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Sustainable Community Includes the Elderly

Wisdom is a vital ingredient in a sustainable community -- and age is an ingredient in wisdom.

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California business outreach conservation It's no secret that age discrimination is alive and daunting. In a fast paced, technology driven world, new teckie graduates are in demand. And aging workers start to get an attitude...I know.

But sustainable community also needs a timeline. Recent history. Wisdom. And the business world is in sore need of some wisdom that can cultivate sustainability.

I read an article about the birth of more sustainable practices in nursing homes and it has a lot of wisdom in it about the role of participation in a sustaining community.

A National Network of Regenerative Elder Care Homes

So in the barren lands of the nursing home we learned that it is possible to create a community that supports a dynamic role for even the frailest of elders and provides a transformative force for everyone to whom they are connected. Culture change has been shown to transform demoralized, dispirited staff into productive teams, and dispirited, isolated elders into active members of engaged communities.

When we started out virtually all of my friends said to me, “Barry, what are you doing? We have the critical issues of the day, and you are going to a nursing home every day? How do you justify using your talent, your capabilities, your time and energy, in a way that’s not related to the crucial issues of the day?” The reality, though, of nursing homes is that they are a microcosm of everything that needs repair in society. The major workforce is primarily the working poor. Typically, they are African Americans, Hispanics, Laotian, East Indians, Pakistanis, and poor white people. The homes reflect America’s priorities about healthcare. They reflect the inability of government to work effectively. The reimbursement system is driven by special interests, and regulation has been as much a part of the problem as of the solution. If you go up and down every single issue, from ageism to creating an environment that gets people well instead of making them sicker, you find them all in a nursing home.

Until the early Nineties, we felt like a voice in the wilderness. Then, an elder named Carter Catlett Williams reached out and found others who were doing similar work and brought four of us together at a meeting of the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform. In 1997 we formed the Pioneer Network with thirty-seven stakeholders. This August we are having our 10th anniversary meeting in Minneapolis, and there will be 1,000 people there.

The Network includes elders, staff and their trade unions, physicians, management of for-profit and non-profit homes, federal and state government agencies and inspectors, architects, ombudsmen and everyone who is involved. This is a new conversation among people who, ten years ago, wouldn’t speak to one another. Now we share, to teach and learn how to make deep systems change.

Read the rest of this thought-provoking article at tikkun.org. "How Elders Can Rebalance the World

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| sustainability | community |

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