future blog that will discuss this.)

If you are concerned about any of these issues or others not identified here, your first step in finding assistance is to call 211 which is a free information and referral service provided by United Way. The Asheville number serves residents of Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, and Transylvania Counties, with similar 211 referral lines being available nationwide. Buncombe County has a wide and well organized system of social services and other resources where you may be able to find the support and assistance you need.

The results of a 2011 AARP research project, “Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices,” showed that 90 percent of seniors older than 65 want to remain in their homes as they age.  In spite of the desire to age in place, some may find it increasingly difficult to do so for a variety of reasons, and begin looking for alternatives. If you are searching for viable options to your current living situation which may differ slightly from more familiar types of supportive housing, information found on the CCAN website should be helpful to you.  Click on the tab “Housing Options” where you can learn about Cohousing, the Shared Home model, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), the Village model, and the Green House model. All of these choices support the ability of people to live safely, comfortably and independently for as long as possible. Clicking on the “Resources and Links” tab will take you to previous CCAN workshop presentations, websites, and a list of books that will also be helpful. Consider signing up for our newsletter and attending one of our monthly meetings.  CCAN meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 10:30 am at the Land of Sky Regional Council located at 339 New Leicester Hwy, Suite 140, Asheville 28806. We can all learn from each other.

As I end this reflection on our changing seasons and changing needs, consider this final quotation from Hal Borland, a noted naturalist and author.  He said, “Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus he would never know the rhythms that are at the heart of life.”

Charlotte S. Wade, MS, is a graduate of Abilene Christian University and earned a Master’s Degree in Interior Design and a graduate certification in Gerontology from the University of Arizona.  Her career has been dedicated to incorporating the principals of Universal Design into the built environment to assist those with physical disabilities or age related conditions to live with safety, independence, and dignity in the housing of their choice.  To that end, she served as Director of Senior Housing for the National Association of Home Builders Research Center in the Washington, DC area, the Alzheimer’s Association, government entities, and non-profit organizations in Maryland, Virginia, and Arizona. She has been an avid community volunteer and advocate, which she continues to do in retirement.  Charlotte lives in Biltmore Lake, NC in a multi-generational house shared with her husband, daughter, and granddaughter, along with their rescue dog, Bitsy.

Serendipity Happens (With Fertile Soil and Seeds Sown) - September 2014

By Emily Roberts (Published September 18, 2014)blog photot

Our volunteer pumpkin patch will provide a bumper crop this year, already in mid-September two sunny orange pumpkins are the size of basketballs, with many smaller ones on the way. This crop was unplanned, long forgotten buried seeds have transformed into a massive vine that has taken over our landscaping. After years of taking my children to pumpkin patches to pick out the perfect Jack-O-Lantern, this season, heavy rains, cool temperatures, fertile soil and some long forgotten seeds are the perfect mixture for a naturally occurring harvest in our own backyard.

The Culture Change in Aging network has also recently been made aware of some community organizing which is the direct result of seeds sown at last year’s Exploring Community and Interdependence workshop series at Land of Sky. We have learned that members of a local church group interested in community building for older adults had attended our presentation on Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCS), and as a result, have decided to move forward with the NORC concept locally.

The NORC model was originally developed in Boston in the Beacon Hill neighborhood to provide socialization and services to older adults who wanted to remain in their homes, but needed extra help. In particular, a NORC is a community with a large proportion of older people residing within a defined geographic area, but unlike assisted living communities or continuing care retirement communities, it is “naturally occurring”, not designed specifically as a community for older people, but rather evolved in such a way that a large proportion of its residents are older. There are no one-size-fits-all NORC program models or approachs, but rather each is a challenge for the private sector and public policymakers to foster supportive service programs and flexible, diverse program structures for the older adults living in that community.

This summer, a small group of CCAN members attended an event at the Neighbors Network, a NORC in Conover, NC, just outside of Hickory. Some of us happened to strike up a conversation with other attendees and were surprised to find that they were neighbors in Western North Carolina and their interest in NORCS was initiated at our Exploring Community and Interdependence workshop in 2013!

Over the past year, these folks have done their research, pulled together local private and public sector organizations with the hopes of forming their own NORC in our region in the coming months.  One of their principle goals is to help local older adults stay in their home with appropriate services. CCAN members will back these endeavors in any way that we can to support the growth of this exciting project which has taken root in our own backyard. Plans have begun for collaboration on a number of community education events in 2015, with the hopes of ultimately developing a workshop series around the progress of the NORC model in Western North Carolina in late 2015. Watch for updates public forums and workshops around the NORC concept in the coming months.

What’s Y/Our Fall Garden? - August 2014

fall garden

By Gaya Erlandson, PhD(Published August 15, 2014)

In our garden of life, this time of year is a time of transition. In mid-August we are still enjoying the bounty of summer’s harvest and also are thinking about the future. Will we plant a Fall garden – quite different from before, or perhaps extend the current one via making preserves? By mid-September, that decision is well underway.

Clearly this is a metaphor for each of us as we enter the last third of our lives. We might write a memoire to preserve the wisdom of our life’s journey. Creating a Fall garden might be to start a new project or career, or to create a new kind of community lifestyle. Life as a garden also is an analogy for this organization - and we’d like your input.

Over the last 4 years, CCAN has produced wonderful panel discussions, presentations and workshops, offering information on the various housing options for people as they age. These options roughly fall into one of three areas; 1) Building/buying into elder-friendly communities (senior co-housing, Green Houses, retirement communities, etc.). 2) Starting or joining a “golden” girls/guys type of shared housing, and; 3) catalyzing a collaborative community within existing neighborhoods (using either the Village-to-Village model and/or Assets-Based Community Development plus Dynamic Self Governance within NORCs or Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, for example). The question now is, what’s next?

What Might a CCAN Fall Garden Look Like?
One decision has been made to extend our harvest by creating this website that will continue to offer information and resources on housing options. There has been talk about repeating some of the previous workshops (with additions and improvements) and video taping them so future visitors can have the advantage of those presentations.

CCAN could expand it’s services by discovering and offering new ways for area residents to meet each other online, to exchange ideas and connect with others who might want to collaborate on some community project. Any online possibilities you’d like to see? CCAN also could sponsor live networking events, which would be in keeping with its history of charging very low ($10) or no (sliding scale) fees.

With funding, CCAN could get more involved with people in the planning and implementation of their preferred housing option. A possibility is to sponsor various experts that offer in-depth trainings. The experts require fees, however, typically around $100 per day and some much more. Chuck Durrett, co-founder of the Co-housing movement, for example, has a 5-day intensive training in senior cohousing and charges $1450 per person. Is there enough interest to warrant such efforts?

Perhaps just providing the information on trainings and similar offerings is enough. CCAN could add information and links to relevant events and trainings available in our region, and refer people to other relevant organizations. Perhaps you’d like CCAN to go beyond the domain of housing options, for people as they age.

Your Input is Requested
While the above are some ideas, we would like your input! What are you doing or thinking about doing in reference to your own Fall garden? What information and assistance do you need or think you or others might want? Are these things that you’d like CCAN to offer? Do other organizations exist that provide such information or services? Perhaps CCAN can consolidate the information of others that are relevant.

On the 3rd Wednesday of each month, from 10:30 until noon at Land of Sky, we have our CCAN meeting, and you are welcome to attend. This month, the meeting is on August 20th and we will be discussing the future of CCAN. If you can make it, please join us. If not, you are invited to send an email with any thoughts and suggestions you might have, including letting us know what your own Fall garden might look like.

We appreciate your participation and look forward to working together with you for a better future for all, as we age together.

My Parents, Myself - July 2014

By Linda Kendall Fields (Published July 17, 2014)MyParents1

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

With the memory of fireworks still reverberating in my head, I’m taking this month in which we celebrate our nation’s independence to reflect on the value of independence in my life and the lives of my parents, now 89 and 91 years old.

The family in the photograph from the ‘60s includes my mom and dad, two brothers and me.  Reports from my mother indicate that while a thoughtful and sensitive child, I also had a will of iron.  At age two, I had to be awakened early so that I could struggle to put on clothes and shoes by myself – so strong was my sense of self determination and independence!

Later, in my teens and twenties, I was on the way to true independence…sort of.  At college, I occasionally made tearful telephone calls home seeking support and reassurance.   Distraught parents would check in a day later on their frightened and vulnerable daughter only to find an oblivious, independent being wondering “why on earth” they had tossed and turned the night before with worry.

Time moved on and after I was married with children, my parents began moving to be near my growing family and me.  They left Kansas for Indiana; Indiana for Georgia; Georgia for Asheville, North Carolina – giving up their own neighborhoods, churches and friends to stay close to family – and a daughter who had specialized in gerontology. 

I must admit that my delight at having these loving, supportive parents and grandparents nearby was sometimes offset by a slight claustrophobia as I struggled with family roles and parental expectations that felt confining to me.  ”I am no bird; and no net ensnares me…”

These days, I am joining the ranks of an estimated 24 million adult children in the U.S. providing support to elder parents. The number of adults taking care of aging parents has tripled in the past 15 years, and a full 25 percent of grown children are helping their parents by providing either personal care or financial assistance.  (Source:  Family Caregiver Alliance, https://www.caregiver.org/)

Lovingly referred to as the “bills and pills” lady, I set up my father’s medications, oversee finances, offer daily emotional support and reassurance, coordinate medical appointments and accompany them to many of these.  And when an acute crisis strikes as it did recently, I play a central role in managing all aspects of the hospital/health care scene.  All this while raising two children at home and working full-time…

My brothers, Tim and David live in Oregon and New York (respectively) and while they’re not nearby, they are extremely supportive and willing to drop everything to help when things get rough.  I’m truly blessed with a great family.MyParents2

For the most part, I have enjoyed playing this important role in my parents’ lives and I share in their desire to maintain their independence.  In spite of cognitive changes and physical frailties, these two are demonstrating the very will of iron and thirst for freedom they undoubtedly passed on to me. They are undeterred in living independently in their own condominium with as little assistance as possible.

My background in gerontology and knowledge of community resources has been helpful, but has provided no lasting answers to the “tug and pull” of dependency and “independency.”  So what is the answer?  How can we all keep “the net from ensnaring us?” How do I honor my parents’ wishes and my own life as well?

The answer for me right now is that there is no definitive answer.  This is a family storyMyParents3 that is unfolding - things can change quickly and unexpectedly.  As a colleague and friend told me, “Linda, you will want to fix this and I’m telling you, there is no fixing this. You’re going to have to roll with it.”

So that’s it… rolling with it…engaging in the dance between independence and dependence. Planning ahead as best I can and then…allowing faith to steady me; reaching out to friends and family; taking in the beauty of nature; enjoying the good things, even during the tough moments.  Claiming my life in both giving and receiving…

A Brief Biography of Linda Kendall Fields, M.Ed.

Linda Kendall Fields, M.Ed., has been dedicated to building communities that are responsive to the needs and contributions of older adults and people with disabilities for over 30 years.  During her career, she has worked for health care organizations; state and local government agencies; and, other aging and disability service organizations in Minnesota, Oregon, Ohio, Georgia and North Carolina.

Since moving to Buncombe County in 2002, Linda has served in numerous capacities as an independent contractor. Presently, she is Coordinator of the Land-of-Sky CRC, (Community Resource Connections) as well as the Buncombe County Aging Plan, which includes the Culture Change in Aging Network (CCAN).

She remains involved at the state level as the Program Specialist for the NC Lifespan Respite Grant through the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services and Outreach Facilitator for the “Money Follows the Person” demonstration project through the NC Division of Medical Assistance.

Linda is also a violinist and private music teacher at the Asheville Music School.

A mother of four, she lives in Fairview, NC with her husband, 11-year old daughter, 16-year old stepson and three dogs.

Father's Day - June 2014

By Robert Patterson (Published June 13, 2014)

Robert Patterson, one of the founders of CCAN-BC, is a retired commercial real estate executive who has had a home in Asheville since 1999. In 2009 he invested in a non medical senior home care franchise called Seniors Helping Seniors which he continues to operate from his home on Town Mountain.

Father's Day comes in June and as such I (a man and father and grandfather) have been asked to write about men, particularly in later life. One of the ways we men attempt to explain ourselves, usually to women, is to just say "it's a guy thing" when they ask the inevitable "why?". The lack of depth of feelings in most men has frustrated women forever. When the marriage counselor plums the depth of feelings to resolve conflicts and observes that the man does not seem to be able to express his feelings, the man is perplexed. He quickly explains that he certainly does have deep feelings and shares them frequently. When the wife and the counselor ask him to be more specific and provide an example he does not hesitate. "I feel like it is going to rain later today and I feel like my team has made a good selection for quarterback" says the man with smug confidence.

My grandfathers died at 37 and 68, so my longevity model was not very long. Fortunately my dad lived to 86 and all of us men are living longer these days. But the women continue to live longer and healthier lives. There are lots of explanations for this difference, some in jest and some well researched. The facts are that there are twice as many women over 80 than men. Observers with a romantic slant would comment on the advantage that this provides the men and the stories from nursing homes are numerous. One of my favorites from a non medical senior care business that I operate concerns an adult daughter of her 83 year old dad for whom we were providing assistance. She lived some distance away so we talked periodically about his condition and status. During one conversation she kind of hesitated and then said "there's something that I would like you to help me with". I responded positively and she hesitated again. Finally she said "my dad is 83 years old and he still thinks that he is attractive to young women. I want you to help me convince him that this is not true." I thought about that for a minute and then asked her how old her husband was. She said he was 61. I then asked her if her husband thought that he was still attractive to young women. She paused and then admitted that she had occasionally observed that behavior from him. I then reminded her that I was 70 and that she should not try to disturb our harmless fantasies.

My most memorable young milestone event was getting my driver's license. The right of passage to independence was anticipated for over two years. And unlike many things where the anticipation is better than the actual event, driving by yourself turned out to be continuously exciting. And it never stopped. Dates, school, marriage, children, work, church, sports, vacations, funerals, and so on. The common thread is the car and it was traditionally driven by the man. So the good news is that you are one of the fewer men who lives into his 80's. The very bad news is that your reward for living that long is that your lifelong cherished driving privileges will be revoked. Men of this generation did not take driving for granted. The postwar economic miracle was stimulated by the interstate highways and the rush to the suburbs to buy land and homes. Both were facilitated by low cost cars mostly driven by men. Car models and horsepower were favorite conversation topics for men. Car Racing became a very popular spectator sport, especially for men. So the sequence of events for the elder man becomes: lose job; lose wife; lose house; lose stuff; and finally lose car. The next one, lose life, begins to look not so bad. Some families, knowing the significance of this event, procrastinate. They do not want to be the one who delivers the tragic message. And they justify their delay by saying that if he hurts the car or himself, well, he lived a good life. What I remind them of is that while that may be true for him, it is not true of the 8 year old on the bicycle that he did not see.

Early in my senior care career I participated in a family meeting that I had encouraged to "take away the keys" from dad. Ironically, the son was chosen to deliver the message and he was having a difficult time with it. Meanwhile dad, in spite of his dementia, knew exactly what was going on and was having none of it. Fortunately, we had removed his walker so he couldn't just get up and leave the room. So the drama played out in the inevitable way that the adult children of parents with memory loss attempt unsuccessfully to use logic to make a point to them. During a lull in the conversation to which I was intentionally contributing nothing, the father suddenly turned and looked me straight in the eye and held the stare for what seemed like a very long time. He said nothing, but the message that I received loud and clear was "this is going to happen to you someday". I have never forgotten it.  Ultimately the stalemate remained and finally the children followed my suggestion to use the Nike approach and just do it. The only positive aspect of a parent's memory loss condition that I have been able to find is that they will soon forget that they are mad at you.

The postscript is that one of the touted benefits of Google's experimental driverless car is that seniors will be able to use it safely. In a way I hope so because now I'm 72 and that might make the letdown a little easier. Happy Father's Day one and all.

Women For Living In Community: Mother's Day - May 2014


By Marianne Kilkenny (Published May 12, 2014)

"To my mom, Betty Jane Martin, who was a woman before her time. She was my hero and she continues inspiring me to find new ways to help others to age with grace and dignity."

This is from the dedication page in my new book, Your Quest for Home. I wrote my book to honor my mother, Betty Jane Martin, and her memory and legacy.

She was married to Bob, my father, for 63 years. She was a teacher and a "do it all" working wife and mother long before it was in vogue. She worked and took care of my sister and me. She took care of my father, a house, and even a dog that she was allergic to. She did all this while being gracious and hospitable. She was the mother all my friends wanted to be around, even when we were all moody teenagers.

In some ways I was a latch key kid in a generation before latch key kids were common. My mom worked and I understood that, but it didn't affect me negatively in any way. I grew up on a college campus and around neighbors who watched out for me. My childhood was very community oriented. It takes a village, they say.

This is my origin story. This was the time of my life where I first tasted "community." I understood what it meant to be part of a neighborhood on a deep and cellular level. I had a town center and a community who cared. This was the town of Lake Forest IL with its historic market square, the country's first shopping center. 

What you may not know is that I also grew up in a shared house. 3 different families or people lived in our house, which was owned by the university, in the time I grew up there. The oldest resident lived on the top floor with no elevator.

Everything I do now I do for my mom. She didn't want to spend time in assisted living but life continued to happen. She was diagnosed with COPD while still living in a tri-level home. Changes needed to be made and our culture didn't have a dialogue about alternatives. I spent time with her in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and watched the way the older women began to disconnect from themselves and the people around them.

I knew for certain in those moments that would never be me. At least I would do everything in my power to change this dynamic and improve my life and the lives of others as we age.

This is why I founded Women for Living in Community. This is why I facilitate workshops and speak to groups on alternatives. This is why I wrote my book, Your Quest for Home. I wanted to give all of us the tools to make our own decisions and plans for aging around people we care about and who care about us.

Because of my mom, I want to change the conversation. Will you be a part of it?

Come of Age in Aging America - The Big Idea in 4 Minutes- April 2014

By Emily Roberts (Published April 17, 2014)

On April 7, 2010, Jack Rowe, M.D. gave a MacArthur Foundation lecture on aging research through the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on an Aging Society. The starting point for his lecture described that the basic infrastructure of our society, the institutions, whether its education, the workforce, the family, retirement, and communities were built to support a society with a fundamentally different age distribution then the society that we live in today, and that we are going to have in the future. These institutions will not function sufficiently unless they are modified significantly. This will require actively rethinking our societal infrastructure in order to put the right policies in place, reorienting core institutions over the next 20 years to adjust to and support what life be like in an aging society. That MacArthur Foundation research led to a partnership with former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, whose Aging in Place webinar was shared by the Culture Change in Aging Network of Buncombe County in March of this year.  For a clear representation of America’s challenges and opportunities for change, we invite you to watch this 4 minute video which gives a concise, down and dirty representation of how we will come of age in an aging America.

CCAN BC - March 2014 Blog

By Emily Roberts (Published March 13, 2014)

March means springing forward, waiting for the first signs of crocuses and visiting with neighbors as we begin our rituals of gardening, dog walks and enjoying the late afternoon sun on the porch. But as many community dwelling older adults age, they may become isolated and unable to care for themselves, reticent to ask for help for simple tasks from friends and family.

The health, economic and social challenges which face older Americans are most often faced by women, and have implications for the individual, their family and their community.  A holistic and proactive approach to providing communities conducive to aging in place requires an integrated strategy with policy makers, private citizens and developers focused on designing environments and organizational structures to meet these needs.

In late 2013, the Culture Change in Aging Network of Buncombe County hosted three workshops, providing information about community options for successful aging in place. Findings from a survey conducted with workshop attendees revealed that more than 80% of the respondents were female and 70% were between the ages of 60-69. More than 60% responded that they were most interested in community options for themselves and 22% were interested for themselves and their spouse/partner. Click here for a complete analysis of the survey.

March is also Woman’s History Month and is the birth month of a lightning rod in my life, a dear relative who is no longer with us, but whose odyssey moved me toward an understanding of the importance of aging in place with the help of family, friends and community. In commemoration of Rose Tinker Mallan’s March 14th birthday, I am sharing excerpts of  a 2009 letter I wrote to a friend describing Rose’s journey …I am guessing that each of you may have a similar story of your own….

Rose’s Journey

My thinking is driven by the notion that all of us need emotional validation for happiness. Obviously this means different things to different people. For an older adult, validation is the understanding by those around us that we have had an important life, that our thoughts and independence are meaningful. I suppose this speaks to dignity.

As I had mentioned to you yesterday, I spent several years on an odyssey with a dear relative to find her a "home", a place where she could be herself, while getting the care she needed. In 2005, my 83 year old aunt was moved by friends from her apartment of 30 years to a very well respected assisted living facility in Cambridge, MA. Within the first month of the transition, Rose was admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to her "failure to thrive".

Rose's emotional needs were deeper than her more well-adjusted neighbors in assisted living, yet she did not fit the criteria for the Alzheimer's/dementia group. The apartment setting in the facility should have been familiar to her, yet she was overwhelmed by the size of the building, the layout of the corridor system, and having to eat in a restaurant-sized dining room with people she didn't know. The only social opportunities were all in very large settings. Therefore, she just gave up.

Rose locked herself in her assisted living apartment and refused to eat, bathe or take her medications. She would not allow caregivers to help her and she stopped answering her phone. This was her final grasp at independence; she still had control over the decision not to function. This is a woman who had travelled the world as a free-lance photographer in the 1950’s and 60s and who had lived independently for over 30 years.

Rose's issues I think mirror what so many older Americans go through when moved from their homes. Loss of independence, and the loss of dignity that goes along with it. Being placed in a cookie cutter environment. Caregivers who do not have the time formulate an understanding of who the individual they are caring for is.

Rose would move between assisted living and the hospital 3 times that year before the assisted living provider said she could no longer live there and I would need to find other arrangements for her. Due to limited care options because of her financial status, the string of nursing homes and "care manors" that I visited in the Boston area were carbon copies of one another, down to the smiling directors who skirted past small clusters of wheel chair bound residents in endless corridors.  Each facility I visited made me more determined to find Rose something better.

When I finally moved Rose, I had exhausted all of her options in the Boston area. She moved in to a single family home that had been converted into a co-housing situation close to my home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  (Ironically, this is the only single family home she had lived in since childhood.) She shared a room with a roommate and she was just a few paces from the kitchen and the living room.

There were people around all the time so that if she wanted to, Rose could sit at the kitchen table and have a conversation over a cup of tea.  She could sit down on her sofa in her living room and watch TV. She could also close the door and read in bed if she wanted to. She could basically eat when and what she wanted to. The other residents all were in different stages of physical and mental capacity, and for the first time, Rose was part of a community. She could see that she was not the only one with problems, in fact she was one of the more independent of the residents.  She knew their story and they knew hers. Rose lived for another year and a half, and spent many hours talking with me, as well as her caregivers and housemates about her loves, losses and her amazingly adventurous life.

The truth of the matter is that Rose's environment changed her view of herself and the world. Being a part of a small community that was accessible and that gave her the opportunity to make decisions (though small) for herself were instrumental in this change. I believe that this is a universal story, the search for a setting where we can continue living with the validation that we have had an important life and with the dignity to make the small choices which are reflections of who we are. Sometimes it takes a journey to age in place.


The Culture Change in Aging Network of Buncombe County - February 2014 Update and Blog Introduction

By Emily Roberts (Published February 14, 2014)

As late winter winds swirl through our mountains leaving occasional dustings of snow, the Culture Change in Aging Network of Buncombe County (CCAN) is forging ahead in the quest for alternatives in community living for older adults. Our network continues to remain vigilant about educating the community about fundamental changes in values and practices to create a culture of aging that is life-affirming, satisfying, humane and meaningful. The unveiling of our website www.ccan-bc.org  last year has allowed a wider audience to access topical information and resources, and our Exploring Community and Interdependence workshop series in the second half of 2013 drew many of you interested in learning about alternative living options and intentional communities.  A survey sent out to workshop attendees has just wrapped up and the findings will be shared in the coming weeks.

In order to continue to stay current with you in 2014, the Culture Change in Aging Network of Buncombe County will be putting out a monthly blog through Land of Sky Regional Council, and we are excited about this opportunity to share thoughts and articles relating to local stories about successful aging, options for living in community, and national concepts and components of culture change. Our initial posting celebrates the life of Cathie St. John Ritzen, a network colleague and friend to the community at large. Linda Kendall Fields has written about the impact that this extraordinary woman had on so many of us who were lucky enough to have known her through her elder law practice and community activism. Cathie’s spirit and warmth endure as we continue our focus on a meaningful culture of aging in 2014.

Cathie St. John Ritzen:  A Rebel with a Cause and a Message for All of Us
By Linda Kendall Fields

Cathie St.John RitzenOn November 7, 2013, our community lost a remarkable advocate for elders and a friend to all of us who were fortunate enough to know her.  Born December 29, 1944, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Cathie St. John Ritzen lived in Missouri until 1999 when she and her husband, Jim, moved to Asheville. A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, she opened her elder law practice in Asheville in 2001.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Cathie was a registered nurse providing bedside care and holding several administrative positions in the profession. She was a 1966 graduate of Barnes Hospital School of Nursing (Washington University in St. Louis). She also taught in the English department at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1986, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.

In addition to her private law practice, Cathie served as Buncombe County Public Administrator from 2001 until her death. She served on the executive committee of the Buncombe County 28th Judicial District Bar from 2007-2010, chaired the education committee of the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys in 2007, and served on the board of the state chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She volunteered on Pisgah Legal Service’s hotline and its Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyers elder law team.

Cathie’s community involvement included the executive committee of the Buncombe County Council on Aging, the executive committee of the Vanderbilt Apartments, the Buncombe County Women’s Commission, and the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County. For several years she taught law-related courses in the College for Seniors program of the Osher Lifelong Learning Center at UNC Asheville and was a frequent contributor to programs at Land of Sky Regional Council, including the Culture Change in Aging Network of Buncombe County.

Cathie was a rebel with a cause – forceful, driven and somewhat unconventional.  When she saw injustice, she stood up and worked to make things right.  But this “tough cookie had a very soft center, “ states sister, Sidney Guida.  “Cathie felt very close to St. Francis’ teachings and of course St. John was the Apostle of Love.  Her operative was love.”

Here are some comments from friends & colleagues of Cathie’s within the aging services network:

“I’m remembering a specific situation where I was working with Cathie on a very complex situation regarding a client I was seeing who greatly needed assistance.  Cathie went above and beyond, researching the correct forms, meeting with me to make sure I understood them correctly so that I could pass this information on, all at no charge to my client, and always with a warm greeting and a smile.  Everything she did was example of her heart and generous nature.  I’m grateful I had the chance to know her.”
~ Andrea McPeters, COABC

“Cathie was a tireless and selfless advocate for elder law issues that relate to many of my clientele at CarePartners, offering herself as a speaker on estate planning and advance directives as a part of our Mindful Living Series every spring.  Her two classes were always filled and she gladly shared her knowledge with the general public who attended these sessions.  More than that, I loved picking up the phone to call to ask her to speak because her fun-loving nature made each conversation a happy reunion.”
~ Laura Chase, CarePartners

“Cathie was a fierce advocate for seniors.  She worked tirelessly to ensure that they were treated with the respect that they deserved.  Because of her background as a nurse, she had such compassion for all and it showed in all of the good work she did for our community.”
~ Amy Smialowicz Fowler, WNC Geriatric Care Management

“Cathie was someone who really cared about elders and was willing to go out of her way to make a difference. Even though very busy, she volunteered with CCAN and came to most of our workshops. When she heard of my vision – of catalyzing neighborhoods of isolated people (especially "NORCs" or those with a high percentage of retirement age) into collaborative, caring communities, she volunteered to help catalyze her neighborhood and met with me to follow-up. I greatly enjoyed her can-do, upbeat perspective and will miss her wonderful laugh.”
 ~ Gaya Erlandson, Collaborative Community Consultant

“Loved her wit and humor.  Always upbeat. So dedicated to what she did to help with legal issues of aging. Met her many years ago with Joan Medlicott on the Barnardsville property that they shared. I see her face and the whirlwind that she made. So glad that I had the time with her and shared a passion for elders and how to assist and be a better elder or crone.”
 ~ Marianne Kilkenny, Women Living in Community

Cathie’s impact was not confined to only human lives. She and Jim hosted countless numbers of dogs, cats, ducks and even a three-legged mouse in their West Asheville home.  Visitors to her home were greeted with furry housemates and a string of Christmas stockings outlining the living room wall, each with the names of dearly departed animals that had been rescued over the years.  So soft was her heart that Cathie even hated to prune plants.  Apparently, these sisters debated the subject with Cathie viewing the pruning process as “cutting off a plant’s finger” and Sidney seeing it as “cutting off hair.”

Such a depth of caring had its price.  Near the end of her life, Cathie suffered from “compassion fatigue” which ultimately resulted in a mandatory medical leave and bed rest.  During her memorial service on November 23, J. Michael Hester, her therapist, delivered a message to the group assembled that Cathie had explicitly wanted everyone to hear.  She wanted him to share her story in hopes that we might all be encouraged to care for ourselves while caring for others.

Thanks Cathie for your friendship and indomitable spirit.  We will do our best to carry your vision forward for elders, for community, and for ourselves as individuals.

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