On Bike Lanes and Grandchildren Graying New York

| 06 Jun 2016 | 05:25

Aging in Place has become the preferred option for those of us heading towards the years when help may be needed for basic functioning.

I know people who have had their apartments set up for possible live-in help, such as refitting a bathroom for a wheelchair or turning a den into an extra bedroom.

Most of us hope to stay in our own apartments, as I certainly do. My women’s group at the JCC has been doing another kind of Aging in Place. We are the longest running senior group there, and many of the original members, as well as other long-timers, are still alive and kicking. (Well, maybe not kicking. Sprightly as we were eight years ago, several now have canes or walkers, and others are dealing with bad knees, shoulders, backs and various other body parts.)

Every Thursday we come together to share our joys and our woes, and it’s such a feeling of comfort to know that we will be supported in our feelings and concerns. As one member said, “Another birthday, another body part goes.” But we soldier on, helping each other and sometimes just listening. Without my group, I would feel adrift. Right now, I have a sturdy boat and I certainly hope we stay afloat for many more years.

Speaking of my group, they have asked me to bring two matters to public attention. One is a thank you to the MTA for making buses walker and wheelchair accessible. My friends who need such transportation amenities speak of the courtesy of the drivers and the fact that this accessibility makes it possible for them to navigate the city in a way not before possible.

They also asked me to speak about bikers who don’t obey the bike lane rules, who ride the wrong way, too fast, or just too inconsiderately. Some have had near misses which frightened them badly. Also mentioned were children on scooters and parents or caretakers who aren’t paying attention. Children are by nature self-centered and it’s the caretaker who must be watchful, especially for the elderly. Actually, I believe these kids belong in the park, not on the streets. Seniors can be the invisible denizens of a neighborhood and also the most vulnerable. Let’s give them some thought, folks.

In one column I discussed the sadness of difficult parent/adult child relationships. There’s another kind of sadness that comes with adult children moving far away and the difficulties of seeing them and grandchildren as we age. I volunteer as a lunchtime English conversation partner at The Riverside Language School, and over the years I’ve learned that in many countries, children are expected (and seem to want to) stay much more connected to their parents than in America. Many of the students have come here to care for aging parents who came before. Some bring parents with them as they seek a better life. American children have been raised to be independent, to fly away whenever they choose. It’s part of American individualism for one’s children to have the choice to do that, but something is lost also. Even if there is no family rift, traveling as we become older sometimes is difficult or not possible, and our children and their families may have busy lives elsewhere. That’s the tradeoff we Americans have made. Those of us with families nearby count ourselves lucky, and even then, contact can be less than optimal because everyone is so busy working and raising these independent-minded children that even if they live relatively close by, contact can be minimal.

Finally, I am angry enough about robocalling that I could burst. It’s bad enough during the day, but I received two calls from India “about your computer” and “about your electric bill” from “Dave” and “Anna.” One call came at 10:30 at night, which sent me flying to the phone in case it was one of my daughters. I was furious and I let poor “Anna” have it. The other call came at 8:00 a.m. I was half asleep and just slammed the phone down, which is what I usually do. One time I said, “Oh, you know about my computer all the way from India?” Look, I know these people need the job, I feel sorry for them, but for us, these constant calls are nothing but a nuisance. The Do Not Call list is useless. If anyone knows another way to stop this harassment, I’d sure like to know.

Happy Summer. It’s finally here.