Street Spirit!

December 7, 2012 § 2 Comments

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I am sitting on a chair in front of a supermarket, the Berkeley Bowl, with a bundle of Street Spirit, the newspaper that homeless sell for $1. What happened?

No, I have not become homeless – at least not yet. One month ago I asked to Frank E. Moore, the man usually selling the papers, to go inside the store to buy me a Japanese take-away because I badly strained a muscle under my foot, so I was trying to walk as less as possible.

The other part of the story is that I was trying to change my attitude and feel comfortable with asking for help. I wanted to walk the talk with what I am arguing with my research. In a paper I criticized the promotion of independent living for the pressures that it created among older adults living alone. And here I am, the first week of November, living alone, badly able to walk, and hiding or minimizing my condition to my friends! For one week I just relied on Safeway deliveries and my good friend Andrea, who is very busy though.

The second week I started to feel uncomfortable with my I-can-do-it-alone stand, so I opened up. I apologized to my friend Joe to whom I did not share my condition. As a result, he drove me to the hairdresser, and we had a great meal afterwards. I also started asking for help, and it felt great and fun. The man who sells Street Spirit was very happy to have an excuse to enter into the supermarket where he is banned to step in. I even went through the experience of taking a plane using wheel chair services. I did not imagine that using the free wheel chair services at SFO meant to go on a fast-track, and having a series of charming men taking bags for me, waiting for me outside the airplane, and looking after me.

I am aware that asking for help is much easier for me than for a woman in her 80s living alone. Why? Because she may be afraid to give out cues that show that she may be unable to look after herself, a sign that may lead caregivers or neighbors to push her into a nursing home. So it is not enough to change attitude and be more open, as in my case. Also, she may have a chronic condition, so she may be afraid to appear as a burden, while my strain healed after a few weeks. We need to create a much more nurturing environment for older adults living alone to be genuinely able to ask for help.

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