Elder care village planning session Aug. 13

CRESTONE — A group working for five years on finding a solution for seniors needing care in their community is now seeking assistance to make their senior housing project a reality.
All interested parties are asked to attend an informational meeting in Crestone on Sunday, Aug. 13, from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Elephant Cloud Market/Cafe, on the corner of Cottonwood and Silver Avenue.  
For more information, please call Barbara Hoeppner at 719-256-4320 after 10 a.m. To better understand the need for senior care in the Valley in advance of the meeting, Hoeppner has asked a nurse’s aide/caregiver to explain the problems seniors face.
A caregiver’s perspective on
aging and dying
Caregiver Kirsten Schreiber knows firsthand how difficult it is to age with dignity when there is no place to go.  “Nobody wants to age, nobody wants to die; yet it is what we all ultimately have in common,” she wrote recently in promoting a solution to the problem. “We are all going to die, when and how nobody knows.  In the meantime, we are aging and some will lose their independence earlier than others.” 
Below, Schreiber sets out the many problems senior must deal with in order to maintain their quality of life before death and how the new development would answer their needs. She said over the years she has seen the difficulty that infrastructure in the Valley creates for the elderly as well as for people who are ill. These obstacles include long drives on washboard roads, living alone, and money, among others.
Elders come in several categories: some will want to be closer to medical care, some have children and want to move near them, some have enough money and plan to get care at home or at an assisted care center.  But those who want to stay in the Valley and don’t have adequate funds end up depending on their friends or in the care Social Services.
Most who are gradually growing older have in common a strong desire to stay at home and be independent; they value their autonomy.  Yet this is exceedingly difficult for many.
Losing independence can have physical, mental and emotional ramifications, and often results in loneliness. To prevent this, seniors can choose to live in a community conducive to a healthy life when they start to lose their independence.
“I love the idea of being looked after by a whole community and having a neighborhood,” Schreiber said. “Because of this, I have been envisioning a place with up to 24 people living together in small units, sharing some common spaces, watching over each other, driving to doctors together, partying and dancing to the Stones!”
And her vision has a name — Living Wisdom Village, Elders Creating Community in Crestone.
The development could be a place where visitors will “come and go”, because it is close to town, within walking distance to the store, the Post Office, Credit Union or The Brewery.
“We can’t build a nursing home or even an assisted living facility in Crestone because the regulations are so stringent and costly,” Schreiber explained. “But we can build something that resembles co-housing, a self-governed village for people over 55 that see the beauty of a neighborhood.” This would take the load off friends and neighbors feeling alone and responsible to care for an elder friend or relative, she added.
The idea is to keep those aging in the community, so that nobody would have to leave Crestone because they are dying.  Hospice del Valle would come for visits.  Caregivers, nurses and other therapists could come and make several visits in a day to different people, as needed.  And residents would be helping each other.
As many other cultures teach, elders have wisdom to share.  “Steve, my husband, said his mother taught him how to die when she lived with us for her last months.” Schreiber said. “He is tremendously grateful for this experience.”
In addition, downsizing into a smaller place and adjusting to the end stages of life is easier done early rather than later, Schreiber noted. Seniors can still enjoy being together, make friends and find meaning by helping one another.  Dying is a slow process of letting go they can do together, supporting one another.
Living Wisdom Village, Elders Creating Community is a non-profit (501c3) project whose board has been meeting regularly for five years. Visionaries for the village now are seriously looking for people who would like help create the village; people who have the time and energy to invest in any way they can or bring insight in how to accomplish this. 
Schreiber notes that Saguache County has been very supportive over the years with tax grants and are aware of the housing need for elderly in our rapidly greying county, Schreiber commented.
She encourages anyone who would like to offer input to attend on Aug. 13. 

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