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Aging in Place

October 15, 2014

“Was it you?!?” Al points at the fake political sign stuck in his garden celebrating his 89th birthday. He can’t decide if he’s annoyed or amused. Al hates birthdays and that’s too bad because he’s had a ton of them.

He and his wife Sparrow live across the street from my family on a short block with seven residents nearing or over 90 years old. Since my family moved onto the block six years ago I’ve wondered why aging in place has worked here. So many original owners in this mid-century modern sub-division built their dream homes and refused to leave.

If I had to guess, my neighbors and neighborhood have a number of things going for them:

Architecture

Mid-century designs tend to lay low to the ground, eliminating steps or using short flights to move between levels. Layouts are efficient with fewer formal spaces to clean and decorate.

Planning

The neighborhood was originally built around a rabbi’s home and many of the residents belonged to the temple, creating a naturally nurturing community. The sub-division was further anchored by an elementary school and a large natural area wrapping around two sides. Although the rabbi is gone and the school has been converted into a community center, the neighborhood still feels like a special family 60 years later.

Intellectual stimulation

Many residents work or worked at the University of Wisconsin, located just down the hill. Many of us continue to go to lectures, open houses and poetry readings offered on campus.

Al hates birthdays and that’s too bad because he’s had a ton of them.

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