June 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
Twenty years ago, in 1995, more than 500 persons died in Chicago following a 2.5 days heat wave. Most of them were old and poor, as Klinenberg documented in his book, Heat Wave. Twenty years later, older adults are still dying alone so often that they even represent a good business for some. The article below describes a day in the life of 32-year old Koremura, a Japanese man who experienced the lonely death of his gramma and decided to be of help to persons like her in Japan with his business of cleaning their house after their death, iike the movie Sunshine Cleaning. Since these persons are often invisible in life, as well as in death, they are easy to forget. It is great when we are reminded of their presence, see pictures, and think how to decrease their isolation.
June 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
If you ever end up in California and attend one of the many self-growth seminars so popular here, you may be asked to share with your peers what is really going on with you, beneath the surface. And you would have to start all your sentences with the words, “If you really knew me, if you would know that I am…., and if you would talk for a good five minutes, opening more and more to your audience of often perfect strangers. The goal is “to go deep fast,” as they say. Well, I feel that the link below contains the academic version of this exercise for me. It was an honor to be interviewed. It was also fun since I am usually the one who asks the questions. I hope you enjoy the link as much as I did.
January 28, 2015 § Leave a comment
Great news: public transportation will be free for low and moderate income San Franciscans starting March 2015. San Francisco has a compact and strong network of advocates for older adults, and this is one of the results. Let’s hope that more cities will follow!
Below is the email from Marie Jobling, one of the most committed advocates for the rights of older adults to live in their community.
The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) voted unanimously on Tuesday, January 20 to approve this program. We applaude Tom Nolan and the members of the MTA for their efforts to reach this historic decision.
Find out more and apply online at:
or pick up an application in the SDA/CLC office at 1360 Mission Street, Suite 400.
You can also learn more at a Free Muni Kick-Off Event and Celebration:
Lady Shaw Senior Center, 1483 Mason Street
September 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
On the radio today Klinenberg discussed this trend, and said that it is positive, since living alone can be a time to recharge and find who we are. As woman living alone, I do recharge in my tiny studio in Berkeley. Yet, I am not sure that living alone in the same studio will be as rejuvenating thirty years from now, when it will be harder to negotiate its steep steps and minuscule entrance. On a larger scale, are American social policies ready to serve an increasing number of older unmarried Americans?
September 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
An extract from my fieldnotes on the hidden phenomenon of massive age segregation in urban America.
As I deliver food for Meals on Wheels, I discover the magnitude of urban age-segregation. I uncover a whole new world made up of buildings filled with old adults, mostly living alone. These buildings are sometimes so vast and intricate that I get lost in their corridors. Some were schools or hospitals. In one of them, a three-story building, big enough to occupy an entire block, Georgia (the driver of Meals on Wheels) and I have five meals to deliver. Georgia carries four bags: as a novice I carry only one. To open the iron gate, Georgia buzzes a client. We cross a manicured garden, and enter the edifice through a wooden door. Before disappearing in a corridor to deliver her bags, Georgia tells me, “Go right, follow the corridor. At the end of the corridor you will find an elevator. Take it, go to the second floor, go straight to wing North, room Y213.” It takes me five minutes of meandering through the shiny linoleum of corridors to find the door; a smell of mothballs and soup hits my nostrils along the way. When I knock, a tiny lady opens the door wide enough to snatch the bag and exhale a thank you. For a split second I glance at a room filled with boxes and clothes on hangers. On the way back, even though I am careful to find my way, I exit from a wrong door and wait in vain for Georgia in another garden identical to the first one. We often joke about my terrible sense of direction.
September 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
My last article, coauthored with Jodi Halpern, has been published by the Journal of Applied Gerontology.
The title is ”Move or Suffer”: Is Age-Segregation the New Norm for Older Americans Living Alone?
And this is the abstract.
Despite ethical claims that civic societies should foster intergenerational integration, age-segregation is a widespread yet understudied phenomenon. The purpose of this study was to understand the reasons that led community dwelling older Americans to relocate into senior housing. Qualitative data were collected through participant observation and ethnographic interviews with 47 older adults living alone in San Francisco, California. Half of study participants lived in housing for seniors, the other half in conventional housing. Data were analyzed with standard qualitative methods. Findings illuminate the dynamics that favor age-segregation. Senior housing might be cheaper, safer, and offer more socializing opportunities than conventional housing. Yet, tenants of senior housing may also experience isolation, crime, and distress. Findings suggest that rather than individual preference, cultural, political, and economic factors inform the individual decision to relocate into age-segregated settings. Findings also call for an increased awareness on the ethical implications of societies increasingly segregated by age.
Yes, we are becoming more and more segregated by age, in many ways. Our hope is that this article will make the invisible segregation by age much more apparent. Thank you Jodi for joining me.
I dedicate this article to all the older adults living in age segregated settings.
July 8, 2014 § 3 Comments
“You know, I can live on the moon, I am a paraplegic, and I can live on the moon, it is just a question of will.” These are the words of a paraplegic activist recited by heart by Dave, a disabled man in his 60s who lives alone in North Beach, the Italian neighborhood of San Francisco. Dave and I meet in the local library, and Dave reminds me over and over again that everything is possible if there is a political will. In his words the struggles of the disabled merge with those faced by older adults living alone like him.
The bottom line is that young and old disabled, living alone or not, can remain in their homes if there is a political system equipped to allow them to do so, independently from their income. So let’s be very wary of articles popping up on the web with paternalistic titles sounding like “signs that tell you that mom an pop cannot live alone anymore.”
Personally, I want to use my energy to contribute to a political, economic and social system that will allow me to live wherever I want in the last decades of my life. Rather than on the cool moon, my wish is to remain in my community surrounded by persons I love, exactly as it is today.