I just recently returned from a visit with my mom in south central Missouri. She’s aging in place in her 3-bedroom home and, at 83 years old, is currently still very independent and active. She drives, exercises three times a week, and is involved with her church and local library. She even maintains her garden and yard which measures in at slightly less than an acre. But I know this won’t last. In the next several years, we likely will need to look at an alternate living arrangement for her, about which she is very realistic.
So, on the positive side, a new senior living facility just opened down the road from her current home. It’s nice, clean, and has varying levels of care should she require more assistance as time goes on. There are very few senior housing options in her area and this is really the only appropriate place in town to consider when the time is right, given my mom’s current situation.
On the down side, see the photo above. The facility is situated on a state highway which acts as Main Street in her town of almost 15,000 people. You’ll notice a sidewalk that leads to nowhere and a speed limit of 45 mph in front of the facility. No problem - IF YOU CAN DRIVE or don’t want to take a short walk for some air and exercise. NOT what I want for my mom when the time comes!
And I guarantee you that in a town this size, with an income per capita of $19,500 (the average U.S. per capita is $31,200), there are people that need to walk and bike for transportation.
This makes my heart hurt. And not just for my mom’s future; the situation I’ve described here could be any small community in Nebraska. Elderly folks need options that allow them to age in place and maintain some independence without driving. Social isolation is a significant concern for this age group, so the simple act of taking a short walk can be crucial for mental health, not just physical.
This is why Julie and I do what we do each and every day. The streets and sidewalks in our communities need to be safe for all users, regardless of age or ability and they need to connect to places that people need to go. I can only hope our efforts might make a difference for someone else’s elderly mom or dad in Nebraska. Safety and quality of life are important. Big and small communities alike, are you listening?