By Patricia Moore
My name is Esther. The year is 2035, I’m 80 years old — and like lots of Vineyard residents these days, I treasure living in this “aging-friendly Island community” because:
- We’ve come a long way to get enough affordable housing — both rental and owning units — so my children and grandchildren can afford to live here — without working three jobs! There are many different models for the new housing — from expanded Island elderly rental housing to shared multigenerational homes, to more affordable workforce housing. At the county airport, they got permission from the federal and state aeronautical agencies not only to expand the needed sewage, but also to empower the county and the Airport Commission to develop programs that send revenue back to the county and the towns. Working together, they also got the legislature to create a Housing Bank (financed like the Land Bank), and the improvement in available housing has been amazing.
- We have two new Greenhouse-model assisted-living and nursing home complexes, but it’s not like any nursing home we knew before. These are all small units for 12 to 15 residents, with a shared, big, homey living room and dining area, and the residents help decide on the food, and you can go into the kitchen with a staff person and make cookies or whatever else you want at any hour of the day or night. Even better, some of the units are particularly for residents with Alzheimer’s, but again — not like any nursing home used to be. In this one, family can visit any time they like, and residents can go to the new museum or the movies, or a concert or a restaurant, and artists from Featherstone come in to help you make your own art, and musicians come and play everything from Bach to boogie. That’s where I plan to go when I decide I don’t want to stay in my own home anymore, and just want to be waited on!
- The four Councils on Aging still exist in their own towns, but they are closely connected and collaborate on programs. Together they provide lunch any day of the week, and you can sign up for any activity at any of the four COAs right from your own home computer using their key program, and if you need transportation to one of those programs — or really, any library or activity for seniors you just tell the COA and a volunteer will come pick you up and take you home. One of the things I like best is that kids from the high school also work with the COAs and keep us elders up-to-date on all the home technology we use for everything from health care to making our own videos for MVTV, and they also keep our robots in working order!
- The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, M.V. Community Services, and the town and visiting nurses all work together in a new system of health and support services, which makes it possible for me to continue to live at home; they know that even though I’m getting frailer, I want to do what I can every day, and it’s not all or nothing. I can record all my health information, send it and even talk on the computer with my doctor; she can “prescribe” activities or even special diets, and the nurses, social workers, aides, and homemakers visit and keep me safe. They even prescribed some grab bars and ramps to make it easier for my husband to move around, and recommended I get a helpful robot, and some of those kids from the high school came and installed them the next week. The new health and support services also help me as a caregiver when I need respite care, and eliminates the old worry of how to manage really complex illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and even congestive heart failure, at home. Best of all, now there is Medicare for all ages, so I don’t worry about my grandkids driving their self-driving cars with no health coverage!
- We have an Island-wide, on-demand transportation system, so though I don’t drive much anymore, I can still go out with the NeighborStarlight Lift without all sorts of eligibility requirements — I just tell the COAs where I need to go and when, and they set it up. The Lift is an old idea updated, and financed by collaboration among the towns, the county, and the VTA, with some help from the state. It reduces the isolation of living down our Up-Island, long dirt roads.
Most of my off-Island friends want to retire here, and now I can welcome them.
Patricia “Paddy” Moore is the chair of Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard. She lives in West Tisbury with her husband, Ben Moore. She’s 82 years old, and along with the Healthy Aging Oversight Committee, the Executive Committee, and 50-plus volunteers, she’s working to make these Island dreams come true.