Aging Well Together with Margaret Critchlow

Posted on June 13, 2023 by

Aging Well Together with Margaret Critchlow

Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 018

Hear from Margaret Critchlow, PhD., about finding connection as an older person, and building communities where elders can thrive emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically.

In this episode

  • Who is there for you? (0:01)
  • Rebecca’s introduction (4:51)
  • How did you become interested in cohousing? (9:41)
  • The missing piece of the puzzle (13:54)
  • Providing mutual support for each other (18:50)
  • How does the community interact with each other? (24:39)
  • What’s it like living in a retirement home? (32:59)
  • How can communities support each other to age well? (37:21)
  • The value of planning for aging well. (42:37)
  • What do you want as you get older? (49:55)
  • Risk of social isolation (53:52)
  • How can younger people support the elders in community? (1:01:25)
  • How to talk about aging in community. (1:10:22)
  • The importance of having a power of attorney. (1:14:55)
  • The willingness of people with dementia to live with risk (1:22:07)
  • Other communities that are rocking aging in place (1:29:24)
  • Margaret Critchlow (1:34:32)

About Margaret Critchlow

Margaret Critchlow, PhD, taught anthropology at York University in Toronto, Canada for 25 years before retiring to Vancouver Island. She loved learning from villagers in the south Pacific islands of Vanuatu and from residents of Canadian housing co-ops. She has written or co-authored more than 50 academic article and seven books. She was a founding member of the first senior cohousing community in western Canada, Harbourside Cohousing, where she has lived with her husband since it opened in Jan 2016. Margaret enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for cohousing with people of all ages, independently and as a Community Building Facilitator with Cohousing Development Consulting. Her online courses, “Planning for aging in community” and “Is cohousing for you?” have supported people to better understand what they are getting into when they join a cohousing community.

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Show Notes

LINKS that Margaret Mentioned:

Karin Wells’ CBC radio documentary “It’s Their Life” about how Denmark is changing ways to care for the elderly. ⁠ ⁠

CBC Radio documentaries by Karin Wells about Harbourside Cohousing:

2016 ⁠⁠

2018 ⁠⁠

Anne P. Glass “Aging better together, intentionally”⁠

Elder Spirit Community, Abingdon, VA ⁠⁠

Harbourside Cohousing, Sooke, BC ⁠⁠

Quimper Village, Port Townsend, WA ⁠⁠

West Wind Harbour Cohousing ⁠

Margaret will be teaching the 5-week FIC Course ⁠Exploring Community for Aging Well⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ starting June 23rd

Use Code INSIDE30 for 30% off

Super Awesome Inside Community Jingle by FIC board member Dave Booda

ICP theme by Rebecca Mesritz

Thanks from Rebecca, your podcast host

Episode Transcript

Margaret Critchlow 0:01
Who’s there? You know, to give you a shoulder to cry on once in a while, who’s there to laugh themselves silly with you? Who’s there to walk with you and listen to bird songs? Or the sound of the waves? Who’s there to talk out a tricky issue in social relationships, who’s there to clear with you, that confrontations that you get yourself into that kind of social connection? Who’s there just even to look into your eyes, you know, and help you find the speck that got in there.

Rebecca Mesritz 0:42
Who is there indeed, I just had to start this episode off with that gorgeous quote from Margaret Critchlow my guest today, because I think it really hits on that longing inside each of us to really be seen and to live in connection with others. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk with Margaret about finding that connection as an older person, and building communities where elders can thrive emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. I often hear people entering their 60s Maybe even into their late 50s. Thinking about the future and wondering what the next chapter of their life will look like. Like people of many ages, there is a deep desire to find connection, mutual support, and continue living a vibrant, balanced and stimulating life. In this conversation, we will examine how to create community that both celebrates, and addresses the unique needs and challenges of elders and community. This was going to be our interview for July, but we’re releasing it just a little bit early because Margaret has a course upcoming with the fic at the end of June and I wanted you guys to get dropped into some of these topics before that started in case you were interested in signing up and joining along for that course. So I hope you enjoy it. Here’s a few words from our sponsors and then we will get started. For more than 50 years communitarians communities seekers and cooperative culture activists have been sharing their stories and helpful community resources and communities magazine communities has visited the topic of aging and community many times over the decades. And today’s guest Margaret Critchlow has herself written four articles for the magazine, including two about senior cohousing you can gain access to all back issues in digital form. Plus receive current print or digital issues by subscribing at Jen hyphen A complete Article Index community index and issue theme list are all available online to help you find what you’re looking for. koho us is the hub of the cohousing movement, convening individuals and organizations with a shared vision for intentional community living. expert led courses and forums on the cohousing Institute, provide the skills and expertise to build and sustain your community available both live and on demand. Join koho us for the commons a monthly gathering space for the cohousing curious the 10th of every month at 10am Mountain learn

Rebecca Mesritz 3:37
Margaret Crichlow PhD, taught anthropology at York University in Toronto, Canada for 25 years before retiring to Vancouver Island. She loved learning from villagers in the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu and from residents of Canadian housing coops. She has written or co authored more than 50 academic articles and seven books. She was a founding member of the first senior cohousing community in Western Canada harbourside cohousing, where she has lived with her husband since it opened in January 2016. Margaret enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for cohousing with people of all ages independently and as a community building facilitator with cohousing development, consulting her online courses planning for aging and community and is cohousing for you have supported people to better understand what they’re getting into when they join a cohousing community. You’re listening to the inside community podcast. I’m your host Rebecca Mezrich. Thank you so much for joining me today for this interview with Margaret Critchlow Margaret Critchlow welcome to the Inside community podcast. So nice to have you.

Margaret Critchlow 4:52
It’s great to be here, Rebecca. Thanks for inviting me.

Rebecca Mesritz 4:55
Absolutely. Well, I usually start my Interviews by asking my guests to tell me a little bit about their community. So can you tell me a little bit about where you live and what it’s like?

Margaret Critchlow 5:07
I’d be happy to I live in Harborside cohousing, which is a community of 31 households oriented for people of retirement age, but with no age restriction. And we’re located on the territories of the South nation here in beautiful souk, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, which is just north of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. It’s a great place to live living in a fully accessible, compact and not that I particularly need mobility. I don’t have mobility challenges at the moment, but I so that I won’t have to move again nor my husband who lives here with me. We live in a 960 square foot, spacious yet compact home and condo type home, all on one level, looking out over the sukkah harbor and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains beyond that. So a very beautiful place to live a really lovely community to be living with. And yeah, I’m delighted to say that we found a way to make this work. And not only that, there’s a second cohousing community in our little town. Our town is only about 10,000 people. Maybe it’s grown to 13,000 by now, but we have a second cohousing community, and it’s a really short walk away from us just a few 100 yards along the shoreline of the harbor. So there’s a lot of interaction between the two communities and that one, which is called Westland harbor cohousing. So that’s the context in which I’m joining you from a small town with two cohousing communities, and a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest. What do you Americans would call the Pacific Northwest and what we call the banana belt of Canada.

Rebecca Mesritz 7:05
Can you tell me a little bit more just about what life is like there? And and I’m also just curious about, you know how it was? How you started it?

Margaret Critchlow 7:16
Oh, yeah, I’d love to talk about that. We started it was me and a friend named Gail Abernathy, who’s a British osteopath. So someone who treats the whole person, but through and through the body for health and wellness. She and I were talking about putting our mothers in care. I think I was probably there because I, you know, thrown my back out lifting stuff to reorganize my mother’s many possessions in order to help her to downsize and move into a home. And Gail was in a similar situation. And we talked about how we neither of us wanted what we saw as the options for our aging parents. That is the retirement home. If you’re lucky, as a nursing home if you’re less fortunate. We didn’t want it and the kind of care that we were arranging for our mothers we couldn’t afford either. My mother was in a care facility in Maryland that ended up costing a church run but private care facility ended up costing something like $11,000 a month, which was simply just not I couldn’t foresee ever being in a position where that would be possible. And if I were that wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my final days nor use the money. So we did some investigation, and very quickly found a book that had been published. This was 2011, let’s say maybe late 2010. And it was a book that have been published the year before by Charles Tourette called the senior cohousing handbook. I got a copy. We both read it, Gail and me. And we said to each other, he’s written the book that will allow us to do exactly what we want for ourselves to create it for ourselves. And we’d been talking for some years about maybe starting a co op, maybe buying land in the country, maybe you know, eco village and then meanwhile we’re all getting older. So working in the fields is less and less attractive but still kind of compelling because we are not not really coming to grips with getting older. So even as we’re putting our mothers at home so we’re having trouble imagining really we’re getting older too. We read this book the senior cohousing handbook and it changes everything because it’s step by step. So, Gil’s husband is an architect to Andrew. Andrew Moore and he Gail says you and Andrew should go to California and you should take Charles Tourettes course on Create starting the study groups. He has a study group called wo imaginatively study group one to help to prepare for coming into a senior oriented cohousing. So that was all it took. I had been teaching about cohousing back in Ontario. I had relocated to Sook and then about 2004 then teaching part time at York University, from then through 2010. And in my courses about cross cultural housing housing around the world I talked about because I like to teach about our culture as well as all the so called exotic cultures, because we’re all pretty exotic really, and the exotic ones are actually more familiar than you would think. So in teaching a course on cross cultural forms of housing, I taught about cohousing and I had done that since Tourette’s began publishing in the late 80s and brought brought cohousing in fact to North America. And cohousing in the sense that they use it isn’t intentional neighborhood design. That is a design in which each household has its own private accommodation, and it’s complete. It includes a kitchen full kitchen and living and sleeping quarters for whatever you define as a household. cohousing also includes common space, and usually the common space is collectively designed by the people who will be living there. And the whole project is designed by those people working with the professionals that they need. So the professionals that they need part escaped me on the first pass. Andrew and I trained with Charles Tourette, we did learn how to offer the study group one with direct we, after teaching that course twice over a 10 week period in 2011. We realized that was not sustainable. If we were to go into offered on a regular basis to everyone who might come into our cohousing community. We couldn’t offer courses that were 10 weeks long, we couldn’t sustain it and work with the people taking the courses. So with working with Chuck a week, I created really a new curriculum for it based on his that spanned a weekend. So we began to offer what did we call it? Aging, something like aging well and community. We began to offer that in affiliation with Royal Roads University here in the Victoria area, British Columbia. And we offered that maybe maybe 12 times in the building of harbor side, we required that every buddy who became what we called an equity member of the community, that is a shareholder in the development company required that each of them take the course. So devote devote one weekend of their lives to looking at aging well and community and what that could be like for them, if they chose to become a member of the senior cohousing that didn’t have a name at that point. What and we did we require that and everybody who came in during the development period took the course, a lot Matt, half the people who took the course did not continue with the group. So it was a very good gatekeeper. I wish we still had the ability to let people know more fully what they’re getting into when they join our community. But now we’re simply a condo association or strata title. So it’s an willing buyer willing seller. We don’t have that ability to select members as carefully through self selection, actually, which is what happened during development. We never kept anybody out. People decided for themselves if they were not a good fit, and it worked really well. Now, the missing piece, as I mentioned before, was that in reading Chuck’s book and then in teaching the course. It was easy to overlook the fact that the book is a great start, but it is it doesn’t include everything you need to know Not surprisingly, to develop a complex RS was $13 million project I think it was and the ones that I’ve I’ve worked since in the field as a consultant and community building consultant in a cohousing capacity, and those projects were many more millions of dollars. People like me and anthropologist by training have no capacity to provide the didn’t even know what the professional advice is that you need to create a cohousing community. So we quickly learned that we needed to enlist the aid of a project manager familiar with and successful in CO housing. And we hired Rene Matthew of CO housing development consulting in the Vancouver area Burnaby Burnaby was just adjacent to me and Cooper, and she led us through all of the steps and we created harbourside with wonderful architect, who has done a lot of cohousing with all of their requisite engineers and the insurance advice, the financial advice, the legal advice that we needed to make the project work. So it took about five years from start to finish, and that’s a little longer than many cohousing communities take. But four years is not unusual. So we were, we were really pleased with how it all turned out. And that we didn’t lose any money. And that we got really lovely homes to live in and a lovely community that that I continue to be involved in harbourside, I do a lot of facilitation, a good bit of work on the on the website behind the scenes sort of stuff. But the community is really carried by the energies of all the other people who, some of whom have been with the project from the very beginning like myself, and some of whom joined row last year, and now contribute hugely to the success of this place. So it’s a real mixture of people who’ve been in for the long haul. And people who joined more recently, and and people who have a tour coming up 12 people on Sunday, which may include some people who will eventually become our neighbors. So that’s a long winded answer to your question. But as you can see, I love to talk about what it’s like to be here.

Rebecca Mesritz 16:38
Well, I think that’s really lovely, because it hopefully will give people listening who are interested in something like this, some framework for what what to expect. I’m curious, you know, for the people that are living there, you know, I’m my I have an aunt who’s living in a senior housing development in Baltimore, actually also a church run. And I’m familiar with sort of the setup there and how for them, they they they buy in, they own their place. And then once they’re in they can basically hers is set up so that they could never get kicked out if something happens, and it has sort of a graduated care if they become ill or when their health declines. And I’m wondering how your community helps people or supports people who have declining health. Is that is that a part of what you do? Or do you have an on? Is there some staff there that supports with health care?

Margaret Critchlow 17:48
Yeah, it’s a very important question, I think to clarify for your listeners, the difference between a cohousing that’s oriented toward people my age, and the you the care facilities such as your, your family maybe in and what we’re much more familiar with is what you’ve just described, if you can get into one that provides kind of a kit, they often call it a campus of care, where you come in to independent living, you can come and go as you please. You can cook for yourself, if you want to often but meals are provided is a meal plan that you buy into, you may, as you say, buy your home. But some some facilities like you’re describing I think Rebecca require that you sell the that the community will buy the house or the unit back when you die or you move out of it, and then they find the buyer and so on. So we don’t do anything like that. And this what we’re offering is much less secure, if you like, then what your relative has, that is not less secure, and that nobody’s going to throw you out of harbourside. But if if my needs increase substantially either in terms of my mental health or my physical health, then I will need to enlist my family or my friends or both to find a good facility for me to get the care that I need. What we agreed to do when we started harbor side was to provide neighborly voluntary, neighborly mutual support for each other to age in place and to flourish the rest of our days here if possible. Now, that’s just not always possible. And we’re very clear that we do not offer assisted living. We have no staff. We are just volunteers, neighbors who care about each other, and through the relationships that we’ve built with each other and continue to build. There’s a lot that we’re willing to do for each other It mostly manifests in food, food is, you know, something we do really easily. And I’d have to say quite well. So if someone has had surgery I had, I had two hip replacements, the first year that we lived here, two different hips, you be glad to know. And it was very successful. And even so, we, my husband, and I were really grateful that we received lunches and dinners every day for a week on trays hot, because you don’t have to get in a car and drive anywhere to do to deliver that. So that’s the kind of care we can give. We keep people company we’ve been knitting with one member for that’s been very beneficial. We’ve supported people here through cancer treatments, we’ve driven which still do drive people to visit loved ones who are in the hospital or drive people to to their appointments. But we do not provide personal care. You know, unless we’re such good friends with somebody that we do that. And then we, you know, I don’t know what people do for each other privately. But there’s no obligation to provide any kind of care. And we do it because we love each other. And we do what we’re comfortable giving. So it’s quite a limited palette, if you like, of the colors that we’re willing to sort of paint on to the care structure this community. And we are fortunate to live in a town that’s pretty well served medically. And it’s pretty well served in terms of assisted living in an L, what do you call it continuing care or longterm care. But there are waiting lists, and there are challenges around all of those things. What how this will work out, I don’t really know sometimes I think it’s we’ve got more people with increasing needs than we can possibly support. And sometimes, we think we can find a path through it quite easily by simply encouraging people to bring in the care that they need. So a number of the age range here is from the 90s. To maybe we’ve got some people in their late 50s, more likely 60s. So it’s about a 3035 year age range. We have multiple generations with people living here who have other members of their family living in the community are closely connected to the community. So it’s more diverse then in terms of age than it first appears. And so for the people who are older and frailer, that’s very possible and they have succeeded in bringing in care. So daily care, even personal care help with getting dressed help with bathing, help with medications. And the family members who live here also provide that for each other. It’s proven to be a really good structure for people supporting each other of different ages to live multi generationally, but with privacy, so they’re, the limits are around. Mobility to some extent because we’re on a hill. Strange choice of sight, one might say for a senior cohousing community, but the what we our vision and values work suggested so strongly that we will wanted a good water view. And if you look on our website Harbor You’ll see there’s a video tour there as well. You’ll see how important the waterfront location is to this community. So we picked it for that we picked it because we had easy water access, we have a wharf. Our sailboat is tied up and our war of other people’s are two. We have lots of kayaks. We have a gazebo on the wharf where we can have picnics, barbecues, we can catch crabs from the wharf. And our neighbors are our professional crab fisherman. So that’s been beneficial to us too. So the location kind of chose itself for us. And we’ve used the slope to advantage with seven buildings 31 units, and each of the units has a view of the water most of those all but three I would say are unobstructed south facing water and mountain views. So pretty fantastic. And it isn’t the best site for access to the waterfront. Really. I mean, if you’re in a walker, it’s pretty challenging to go down that hill and then back up that hill. That said we have at least one probably two members of our community who do exactly that who are quite elderly. Every day, but the Yeah, the site didn’t make an awful lot of sense for the cohousing thing. But one of the things that it did lend itself to was thinking about bringing in a caregiver and bringing in more care as we as we age in place. So we bought a resort. We bought a small resort called So Sook Ocean Resort from Captain Ralph Hall, who remains a senior member of our community. And that resort building included what was at that time, his living quarters, the Owners Suite, and it’s a fully studio apartment basically fully self contained with its own entrance. And when we, when we envisioned harbourside, we envisioned that space as a caregivers suite, where we could have a caregiver, maybe even a couple, if we were lucky, provide living care, and maybe, maybe the guy would be a trained nurse and could provide care for those of us who needed it. And maybe the woman would be a landscape gardener and could do all the maintenance on the property, we have about two and a half acres, and including a woodland. So that dream hasn’t materialized nor have we actually gone looking for it yet. But we have reserved that suite for always for its care purposes. So you can book it for a family to visit, for example, but if it’s needed for care reasons, like somebody’s coming to provide care for a friend who lives here, or if a caregiver were needed, and they would live there, then the guests have to have to find another place to be. We do have other guests base, we have two other guest rooms and all sweep as in the resort building that has become the common house. So that remains a possibility to support us better to age in place. Hmm.

Rebecca Mesritz 26:58
Well, I mean, there’s so much that I want to talk with you about and thank you so much for sharing about harbor side. I just want to hear before we move on, because I’m just so curious, a little bit more about kind of what, like what daily life is like in your community? And what what people I mean, it sounds like people are walking down to the water are people It sounds like most of the people are active. But can you just paint a little bit more of a picture of you know, how does the community interact with each other? And yeah, what how are people involved other than, you know, providing meals, if someone comes back?

Margaret Critchlow 27:44
Sure, that’s a be a pleasure to answer that. So I’m in the, I’ll just sort of imagine it at this time of year in the winter, we do a lot more indoors things. But right now, we start by the newspapers delivered down on the entry, floor like but by our parkade. So people often meet as they go down to pick up the newspaper in the morning, they then have the opportunity to share coffee at 10 o’clock. That’s usually out this time of year, there’s a covered patio, which we’ve has assumed the name of sages corner. So they go down to sages corner and have coffee with the with friends. Many of us will meet for a walk and talk in pairs or threes or, you know, whatever, and, and walk down to the waterfront there’s a way to obviously to access the waterfront from our own property. But often we will go down and walk a boardwalk or books to the municipality, which is quite lovely and right now that the Eagles are desperately feeding babies. So they’re fishing, fishing, fishing. So there’s lots to watch and lots of chances to observe nature together. It’s one thing I’ve learned from my neighbors is how to how to better seal the richness of nature around us. So we spend a good bit of time looking at flowers and birds and talking about that and educating each other. There often is the opportunity for casual and informal encounters in the gardens. So we have some vegetable gardening. Two major places where vegetables are grown on their property. One is has the opportunity for individual beds and that but then we all can help each other with that and learn from each other and the other is a plot for growing community food. So we often meet there there’s a gym that’s used quite a bit in the early morning and then less throughout the day. It’s the gym is equipped with really nice equipment that people have donated. People meet in the library to which is full of books that are curated from donations. meaning, things get tossed out from time to time and they get organized. And new things come in and get sorted. The maintenance team meets once a week after, I think it’s once a week after coffee, and does the routine maintenance that we require. The only person we’re hiring right now is a janitor. And she comes in a couple, few hours a couple of days a week to clean common areas. She also does private cleaning for a number of us here, so and then other people bring in their own cleaners, but the members are doing the work. So we’re doing Yeah, all of the maintenance and Night Patrol brings people together. We have we’ve just stopped this for the summer. But we have had up until this week, Wednesday, soup lunches, where people get to couple of people make a big soups, and usually a vegetarian and non vegetarian and we get together and share a meal at least once a week, not as much as some other communities do. But at least once a week. And then we’ve often had Sunday brunches. And, and then potlucks have various sorts of things like that. We have a monthly community work be and we always have a lunch after that. Where everybody gets together, you sign you sign up or just show up for different jobs around the property. We have one this Saturday, it’s two hours, from 1010 to 12. Excuse me, and we get a huge amount of work done. It’s amazing. If you get 20 people out, we have about 40 Something people living here, and even half are able to show up. You know it’s 20 people to us. 40 hours of work done right there bang on a Sunday, Saturday morning. So we celebrate that with food that some of the work be people prepare. We have talks. So tomorrow evening, we have a report from one of our members who just spent two weeks in Slovenia, assisting with the investigation of war crimes on behalf of the as a delegate for the Canadian government. fascinating to hear about I’m really looking forward to that. And that’s one of our own members will also bring in members who have interesting things to share with us, or the community hosts and participates in an elder college and has a film Night international film class I should say once a week for a period of weeks. We have a legal finance team that gets together regularly as well. And they use our office in the former resort now common house building for their files and paperwork. There’s a movie night once a week. There’s bridge night, but sorry. There’s another game. Oh, my gosh,

Rebecca Mesritz 32:59
I just found so robust. It’s fine. Yeah, no, there’s a lot. There’s a lot going on. I’m exhausted.

Margaret Critchlow 33:09
Not everybody. Not everybody goes to everything, right? No, you couldn’t possibly I’m pretty selective about it myself. Oh, and tonight is drumming is drumming every Wednesday and a common hands. So and all of this Rebecca is self organized. So the really cool thing about it is it doesn’t take the fun squad at the retirement home to organize this. There is no cruise director, right? We do everything by consensus. It’s all voluntary. If people don’t want to come they don’t come. If there’s like with soup, it became clear that people were running out of energy for producing soup in the summertime, and other people were still willing to come and eat it. We ran out of cooks. So we close that down for a while. And then we’ll try it again. You know, so it’s a very organic way of of living together and of of my theory is that by not having everything taken care of it supports us to be more robust and more engaged with life and more active. And we’re always hoping to attract people who are drawn to that sort of thing. You know, we’re really careful if somebody says I’m looking for a place for my mom. I’m really actually not interested. I want to meet your mom

Rebecca Mesritz 34:32
thank you for sitting in on this conversation with Margaret Critchlow. I am so thrilled to be able to bring you conversations like this and I hope that they are meaningful for you and useful and helpful for your life. If they are please take a moment to visit and support the show with a donation so that we can continue to bring you thoughtful guests with loads of it experience to talk about tough issues and things that can be hard and challenging so that we can all learn and grow together. And thank you so much for your support, and for supporting my other sponsors.

Rebecca Mesritz 35:19
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Rebecca Mesritz 37:21
Yeah, so I guess what all this leads me to is like the big question. And the big reason that I wanted to speak with you is really, you know, how can community support each other to age? Well, and I think you’ve touched on a little bit of that, but it’s kind of a big question to unpack. And I’d love to hear your hear your thoughts on that.

Margaret Critchlow 37:45
It’s a very big question, Rebecca. And, you know, I probably can only partially unpack it, because you said how can communities support people to age well, right out each other to age? Well, so that the two levels to it, just to flag at the at the beginning. One is the ways in which within a community we can support each other to age well, and there’s a lot I can say about that. There’s also the ways in which communities plural, like the foundation of for intentional communities does can support communities to age well. And that’s happening across the communities movement. So many communities were founded by people who were young 20 years ago, or 30 years ago, even. And in those communities, people are now older, and they’re having to deal with issues of aging that they were never really maybe intending or the communities were never designed to deal with. So how can communities themselves age? How and that is not something I’m an expert in but I think the foundation has a lot of wisdom around that. And then how can communities support each other to age and that’s something that we are doing with ourselves and Westland Harbor, cohousing are doing like emergency preparedness training together, we’re looking at how we can support the difficult conversations that we all need to have around aging. And so the communities themselves can support each other in talking about the challenges, and how and I don’t know that we will have the answers. But my experience in my face, I think is that communities working people working together are the best way to create the answers to co create the answers. And then communities working together can co create the answers for the communities movement, in fact, so that’s one level of it. Now, within our community, we support each other to age well in similar ways, but a lot of it has to do with companionship, as I say walking together Walking with people who need accompaniment, either for mobility reasons or mental health reason, memory reasons. And, and exploring the limits of what it is that we can offer, and not being afraid to do that. And we’re starting to have the difficult conversations around death and dying as well. As we age and as more of our members become frail or have are hospitalized, for one reason or another. We’ve We’ve, yeah, we’ve only had a couple of deaths here. And in the eight years, and it’s there’s a lot that we don’t know. And that’s still a little scary to all of us. So I recently bought it, I can show this to Rebecca, because we can see each other with the people in podcast land, for your benefit. It’s a deck of playing cards called the Death deck, a lively game of surprising conversations, indeed. And it’s available at to the death no spaces, no capitals, the death Quite a fascinating exercise, which is a series of multiple choice questions. I’ve been playing it with anybody who will play some people find reasons why they can’t or just can’t fight, don’t want to do it. But it’s I’ve been playing it with my husband, who’s quite long suffering about this, and includes great questions about, you know, whether you prefer cremation interment, green burial, or a mushroom jacket in which to be buried, because apparently, that will decompose you. And whether you want your remains shot off into space, or not, if you can afford it, and so on. So some of its silly, a lot of it is really helpful to talk to access the stuff that I can’t, haven’t been able to talk with my children about even, or my partner. So we have the opportunity living here to demystify aging, the death and dying and to support each other by learning together to deal with. Yeah, everything from how to access retirement benefits to how to deal with grieving.

Rebecca Mesritz 42:37
So, you know, I guess as both for your community and for people listening, when you come together, and you start thinking about creating the plan for aging, what are some of the elements that people should be thinking about, including in that plan? And what would a good plan include?

Margaret Critchlow 43:01
And this is something that I teach about in the course that I offer through the foundation for intentional community, which has just been renamed and I’m having a hard time holding on to the name. I think it’s exploring community for aging. Well, right now, it has all those words in it anyway. Aging Well, community exploring. And I think it’s very valuable to create a plan. Whether or not you can flip that plan out exactly the way you create it. You probably can’t, right. I mean, how many plans have you ever made that you’ve carried out exactly to the letter the way you designed them in the first place? And you know, harbourside cohousing turned out pretty much the way we thought pretty much. I mean, it’s it’s a three story apartment building, and it’s six other buildings. But in many, many ways it varied from the plan. And there were these oops, moments where the fire departments didn’t, you can’t do that, you have to give us a place where we can turn the fire truck around. So you know, it led to a redesign of how we would do that. Anybody’s plan for aging is going to be like that as well. But I am a believer in the value of planning in any case. And as I teach in my fic course, I worked with graduate students, I was once a graduate student that I worked with a lot with graduate student research planning. So designing your PhD thesis, right. And in anthropology that involves fieldwork. And that may involve going deep into Toronto, as some people do to study housing cooperatives, or it may involve going to Zimbabwe or find a way out to where I worked in the South Pacific and living in a remote village and really wandering, having no idea what it will be like to be there. So that plan that I developed to research Vanuatu had many moving parts, and they were always changing and always had Having B to be redefined. And it’s in that process of changing developing your plan in the first place that I believe equips you. And this includes a plan for aging. Well, it equips you to revise your plan and to adapt and to be resilient when the unexpected happens, which is what we’re all in for, I’m sure. So your aging well plan, I think begins with looking at where, where I’m where I am now, what my mobility level is, what my family history is, and my life is, I mean, my mother also had two hip replacements, my grandfather would have if they’d been invented yet. So I could see this was likely in my future, and you know, about 2010. And so I wanted a place where I could always have step free living, which I’ve got no problem, my aging plan included, putting in the tracking, it can’t even see it now, inside the ceiling, to put a lift from the bedroom bed, actually, to the bathroom, if that was necessary. So as I said, you can’t see a thing, but the backing is in the ceiling, which would have been, I want to say impossible, or at least very difficult to put in after the fact. And for a pretty reasonable amount, you could put it in during constructions over boom up in the ceiling. So we put in that sort of thing. And the bathrooms of harbourside were all designed to be big enough for wheelchair turning radius. They’re not you know, we have a cupboard where we would need to have a wheelchair turning right now. But if we needed it, we could change it very quickly is nothing fundamental in the design. So I think that’s analogous to the plan for Ageing, well, you know, design it in a way that you can replace the different parts with other things, you know, but that, that the scaffolding or the main structure of that plan will serve you well. And for me, it starts with, what’s my mobility? likely to be? I mean, what’s if we look at family history, what you know, what took you? What took your parents to the home? Or the grave? And, and what is your own lifestyle? And you know, are you likely to fall off a ladder, because you’re picking Apple, apples in the orchard every day? That sort of thing. But then look at your home, what works for you the way you live now? What doesn’t work for you the way you live? Now? What might work better? If you’re living in a single family home? How much space do you really need? Because most people I’m guessing in your listening audience, certainly in the fairly privileged world that I live in. Most people have us who have a single family home have more space than they need right now unless they’re raising young children, in which case they hit don’t have anywhere near as much space as they need. So for the over 50s, I would say look at where you live. Now. Start now, do not put this off, and so easy to put off. And and look at what space you need, what you have now that you don’t need, or that you could share. I do not need a slow cooker. Right? I could share that with my neighbors. I use a slow cooker maybe four or five times a year. Some people use them every day. I know that or an Insta pot. But I know what I use and don’t use. I know what I could do with less of books, paper, anybody the screens this surgery screens in. If any of you see a video from this podcast, you will see that I have carefully screened out my messy bookshelves. So you can do all sorts of things in a small space with a little creativity. The aging plan also includes I think the things that you’ve always wanted to do and if put off doing, why. Why not now, for me, that includes a lot of personal growth work a lot of going on retreats to places or workshops, just because I’m so curious, and I just want to be fully the full person that I can be. For others. It’ll be cruises in the Caribbean. Why not? One of our founding harvests I’d found deer harvested founding members passed away on a cruise, you know, and what a great way to go. She was exactly doing what she wanted to do. Oh too soon, but but do it you know, do it. What don’t delay. So I would say live fully into your life. Look at your house. Consider getting rid of a lot of stuff. Consider what it would be like to grow old where you live now. If you couldn’t drive for many of us in North America. That’s a big, sobering consideration, shall we say? Harvest site is walkable to the whole everything our little town offers, which is not everything. But you know if there’s two grocery stores, a couple of drugstore, three drugstores library or good nice library, nice community hall banks, doctor’s offices, coffee shops, restaurants and so on. And I can walk to a whole array of those not everything, but a whole array of them in 10 minutes, is a bit of uphill. This is good. And many of us walk to the shops or the whatever’s every day as part of just our daily exercise or, and or down to the waterfront and do a loop every day through the woods and the boardwalk. Is your home walkable like that? Is it located? What’s the wall? You know, there’s something called the Walk Score, which tells you how convenient your home is to communities. It’s a it’s an app and look up your Walkscore ours is about 75, I think, but the one that cohousing in Sydney is like a 90. It’s really close to everything and it’s flat. Some cranberry Commons in Burnaby is also about a 95 or something like that. It’s just everything is right there. So consider is what do you want as you get older? And that question, what do you want is one that a Hungarian teacher of mine drilled into my brain, she wasn’t teaching me Hungarian, she just happened to be Hungarian. And so she used to say, what do you find? And so yeah, if I do find, it really makes a difference. First of all, you have to know what you want. And that means you have to think about getting older. So that’s, that’s part of the challenge, I think in creating a good aging plan. And in the course, the next round of it is that starts the 23rd of June and runs weekly on one day a week, I want to say Fridays,

Margaret Critchlow 52:01
in the morning, Pacific Time, that course walks us all together through the various steps to create an aging plan. And you can you can create as detailed as plan as you want. Nobody’s going to collect it at the end. But it’s a great opportunity to workshop it, really take notes and start to delve into what it is that you want, as you get older and what you don’t want. And sometimes knowing what you don’t, I used to teach that. Don’t focus on what you don’t want. Nobody ever gives the taxi driver or the Uber driver directions saying the one thing I don’t want is I don’t want to go to the Empire State Building. Don’t take me there. Nobody says that. Right? So I used to think that you shouldn’t you should focus only on what you do want, not what you don’t want. But a student in my class, the last time I offered the course on planning for aging, well, students said, Well, why do you why do you say that because in fact, if I know what I don’t want, it really helps me to see what I do want. And I thought yeah, there’s a real truth to that. So if you’re a contrary thinker, like that student, think about what you don’t want, and it will help you to visualize what you do want. So however it works for you think your way into a plan that includes a future in which you have less mobility and possibly, but I really hope, not, less mental capacity. So and if you’re in your home, it’s in the country is beautiful, the maybe you designed it yourself, it’s got everything you ever wanted. And the gardening is amazing. And you’re out in the garden every morning and you just love it. Think about what that might be like for you in 10 years, especially if you can’t drive to the grocery store. And the biggest risk for all of us as we get older is social isolation. And the North American pattern of single family living, and I must say of individualism are both death sentences to us and certainly impair our capacity to live well in our later years. So your aging plan, I believe, needs to include a proactive approach to social connection. Because I mean, the studies or the research is out there. The studies show very clearly that social isolation is as big a mortality risk as smoking, heavy smoking, the kind that can kill you. So why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we believe that we don’t need help? We’re better off alone. Don’t really like people that much anyway. I have a I have friends that are just not here. I have lots of friends who are scattered all over the country and we zoom and sometimes we get together. Yeah, and And who’s there? You know, to give you a shoulder to cry on once in a while, who’s there to laugh themselves silly with you? Who’s there to walk with you and listen to bird songs? Or the sound of the waves? Who’s there to talk out a tricky issue in social relationships? Who’s there to clear with you, the confrontations that you get yourself into that kind of social connection? Who’s there just even to look into your eyes, you know, and help you find the spectra got in there? Nobody right? So what, what will serve you better and meet your needs as maybe an introvert but someone who nevertheless needs social connection, we we have occasionally checked with the community and done on one of these continuum where you stand up on two to extremes so you know, far corner everybody who considers themselves a profound extrovert. They never met somebody they didn’t like they’re really outgoing. And this corner over here, all the introverts, well, this corner over here in our community is chock a block full of people actually, they don’t want to get that close to each other would be in that corner if they could all fit right. A huge number of introverts self identify it as attracted to cohousing. And that may be true and other intentional communities as well, I don’t know, but it’s really noticeable in cohousing communities, maybe because we’re, we’re not. I think we are intentional communities. Some people here would debate that. But we’re certainly not communities that share an awful lot of values, we really just believe that living together is going to be better than for each of us than living apart. So that’s our commitment. And we believe that growing old together will be better than growing old in our single family homes. That’s it. But even so, we’re drawn to, to community and connection, and we recognize the importance of social connection, because isolation is not going to serve any of us well. Does that cover what you wanted to cover?

Rebecca Mesritz 57:08
I think so. Yeah. I mean, just hearing the Yeah, I mean, even if there’s not a lot of shared values, the value of companionship, you know, and being seen and being held together feels really, really solid. And all of that. Yeah. Yeah, it is.

Margaret Critchlow 57:33
And it’s, it’s also a sort of an uneven terrain, or difficult to navigate sometimes, because some people here really value authentic connection. And that can mean speaking very, frankly, very directly with each other. And others really value polite connection, and not saying really what I think, but, you know, being a being nice keeping the piece and that sort of thing. So we have quite a bit of work around communications, and the different styles that we have, we’re all pretty much you know, within a 3035 year age range, we’re all pretty. Not Brown, let’s put it that way, degrees of whiteness, degrees of middle class SNESs. So there’s not a lot of visible diversity in our community. There’s a huge amount of diversity that is invisible, in terms of how we think what matters to us, what we think is proper communication and polite, and what we what we think matters in how we live together and community. And that’s fertile ground to work with. And it’s, it’s one of the challenges is where the challenges and community for me come from. And I think that to Rebecca is still more stimulating than the home, then the care facility where everything is done for you. You don’t even have to think about what you’re going to cook, right? If you can think about what you’re going to eat, but it’s from a menu that is laid there laid out there for you. And the rough edges in our community, the difficulties in navigating it, the challenging people who show up and sometimes those challenging people are me. They all give us huge opportunities for growth and connection. And I think it helps to keep us mentally alive and and, and really high functioning. working it out finding ways to make decisions together by consensus is not easy, right? And in the home that doesn’t happen at a dear friend who ended up in a home on Salt Spring Island not far from here. And he was fine. It was in his early 80s at the time and he was so mentally, totally fine. Here’s another also an anthropology professor, which is how I knew them. He and his wife had worked in New Guinea and really tough area to do their field research for many years, same community, they were well loved in that community and loved them back, is named as David. And when David found himself in the care facility, his only problem was he just lost it lost his sight. So he was severely visually impaired, but not otherwise impaired. And he, he said, I’m losing my mental ability, by the minute, he said, because there’s no decisions, there are no decisions for me to make. There’s nothing I have to think about. Everything is decided for me, you know, when I’m going to get up, when I’m going to go to bed, what I’m going to eat, where I’m going to eat it, who I’m going to play. And he said, it was bingo, I think, which was hard for him after playing bridge for many years. It was all taken care of. And that makes it too easy. So I think the struggles that come in, you probably have in your community too. I think that we all have struggles in community. It’s not easy, right? But I’m really increasingly sure that hard is not bad. Heart is actually good for us. So hard is good. And that’s part of what we do on a daily basis is is work through the hard stuff. Well,

Rebecca Mesritz 1:01:25
so I would love to I mean, there’s another side of this conversation that that I want to address, which is, you know, it’s kind of about this hard stuff is that it for our community that’s mostly comprised of elders, people who are in their 60s 70s 80s 90s, hopefully, hundreds. There’s a certain set of needs and a way of communicating, but I’m also aware of multigenerational communities that have younger people in in those communities as well. And even in a community where you have someone who’s 60. And then, you know, they’re still rockin rock in their life. They don’t need extra health care. They don’t need extra support, really, they’re still doing themselves. And then you have someone who’s in their 80s or 90s, who maybe has had a decline. You know, just how can younger people support the elders in their community and what are the I think even beyond cohousing? You know, I’m trying to think of like the big picture for community what, what are the roles and the responsibilities of the youngers? Versus what are the roles and responsibilities of the elders? And how to what are some ways that you’ve learned through both your community and talking with others? That the twain shall meet? Younger people younger people can show up for the elders and also Yeah, be mindful of their own energy I guess. And their own with their with their being asked.

Margaret Critchlow 1:03:16
Yeah, yeah, yeah. youngers and the elders. And that is a whole nother side to this conversation. And it’s, I think it’s a great opportunity. If you have family, living in community, older family, living in community, and you are yourself a younger, either in community or in another community or not living in community at all. It is an opportunity to work with those elders in a new way, maybe for us. And that is making sure that the agency or the ability to make the decisions rests with the elders, and for the youngers to support that with and recognizing that that’s a gift to the younger people, that they don’t have to make decisions for their elders, that they can, that we all make decisions for ourselves. And we can all support each other to make good decisions. And I think that’s true, whatever the age, different sort of, you know, when we work together and community to make a decision, we’re always trying to make the best support each other to make the best decision that we can, given the information that we have, for that moment for that community. So in working with your elders, as a younger person, I think it’s the same thing. We’re all in this to the best possible quality of life for all of us. And the younger people can support that for older people without being either too. Hands off or too hands on. So you’re asked I think as younger people to walk a very The fine line in a sense, or a path, it’s not always easy to discern, that provides support when it’s needed. But hands off when it’s not. And many younger people dealing with older parents will be familiar with raising children. You know, not everybody has children, for sure. But everybody wants was one. And, you know, you can remember back to being a child, if you don’t have children, and that dance between I do it myself, or, you know, help me help me, you know, I want to be lifted up. So that’s what your job is, I think as a younger person dealing with elder people is discerning, when it is that help is wanted or needed, even when the elder person may not be able to identify it. And the In contrast, when you don’t tell them what to do, and don’t, don’t over help, I had an interesting conversation with a friend here recently, in which she expressed concern about kind of over helping each other at Harbor side. And a fear that our children will do that for us, right, that they will move us moves on, when we’re not really ready to move, they will think, oh, that, you know, that Margaret, she needs to be in the home because she’s making some bad decisions these days, and I’m afraid she’s gonna burn the place down. You know, an older person leaves the kettle on once and they’re toast around, you know, with their kids, like, they’re in so much trouble with their kids. Whereas if you ever left the kettle on, you know, we all have. So when there’s that fear that I think she was articulating or concern anyway, that young people will be on us and move us and make us do whatever that is that they think is good for us. So advice to younger people is listen, and, you know, step in when wanted, and, and listen well, because the flip side of overwhelming of moving someone into the home when they’re not, they don’t want to go. The other side of that is under helping and we’re having some challenges with that, from time to time at harbourside, where family for example, or whoever is the next of kin for household. Maybe they just don’t want to see what’s going on with mom and dad. It’s too hard to believe or whatever. They’re not here enough. But there’s a certain sense of, of reluctance to step up. And, and that puts the rest of us in the CO care, part of harbourside in a tricky position, because we’re not, we’re not here instead of family. You know, we’re neighborly mutual support, family plays a key role. So they, the other side of overwhelming would be under helping. And so being just tuned in listening, having those conversations, like really talking to each other younger people and older people. I’ve had some wonderful conversations when I was a young woman with some old people, both in Virginia, and in fun to want to write about what it’s like to be old. And you know, what, and what their advice is, to me, as a young woman, it was to get out there and do everything I wanted to do and let nothing stop me, which I think was what they had done or wish they had done. And, you know, my ability to learn from them was great. And to see that they were still living really vital, full lives, just with less ability to run around fast, or even run around for that matter. But but a huge mental capacity and an accumulated wisdom. So listening to each other having the conversations are both really priceless. And I think also younger people the younger people can do a lot in terms of the latter like round here. We love younger people to come in and do ladders ladder work for us. We really prefer not to be up ladders, we do. Some people here do it. But it’s, you know, it’s not the smart thing to do, in my opinion. We do have one woman my age who still prunes the trees, apple trees, and there’s no changing her mind. But younger people are great for that. The problem is most younger people in our world are working really hard and don’t have any time. And so elders have more time but less physical ability. So trade off in that department, right? Childcare resources, something where the elders can be quite helpful as long as it’s within their capacity. So you know, there’s a lot of that goes on around here we have the sound of children all the time around here because of The number of grandchildren in during COVID, somebody was homeschooling a grandchild here. So that’s really nice. And we’ve we’ve had a three year old living here for quite a period of time. So the the young, the really young, and the old, often are a good combination.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:10:22
Yeah, I mean, I think part of what this touches into, for me as a, as a younger person that’s been in community with people who are older, is that there is a, there’s a difficulty. A lot of people who are aging, getting a little bit older, don’t really want to talk about or look at sometimes the realities or as like a younger person, it’s not that we think they’ve got one foot in death’s door or anything like that. But there appears to be a lack of a plan or a lack of a program or lack of, you know, either financial, having your affairs in order or having your health plan figured out for, for what appears to be an impending health crisis based on everything that you see in that person. And I mean, I think it’s one thing if it’s your I mean, obviously, if, if you’re talking about someone that’s in your family, then there’s a certain kind of pressure to help that person. But if if it’s someone that’s in your community that’s older, that maybe doesn’t have a family, and they don’t want to talk about it. I mean, we’ve been in this situation, I’ve been in this situation where someone that I care very much about but doesn’t seem to be necessarily having a plan for themselves. And it kind of leaves the community to wonder, well, what do you think is our responsibility? What is your responsibility? You know, these conversations are just so can be very difficult. And I’m wondering, yeah, what what your recommendations are for how to talk about these, particularly with someone who is maybe resistant to, to recognizing what a reality that everyone sees around them, but they’re, like, no, nothing to see here. I’m fine.

Margaret Critchlow 1:12:30
I’m fine. I’m fine. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, for one thing, we started with a community of people here who were willing to get out of denial. One of the striking things in creating harvests I was how few local people join. It was a surprise. In fact, one of the big surprises was local people were not joining harbourside, the people who are close friends, including including the two with whom I got the idea of to hatch, harbourside didn’t join, getting out of denial. It’s really tough, right? about aging. And we have a family doctor who is a member of our retired family doctors, a member of harbourside. And she said, Yep, people are in denial, in denial, in denial, they don’t get out of denial, they’re not ready to move, they’re not ready to make a plan until it’s too late. And it’s a pattern. So I think living in community, we have the opportunity to break patterns and to have insight into our patterns. And so you have the opportunity in that situation that you describe Rebecca to Yeah, it’s hard, but to have those conversations, and if the person in question won’t have them with you to have them with the people that they’re close to, like, who’s their family, have them that we’ve done that recently, here’s to say, you know, this is, this is the care that we can provide, lay it out for you, this is what we can do. And this is all the rest, it’s the big part. And we don’t do that. And, you know, you need to talk to the family doctor, you need to talk we need to find a care facility and find out what the availability is, you need to get a good assessment, you know, caseworker and so on. So one thing that you can do is to find out as a younger member of the community, who the members, you know, what, what, what the what your community offers, not your your community, per se, but the town say, or the rural area, wherever you live, what are the steps that someone can take? So for example, in the early days here, we had a nurse come in, or no, it’s actually the same retired family doctor, but we’re now having a nurse come in and work with us all to complete a document called My wishes, which was end of life care document. This is what I want, if I’m not able to, uh, A 10 My own affairs, I’m designating this person. And then you have legal documents associated that you have to draw up about Power of Attorney enduring power of attorney, there are just plain old things you can pieces of paper you can fill out, that forced the conversation if you like. And it’s something really that you could do as a community with young people too. Because who knows when a crisis will strike? Right? I mean, I It’s a very moving class I went to led by one of the dancing two of the dancing rabbit community members about a death in their community was a 31 year old. Right? They were totally unprepared for this. But you can do this as a as a group. And I think it would raise young people’s awareness of what it’s like to look at death, which we tend to separate our young people out from now. And we’re young people are not exposed to death the way they would have been in the 19th century when the body was laid out on the kitchen table, you know. So it’s a chance for all of us to demystify aging and dying. And to have those frank conversations. I would count on somebody saying to me, I will I do, if I’m starting to lose it, you know, my kids would, I believe would tell me, and they might joke with me about it. But they would also, you know, let it be known Gee, Mom, it seems like you’re being more forgetful than ever. The absent minded professors gone to new levels. And we wonder whether harbourside is going to be a good place for you to stay. We’ve got to be able to talk about it. And your community otherwise is going to be in a very difficult position. You want to throw somebody out after they’ve been there all that time? Because their needs are greater than you can meet? No, probably not. Right? And then it was exactly

Rebecca Mesritz 1:16:49
it. I mean, that’s exactly the feeling is like, we love you. And this is like it is like a family in many ways. And we care about you. And also, there has to be how do you have those like, we need you to have more self responsibility, or there’s only so much that we can do. And I think that puts that weird position where you feel like where you feel like an obligor a sense of obligation. And you don’t want to be operating from a sense of obligation. It’s,

Margaret Critchlow 1:17:32
it’s not joyful. No, that’s right. And then and then it becomes inauthentic. And then that’s a slippery slope right there. So yeah, I think as difficult as the conversations are, they need to be had, and it needs some sort of a plan. I know one community were the first person who grew really old and unable to work because they were dependent, they needed people to all work. The first person who reached that threshold, they were able to get just support financially like to give a bit of a stipend to buy his groceries, that sort of thing. And then they went, oh my god, we can’t do this for other people. And so then there were three or four people at that age and then what so planning it and anticipating it and being real about what you can and cannot offer. Super important because I think in many not cohousing communities but other kinds of intentional communities. It’s not just that the person may become they’re not being self responsible. They’re not able to contribute to the community that where they used to, but the you need people who can contribute to the community, in a people who can do the work the community depends on it. So it’s tricky. It can any village in Vanuatu Can, can get by with a certain number of really dependent on people have for a certain number of years, right? But there’s a limit. And then and then what right? Nobody gets set out on an ice floe in Vanuatu, because, you know, ice flows, perhaps. But they’re, and they’re kind to their elders. But there does come a point where you can see the patients, you can see, oh, God, you know, this is getting hard. And so for us, we have the ability to have a good conversation about it, we have the ability to call in medical support, even free medical, you know, subsidized medical support, at least here. And and I don’t know, it’d be very concerned, where you live if someone didn’t have some sort of health plan, and some sort of plan for the future. So there’s no I don’t have an easy answer to it. But I do believe in the value of the conversations.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:19:47
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don’t I don’t think there’s easy answers, especially because probably most of this is on a bit of a case by case community by community basis. I think the other thing that we’ve kind of touched on a little bit that I just want to dive into a little bit more is really around this idea. You know, the eventuality for some people have dementia diminished cognitive function, Alzheimer’s. And this is a part of aging for a great number of people in North America, and probably the world. And I wonder if communities should or could support folks if as illness become severe? Or is that the kind of thing where I mean, again, you would want to have a professional diagnosis and professional support. But how do you see communities being able to support people through that journey of diminished function?

Margaret Critchlow 1:21:02
There’s a wonderful podcast. That was a radio show by a woman named Karen wells, k r. I n wells. She did a documentary radio documentary about harbourside, two of them, actually, that was very good. And she did one, I can’t come up with the name of it offhand. But about a community in Denmark that was designed to, to include people living with dementia. And it’s a wonderful exploration of how far you can go in community living to accommodate people with different cognitive capacities. They’re there the Danish approach to dementia, as documented in that recording anyway, which is on its it’s findable through the Canadian Broadcasting Company, CBC is to have a lot more freedom than we would be comfortable with. Yeah, there are people, people with dementia get lost. But they get found in Denmark, and bad things seemingly don’t happen to them. But they speak of a man who just loved his daily walk in the woods. And so they just equipped him with a GPS and off he went. And that, you know, once in a while he would get lost, and they’d have to go find him, but mostly found his way back, it was a very different approach that say, a comfort with risk to what North American society is used to. What can we do in community with dementia, we’re just beginning to learn, we’re just beginning to learn as we live into it. And one thing I think that stands out, in my experience at Harbor side, is the willingness of people to live with their own risk of hurting themselves, and the families of those people to accept that. So we have, you know, a woman who takes a walk every day with her walkers down to the waterfront, going off like it’s pretty rough terrain, some of the places that she goes with that, walk her through the woods, and then down onto the boardwalk in the water and back up. And the family. Like, yeah, we have, you know, we’re letting that we’re not going to stop her from doing that. Because it means the world to her. So this is a place where people who have a heart of people living at Harborside have a pretty high tolerance for risk. I think it’s fair to say, I certainly am seeing it that way. Others might, I don’t want to just put in the disclaimer that if you had anybody else from my community doing this podcast, you get a different story, right? Because we all have our own stories. But my story is that, that the freedom to go up to do the things that someone loves being out in nature is priceless, and that the people who do that are willing to take the risk of hurting themselves. And the families of those people are willing to live with those risks. You know, knowing that mom may crash with her walker in the woods and she might lie there for a while before anybody found her is a risk that I’m sure it’s uncomfortable, but this is bearable because the restraining her to quarters which did have to happen during COVID is not something that is worse. It’s worse. It’s just worse. There are limits though, around what we can do to support people with dementia. It limits around how much companionship we can give. There are limits around how much respite care we can provide if that person has a partner. What we’re mainly doing is trying to support people that situation and their families to access the resources that can support them. Because they’re every, every community has the resources to do this. And it’s it takes that kind of community to come in to the mix, we do worry about the danger of fire, for example. But we’re sprinklered, at least the apartment building is so it, you know, whatever happens, it would be contained, it’s not what we want to see happen. And, and we’re because we care about each other. We’re concerned about how people are like, their mental health, but not just the cognitive mental health or happiness factor, you know, how, how hard this is, for people have really, really challenging it is to be the person experiencing dementia, and to be a caregiver for someone like that. And to provide the kind of community support that we can as friends, but that’s the limit of it. We’re not a locked ward, and we never will be right, we’re very insecure. In that sense, you know, even the whole buildings, parts of our building are locked and other other parts are not locked, and anybody could go wandering off at any time. And it’s a worry, it’s a worry. And you know, people have those necklaces that you wear to call for help and lifeline are something that’s called and are setting it off inadvertently. And so the ambulance is coming. And it’s it adds to the stress for sure. No easy answers at all, but involving the family, the next of kin, and us as neighbors, in the capacity that we’re that we remain comfortable in as neighbors. And knowing when we’ve hit the wall. And using like self responsibility is as something is, I think, extremely important. Being self responsible is extremely important. But it’s it’s it’s often used as a blunt instrument in community, in my experience, it’s like, self responsibility is important that you are not being self responsible. So it’s a it’s a charge, right? Guilty as charged, you are not being self responsible. So I try to work with my own self responsibility, and my own boundaries. And I think boundaries are just as important as knowing well, that actually this is my limit. This is as far as I can go as a member of the CO care team, offering community support. That’s it. And to be clear with family members, particularly that this you know, we love this person to, and we are, you know, we will remain friends. And this is the limit of our helping ability for this week, or this month or ever, right? This these are the lines, and that that those those boundaries are where we meet. And so knowing what the boundary looks like and where it is, and that it’s shifting all the time, but only in these sorts of ways. And beyond this, you all need to find a way to provide the resources that your loved one needs. So your community member must have somebody else in their lives, either in the community or outside the community, who could be involved in decision making. And if they don’t, then I think connecting with the healthcare system, legal system to provide this fine, find the support that they need. And that’s where people often need help is in navigating that system. We’re fortunate to have some community members really well placed to help us navigate that system. And a couple of them gave a talk to the community a few weeks ago about exactly that, is how do you get care? You know, because they had brought in really excellent care for their family member in our community. And so how do we get what you have? Because it looks like it’s working really well. That was priceless. So draw on your own resources, I would say. I love that.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:29:10
Well, I think my my final question for you is like kind of ended a lot of my conversations in this way is you know, who Who do you see out there that is doing this really well. I mean, it sounds like you’ve got some things figured out over at Harbor side. But are there other communities that you’ve seen that are rocking it and and what does it look like when when a community is doing a really good job with supporting people to age? An age? Well?

Margaret Critchlow 1:29:42
Um, there’s a community in Virginia, Abingdon, Virginia, I think it is called elder spirit. That’s been around a long time now. And they, they seem to be rocking it. I had someone from their community in my class last term, aging class, they have a community that seems to work really well both on property, as they say on this on a site or on campus, they may say, an off campus, but in the same town, so some people living in private homes, but they see him from the outside, they have a huge sense of community connection, of mutual support, and the ability to live really well into well, all for the rest of their lives. I don’t know what it is about that particular community, I know it’s been well researched. There’s a researcher named and P glass GLA s s, who’s written extensively about that community. And so if I read that stuff, when we were starting harbor son, she’s continued to write about it. I would suggest if you’re wanting to start a community, or even join a community that’s focused on aging in place that looking at elder spirit, it’s a good place to start. There’s a community I kind of think of as our sister community across the strait of Juan de Fuca from us in Port Townsend, Washington called Quimper village that puts out a monthly I think its monthly or regular newsletter anyway. And they seem to be doing a great job to it and what is what is a great job look at to me, people are enjoying living there, they’re active, they’re staying engaged with life and with each other, they’re doing a lot of stuff together, they’re having a lot of fun together, they’re learning together. And they’re in as much as possible in charge of their lives. They’re not maybe my bias shows here, but like submitting to authority, they’re not letting other people take care of themselves, right, or not letting other people take care of them. They’re taking care of themselves, but with all this, all the support that they need, bringing in getting being proactive for themselves. They’re being self responsible. And they’re also being really connected with each other. And with the larger world. I think harbor side is doing a pretty darn good job, all things considered. We’re still building the airplane while we fly it, which is how it felt during development. And it still feels that way. We could use more active people who want to aid their to engage in active learning and aging of the sort that I’ve been describing. There is a concern that we’re only attracting older people, like at sign up. And, you know, for for succession planning, we really need to have younger people in the community. And we love having younger people in the community having a young man wife and three year old was fantastic. We had that for about six months, she was working a government job from home, he was taking care of the house and a little girl. And it was just a huge boost to the community. And so we don’t have an age restriction. We would love to have anybody living here who wants to be living in and living in and contributing to community. And so I think there’s a huge future for community aging. In multigenerational communities where there’s a willingness to support each other both the the older people supporting the younger ones, and the younger ones with the older ones. There’s some far eco village type farming communities that are doing that quite well too in our area. So there are models out there. It’s but the thing is, it’s each one is different. And it’s living into the peculiarities of your own community. That is the challenge and the opportunity. So as I said hard is not bad. And using self responsibility to make myself better and more responsible rather than accusing other people of not having it and having the hard conversations and developing a plan and then being willing to change it are all keys I think to aging well together in community. Well,

Rebecca Mesritz 1:34:32
Margaret Critchlow thank you so much for taking this time to talk to me about about aging and I’m really looking forward to yeah, having these conversations here in my own community about some of the things that we’ve talked about today. So thank you for shedding light on a lot of this for us.

Margaret Critchlow 1:34:54
Good for you, Rebecca. That’s great to hear and it’s been a pleasure talking with you

Rebecca Mesritz 1:35:04
Margaret Critchlow will be teaching a five-week course starting on June 23. Through the foundation for intentional community, entitled exploring community for aging well, for listeners of the show, you can use coupon code inside 30 for 30% off. I also have a coupon code inside 20. If you want to check out the fic bookstore, there are tons of books on how to start a cohousing, how to build community and all kinds of topics related to community life. So check out the bookstore, you can find links for that. Links for the courses all in the show notes as well as all of the links that Margaret mentioned in the show today. You can follow the show and see inspiring images and videos of community life on Facebook and Instagram at inside community podcast. I would love to hear from you there. Please reach out drop me a line let me know any questions or ideas you have about things that you want to learn about. While I definitely appreciate any donations to the show, you can also support by rating reviewing, subscribing, sharing all the things so please help us to get the word out by taking a moment and sending this on to a friend or someone that you think might be interested in joining you and your journey to living inside community. Thank you so much for being with me today.

Dave Booda 1:36:33
Who left the dishes in the shared kitchen sink? Who helps her Johnny when is too much to drink? How do we find a way for everyone to agree? That Sinsa Can you it’s a podcast y’all

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The Inside Community Podcast brings folks along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. We provide useful and inspiring content to support people on their quest for resilience, sustainability, and connection.

Meet Your Host

Inside Community Podcast host Rebecca Mesritz is a community builder living in Williams, Oregon.  In 2011, Rebecca co-founded the Emerald Village (EVO) in North County San Diego, California.  During her ten years with EVO, she supported and led numerous programs and initiatives including implementation and training of the community in Sociocracy, establishment of the Animal Husbandry program, leadership of the Land Circle, hosting numerous internal and external community events, and participation in the Human Relations Circle which holds the relational, spiritual and emotional container for their work. 

In June of 2021, with the blessing of EVO, Rebecca and 3 other co-founders relocated to begin a new, mission- driven community and learning center housed on 160 acres of forest and farmland.  Rebecca is passionate about communal living and sees intentional community as a tool for both personal and cultural transformation. In addition to her work in this field, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University and creates functional, public, and interactive art in metal, wood, and pretty much any other material she can get her hands on. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a nurturer of gardens, an epicurean lover of sustainable wholesome food, and a cultivator of compassion and beauty.

The Inside Community Podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC). Reach out if you are interested in sponsorship or advertisement opportunities on the podcast.

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