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life in rural nebraska

Neglecting the Elderly

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The NYT’s has a touching read on life for the elderly in rural America.  Especially during this winter storm, I worry about my grandparents who both live in rural communities and are now limited because of age.  I worry because many rural communities are falling apart around them and the assistance they now need is unavailable.  Read on:

gerontologists and psychologists say, is that people who have managed to reach great age in a tough environment have, in turn, been toughened by the experience.

Frank Robinson, 92, embodies that life. He had to quit school at 16 and take over the family farm, near Oshkosh, upon the death of his father in 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression. He said he remembered times when the cash economy had all but broken down in rural Nebraska and barter was the only way to put food on the table — trading milk and cream from the family’s cows for what others in town had to spare. He worked the land for the next 61 years until retiring and moving into town in 1994.

“I don’t see how these towns keep on going,” he said, sitting ramrod straight in a housing-project meeting room, a feed-store cap on his head. “Years ago on a Saturday, Main Street was filled solid with people, and there was two or three cafes to eat at — it might be 10, 11 o’clock before they went home,” he said. “Now on Main Street on Saturday, there’s nothing.”

I know when I look at my community, some of those needs have been tackled or in the process of being addressed.  We have many of the services that are required for the elderly, yet I would agree we’re not all the way there yet.   I hope that one aspect of our New Neighborhoods project addresses the specific housing needs for older residents.  I also have a tremendous amount of pride when I look around town and see a community that does not fit Frank’s assessment of Oshkosh.  I see a community with a vibrant today and a brighter tomorrow.

In all the hoopla of the school bond vote, our economic development strategy aimed at young people, and sadly my general worldview, the elderly are often swept to the side more times than is acceptable.

In this Christmas season, please remember those wizened folks around you.

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Written by Caleb

December 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm

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