Choosing to Age in Community: 4 — Exploring Communities

Exploring Communities

Tom watches a gravel truck at Light Morning
Tom watches a gravel truck at Light Morning

After his mother’s death, Tom was 67. He considered living close to some of his family, “But it just didn’t work.”

Tom–There didn’t seem to be anything in it for me. The only thing I could go back to was the two things that I had found at the time of the divorce—that is, the Cayce material and the Infinite Way. So I really started looking in that direction.

During the time I was with my mother, I had taken a month off and visited 10 communities—a couple of communities in Arizona, a couple in Missouri. I visited The Farm in Tennessee. I wanted to visit Twin Oaks, but they had this kind of arrangement where you had to make a pre-arrangement.

But I ran into aging again, in terms of the communities. There were only two that were receptive to me, regardless of aging. Of course, The Farm people were receptive. They had some older people. Not many. But they were, “Welcome. Come and retire. Come and be with us and work with us.” And so, they were wide open.

And here [at Light Morning]. I’d always felt very welcome here. I remember one time that you and Joyce and I took a building apart. We started backwards and took off the top and took it right down to the ground. [Laughs] Straightened all the nails. Saved all the lumber. Re-used everything. And I never felt there was any reluctance on anyone’s part here related to my age.

Robert–Would the other communities tell you directly that they weren’t interested in someone your age, or was that something that came through indirectly?

Tom–Indirectly. Well, you know, I could be misinterpreting that. [Laughs] It’s possible that they just didn’t like me.

There were, however, a few experiences with age prejudice after moving here, especially with one member of the community. Tom described how he once received some unwanted assistance when several people were lifting a cap onto his pickup truck.

Tom–He was trying to help me. Actually, it was no help at all. The cap fell on my hand, merely because he wasn’t leaving me alone and letting me do my thing and not try to help me.

Robert–He was trying to protect you?

Tom–Yeah. That’s it. That’s the key.

Robert–Because of your age?

Tom–Well, must be. He doesn’t do that with [younger] people. At least I don’t think he does. Now I don’t mean this in a negative way. I’m very fond of him. But he is one of those individuals who has a tendency to help you when it would be just as well not to.

And I think that’s one of the keys to dealing with people who are dealing with aging in a different way. If you’re out in the culture, you’ve tied into and bought into the negative way of treating aging. There’s not much question about what’s supposed to happen. And in certain circumstances, particularly your family, you don’t get asked either. The family just steps right in and does what they think is best for you.

Robert–So that loss of control over your life…

Tom–When you get in the upper brackets of aging, that becomes precarious. That is, if you want to control your life—and I certainly want to control mine—you can get into stuff out in the normal way of things that you don’t want and that you can’t control. Your choice disappears. And it disappears in relation to aging. It disappears in relation to people’s ideas about aging.

Robert–What kind of ideas do you run into in the general culture that would limit your choices?

Tom–Most of them have to do either with your health or your income. If you have a substantial amount of income, it’s very easy, particularly as you age, for family and other people to wonder whether you have the facility of deciding these things for yourself. And, legally, they can interfere. The same has to do with medical decisions.

Robert–So one of the benefits of living in certain kinds of community is that it preserves more of your freedom of choice in the arena of aging.

Tom—Yes.