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Sam Bauman: Pass legislation to help seniors

Sam Bauman
For the Nevada Appeal
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Seniors have lots of assisted living space, which is a poor substitute for my youth, where there were few such accommodates as the elderly were expected to move in with the younger family members.

I remember those days when Aunt Ethel, in her 70s, moved in with our family of six. She was difficult and warned me about riding my “wheel,” as she called my bike. After a couple of years, she moved on to wealthier relatives in the South.

Today, the elderly still try to live alone, but it’s difficult and often requires the help of caregivers. But caregivers have lives to lead and even with the help of RSVP “Respite” givers, where a volunteer comes in and subs for the regular caregiver for a few hours, they are stressed.

I don’t expect to see a swing back to the days when we took care of our parents or relatives in our homes, but it would be humane if the Legislature took a few hours to look at senior needs.

Lots of polemics about who to care for out growing senior population, some of it scientific, some mere moralizing. A couple of books that might give lawmakers some ideas would help. Ai-Jen Poo and Ariane Conrad have a thoughtful book on how society deals with caregiving, “The Age of Dignity, Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America.”

Poo is a MacArthur “genius” award-winner and a director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She tells of family experience that will be familiar to many seniors and examples from personal experience that have helped her to come up with a suggested policy.

She urged a comprehensive state and federal policy of supporting the aging at home. Such a program would be welcomed by many seniors who would rather spend later days at home rather than in facility. Such a program would reduce the cost of aging relatives to the offspring and create a larger work force to help seniors.

Poo’s book doesn’t offer a blueprint for dealing with the growing seniors population, but it’s a good place to start thinking about the problem. A couple of other books that might help lawmakers to think about population and growth would be Roz Chast’s “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” —a very witty book and the New Yorker’s Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters at the End.” Books don’t solve everything but they offer challenges to readers.

A “smaller “ Burning Man event?

After a decade of driving to Gerlach for the Burning Man outing, I confess I’m getting a little overwhelmed by 50,000 Burners gathering on the Black Rock Desert up north. I’ve slept in my car, in a tent and in the open, in a comfy RV and it’s always been fun, sand, grit and howling wind-driven whiteouts.

And the attraction is still there: The shows and fun in the City Center big tent, the weird costumes (or non-costumes), the art flung about the open desert and, of course, the Temple, house to many ideas and memories.

But as I began thinking about this year’s event (it’s not a “festival,” organizers insist) I wonder if I really would like something a little different, maybe a “mini” Burning Man, someplace else in Nevada. One without much of the current Burning Man trappings. Something smaller maybe out Highway 50 East near the dunes area.

Much of what the current Burning Man offers — art and music, lectures and dancing, a different kind of Temple, perhaps, an open spirit where oddball ideas are freely flung. Nothing except ice and coffee for sale but lots of casual gift giving. And a lower admission price — some Burning Man tickets are free, some are $250 to $350 now, and the wealthy now enjoy a private oasis, something the original Burners would feel distorts the Burning Man idea.

Currently, Burning Man organizers have a large stake in the Black Rock site. They store tents and all there and they know the area. Can’t ask them to pick up and move. But they could certainly offer tips and help for a “mini’ Burning Man “Senior” event.

“Big Mac” progress report

Work starts at 7 a.m. with dirt pile bigger daily. And kids no longer can make it to the playground.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.