Thoughts on Florida and Aging

A few weeks ago, my mom announced that she and my dad were going to head down to Florida. She wanted to visit her sister, who lost her husband and her short term memory during the pandemic, and is now living in a nursing home. My folks are in their mid-80s, and are in mostly good shape, but I don’t entirely trust my dad’s driving. I also thought my mom needed some emotional support; she lost her older brother last month, and she feels like dementia stole her younger sister. Two of my cousins and their families live nearby, but they are extremely busy with work, so they would be unable to entertain my folks for the five days. I had an airplane voucher to use up, so I decided to join them.

Everybody needed a lot more support than I expected. Driving was a big issue (Dad didn’t want to drive, but also didn’t want to relinquish the car keys), so we didn’t go too far from the hotel by the side of the highway. I wasn’t really traveling, as much as caretaking. Which was fine. That’s why I went.

At some point, we should talk about nursing homes.

On Sunday night, I watched the Oscars from the hotel room. Yes, I saw that weird slap, but I was most taken by the kind way that Lady Gaga treated Liza Minelli. I was in a caretaking mental space that weekend, so I was touched.

Beyond the spectacle of aging, there were other interesting bits to the weekend. My cousins told me about how Florida is being completely overrun with New Yorkers and New Jersey people. One cousin said that he’s been getting random offers for his house, which isn’t even on the market. He said the Goldman Sacks has relocated down there; and those traders are desperate for premium properties. There was so much traffic in the middle of the afternoon yesterday, that my 20 minute trip to the airport took 70 minutes.

And the weather was lovely. 80s down there, and 20s up here. Took some nice jogs around a baseball field surrounded by palm trees. Had one nice meal in a restaurant in the fancy part of town with really good people-watching. I reconnected with my extended family. And, last night, after Steve picked me up from Newark airport, we drove through our green suburbs to our little home and was very, very happy.

17 thoughts on “Thoughts on Florida and Aging

  1. Hopefully you don’t learn as much about nursing homes as I have had to. Fortunately, I managed to repress most of it. Also, the doctor and the police took care of the driving issue for us and nobody got hurt before they did.


  2. Continuum, of care communities are better than nursing homes, but include nursing home care if needed. You get the amount of help you need, and are surrounded by people who are your peers, including completely independent, assisted living, memory care, and nursing home care.


    1. That’s the kind of community my parents lived in – and with many of their coreligionists, some they had known for fifty years already. Wonderfully supportive, and when the collapse came they were in a comfortable place. It’s been our idea that we want to get carried out of our house in wooden boxes, but we may get humbler as time goes on.


      1. Right — many of the best ones are nonprofit and run by organizations with religious origins or affiliations. I personally have experience with a Quaker one in suburban Philadelphia, aa Jewish one in Chicago, and a non-denomintional one also in Chicago.


      2. Being able to age with your community with support seems the key to me. People talk a lot about staying in their homes, but that sounds really isolating without a community, especially as one ages and can’t go to places to find community. I really don’t think we have this one figured out at all (but, more generally, I guess, we haven’t figured out caregiving, for children, for people with disabilities, for aging, for people who are sick, . . . )


      3. My Mum (so far a relatively fit and healthy 80+ year-old) – is absolutely adamant that she doesn’t want to go into any of the retirement complexes around. These range from ‘village’ style through to apartments with various levels of support/care through to full-on nursing home care.

        She has lots of friends there – and has visited many, so knows what she’s talking about. It’s just that she’s really, really, not the kind of person who thrives on other people organizing her (mahjong on Tuesday at 3pm), and overlooking her (there are always curtain twitchers). And, she’s always had a keen idea of the value of money, and can see the owners of the retirement complexes raking it in!

        ATM she’s in a relatively large house (built for her after my Father died – and with a separate apartment (bathroom, but no cooking facilities) – which was built for my brother (before he left home at the age of 40 and went to the other side of the world!). Her living area is all on one level – so it was designed for her to gradually lose mobility, etc.
        We’re getting to the stage of her needing some inside cleaning help (she’s a fanatically clean and tidy person – a set of genes which has completely slipped by all 3 of her children) – she’s already got assistance in the garden.

        She doesn’t drive (has never really driven – and hasn’t had a license for the last 40 years). But is 5 minutes gentle walk from a major bus corridor – with a direct link to the local shopping centre, in one direction, and the central business district, in the other. And she’s a fiercely independent bus user.

        Currently, she relies on me (or a couple of driving friends) to take her for a weekly/fortnightly ‘big’ shop (potatoes, onions, toilet paper, etc – the things which are too awkward or heavy to carry on the bus). But is poised to move to online grocery shopping (my sister is setting this up for her) – we’re just waiting for Covid to die down, so all of the online slots aren’t taken by people isolating!

        We have had some speculative discussions with her around possibly selling the big house. But she doesn’t want the trouble of real estate agents, and open homes, etc. There is, however, a big rezoning of her (currently heritage listed area) on the cards – which is likely to double the land-value of her site. And we’ve discussed that if a developer knocked on the door with a cash offer of 50% over current market value – she’d be open to taking it – and moving to an apartment (but not one in a retirement village!)


      4. EB said, “Right — many of the best ones are nonprofit and run by organizations with religious origins or affiliations.”

        I believe that a local Catholic assisted living community has a happy hour that is very popular with residents.


      5. I’m pretty sure my father’s plan is to drop dead, rather than use any sort of assisted living. They had someone coming in to help with household tasks, but I believe my mother let her go. (My elderly aunt and cousin are really happy with the same service.) They are of sound mind, and determined to be independent, if it kills them.


  3. I wish that older folks had the means to be useful for as long as possible. All those old people just sitting around their homes or these old age places look so bored. I want to work in some capacity until they dump me in the ground.


    1. I found this article an interesting read and uplifting, on Gen X volunteers helping older people in their neighborhoods, a profile of the “The Village to Village network.

      A particular tidbit, after describing Dr. Sanderfur, a Gen X’er helping older people change lightbulbs and recover their Hulu accounts, was the following:

      “Dr. Sandefur is counting on it. “Talking about Fearrington Cares makes me a little emotional,” he said. In 2021, he started a mathematical modeling company called Sandefur Modeling; one retired friend in his village helped him design a logo, and another put together a free business analysis. “You can find a sense of purpose here,” he said. “We feel very fortunate.””

      We need more community.


      1. Having a sense of purpose is good. Watching daytime TV is really just a close correlate of dementia. People who try to explain why the vice president is really (*whatever Fox says when active people are doing stuff*) are about as likely to be useful as someone with Alzheimer’s and less pleasant to be around.


    2. But, if one isn’t capable of market-based work as one ages? Die younger? non-work interests? I think its easy to imagine a productive life into the future when you aren’t feeling the affects of age yet. And, there are those in jobs that have no requirements (i.e. tenured professors who don’t get grants and are so cranky that their departments don’t let them teach any more).

      I really think we don’t have good models for care and community and I am worried for the world.


      1. It’s getting worse. It’s mostly near-elderly people (60+) who haven’t gotten back to work because that’s who can (the stock market is still very high) and who is at greatest risk from covid.


  4. “My cousins told me about how Florida is being completely overrun with New Yorkers and New Jersey people.” DeSantis said that was the salvation for NJ Dem governor – if the Jersey refugees had stayed in place, the Reep woulda won….


  5. Laura wrote, “At some point, we should talk about nursing homes.”

    BFF and I have tentative plans to put together some sort of Golden Girls arrangement in an assisted living community for ourselves. Lots of time to put together a list of invites and figure out which are the good assisted living communities!


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