Aging in the Country

corn bin

I haven’t been following the news lately. I stopped my newspaper subscription because the paper always seemed to go in the recycling bucket unread. I don’t watch TV news because the only thing I watch is a few programs that I record and view while I’m exercising. And I rarely listen to the radio so I don’t catch the news there either.
So I’m pretty much in the dark about Tiger Woods, Health Care Reform, and I have no idea what a Czar is beyond what I overhear people discussing at work. I get the New York Times headlines e-mailed to me every day but I’ve just been deleting them unread.
But last week I decided to come out from under a rock and check out the headlines. And what kind of article catches my eye? “For Elderly in Rural Areas, Times Are Distinctly Harder”.
The New York Times article contains the stories of some very gutsy folks. There’s a lady named Norma Clark who at 78 fell and broke her hip in 3 places while out by the horse corral. She somehow tied her legs together to stabilize the injury, managed to stand up and close the gate, then spent 3 hours dragging herself 40 yards across mud and snow to the house. Once there, she didn’t call 911 but instead called her daughter to come feed the horses. People who love their animals are something else.
I’ve had a little bit of exposure to what happens to the elderly that have to leave the farm.
There’s a man down the road that had all his things auctioned off this past fall. I met him about five years ago when he wandered to our house, I believe out of loneliness. And from the way he talked about his horses and his escapades with horse training, I know he loved those animals dearly. Yet, a couple years ago, this same man ended up in the newspaper for “abusing” his horses. I believe he just could no longer take care of them, and either didn’t realize how badly their hooves had grown out or was too proud to ask anyone for help. The sad part of that is that no one living nearby either realized what was going on or did anything to help beyond reporting him for animal abuse.
There was a woman that sat at my Mom’s meal table at the nursing home. She was a tall, big-boned woman with the largest hands I’d ever seen on a female and they were good, strong hands, not like my Mom’s who’s hands were so badly deformed from rheumatoid arthritis she struggled with holding her utensils. The farm girl, with her long silver braid hanging down her back, often helped my Mom cut her food or open packets.
This woman had lived on a farm until she couldn’t anymore and ended up in the nursing home. She was 100 years old and still sharp, still getting around with her walker. But that ended one day too and I didn’t see her anymore but heard her crying piteously in her room for someone to please take her home.
The elderly in the article talk about being faced with the decision of leaving the home and the life they’ve known for so long, with all its sweet memories and familiarity, to go live where they don’t want to be because they can no longer go it alone, so far from the services they need.
But it’s not just rural folks that struggle with losing a way of life. I know many people in the nursing home had to give up their pets and missed them dearly. I can’t even imagine how awful that would be.
I think we need to do better by our elderly. If for no other reason than the selfish one that we’re going to be there someday too. Although, I hold out the hope that I will always live independently. I have an uncle who must be about 92 and is still driving, living in a townhouse, and is taking a trip to Ireland next year. I’m hoping I’ll be like him.

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  1. My grandparents lived on a remote farm all their lives, and I really worried how they would adjust to living in town. They surprised me, though – especially my grandmother. I think there was a part of her that always missed not having other people around, and not aving better access to stores and libraries and classes and museums, etc. She never really seemed to miss the farm.

  2. I think that one good step forward is that more assisted living places allow pets. In the one where my MIL lived, several residents had dogs, even dogs as big as golden retrievers.

    However, I still felt terrible empathy. I can’t imagine the notion of leaving the rural area where I am to live in the city. Maybe someday I’ll be able to visualize it but not now.

    I hope that you’re like you’re uncle too!

  3. I don’t have time to read or watch the news, so each time someone tries to talk to me about a news story, I always wonder why they aren’t as busy as I am. But I do make time to visit blogs, so I guess it’s ultimately a matter of choice. I worry about my 70-something year old neighbor who lives alone with 8 horses, and my 77-year-old mother who lives alone in a mansion 400-miles away. I have to be sneaky about checking up on them, though, because they love their independence and still act like they are 29-years-old.

  4. Dog Geek – I’m glad things worked out for your grandparents. I think how happy a person is depends on whether moving was their choice and how much control they manage to keep over their lives.

    KB – I know there are some more progressive assisted living facilities and even some nursing homes are moving towards being more “home like”. I hope those kinds of improvements become the norm rather than the exception.

    Nuzzling – Good for your neighbor and Mom!

  5. My 82 year old MIL is still on the farm but I watch out and take care of her. We know this is where she is happy and we will do it as long as we can and it is still safe for her. She is down to puttering around her yard and garden but still has many needs that need to be met.

    I myself have fallen in the heat of summer a couple years ago hauling mulch out of the holding pen to my flower beds. We still had the trucking co. then and of course I spent days alone. I rolled around the ground for a long while thinking I could be here for days and nobody would ever know. I finally was able to drag myself to the house and patch myself up. I’m in good shape so if it can happen to me……….

    Have a wonderful day enjoying the joy of the season!!!

  6. Nezzy – I took care of my Mom at her house for several years and it was tough. Sometimes I had to go there three times a day or stay overnight when she was sick. And I know the feeling of being out somewhere that it might take several days before anyone notices you’re missing. There was the time when my girth came loose on the saddle and I was holding onto it with my hand while my horse spun and I could see my husband sitting at his desk totally oblivious to my screaming. Or was he…

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