Old Folks Homes

Bill Neinast


Living in an old folks’ home changed my perception of life.

The Skye Luxury Senior Living Center where I now live, however, is a far cry from the old folks’ home of yesteryear.  The five story, three wing complex  is home for 97 active individuals.  Three are in wheel chairs and there are a few walking canes and wheeled walkers.  The vast majority, however, are about as active as teenagers.

My neighbors are in their 80s and 90s, with a few dipping down into the 70s.  On Veterans Day, I was surprised to learn that one of my neighbors whom  I thought, because of his looks and actions, was in his low or mid 80s was a WWII veteran.  He is 94. That seems to be typical of so many of my other neighbors.

So the first change in perception was that becoming “old” is strictly a matter of personal opinion.  You are only as old as you feel.  Based on birth dates here at Skye, I am middle aged but feel almost like a youngster. 

Other changes in perception involve the number, status, and care of the elderly.

As noted previously, we have 95 neighbors that some may consider “old.” There is room for about 50 more.  A staff of 43 is required to keep us comfortable, satisfied, and happy.

This is just one of many facilities of this type in just the Austin area.  Multiply that by all the cities, including Brenham with Kruse Village, Argent Court and several other retirement facilities, and you get an idea of why there are all those TV ads about “A Place for Mom.”

The huge number resulting from this calculation reflects just a fraction of the elderly around us.  A much larger number contains those millions who will not or cannot move into a facility like Skye.  They remain at home and rely on things like Meals on Wheels or, if fortunate enough, move in with a child or sibling.  

As the  current emphasis of medical research is to extend life expectancy, retirement facilities will continue to  grow exponentially.

So  here is another change in perception.  We have to quit looking for ways to allow people to live longer.  We need to start reducing the life expectancy age.

The point  is that all of us here at Skye are consumers.  There is not a producer among us.

Now look at the staff required to keep us happy.  There are 43 adults serving as administrators, kitchen staff, maintenance, maids, etc.  That is a ratio of about one staff member for every two residents.

The 43 staff members are consumers too.  They are not growing or harvesting food to feed us or building accommodations and comfort items for us.

Now project this picture to the end of the century.  If life expectancy keeps growing and the birth rate keeps declining, will there be enough producers to support the consumers?  Discussing or arguing this question might be a good substitute for all the current hysteria over that pesky climate that keeps changing through the centuries.

Another change in perception concerns the adage, “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If You are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain .”

The Skye community is a hot bed of Republicans.  This includes residents from those liberal strongholds of California, New York, and other eastern states.  So far, I have identified only one hard core Democrat among us.

This indicates there may be some validity in that observation about the effect of age on political philosophy.

So here’s the perspective.

Age is among the things we cannot change.  Many will gracefully pass that age that others may consider “old.”  But it is up to you to decide when you get old.  Just hope that when you do become old, there will still be enough producers out there to keep on adding those years.



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