How Seniors Fit Into MCs—Estelle Tells
an article by our site
Number of families: 7
Total number of children: 8
Number of adults: 13
Total number of individuals: 21
a. 75m, 74f, 50m, 51f, 30m, 29f, 6m, 6f, 8f
b. 48f, 35f, 11f
f. 39f 7m, 5f
g. 37f 8f, 6m
Economic factors: middle class
Hi. I'm a 75-year-old senior citizen. I'm happy as a lark. I joined an MC about eight months ago and it was one of the smartest things I ever did. My name is Estelle Reid and my MC has seven households. There are eight children, all over five years old plus 13 adults ranging in age from 24 to 75. My daughter and her husband also live in my MC with their 11-year-old daughter. Our MC is an interesting combination of households. I live alone and two other older singles also live alone. We have two single mothers who live with their children; one mother is the daughter of one of the elder males. We also have one big four-generation family consisting of two great-grandparents, their son and his wife who are grandparents, their son and his wife and their three children.
One thing that really makes me happy is that I can live here independently, and at the same time have a lot of security. If I should have any health or physical problems, not only do I have family that will take care of me, I also have everyone in the whole MC to rally assistance if I should need it. In addition, if I ever become old and feeble (which I do not intend to do), I can continue to live here with the security that I'll be looked after, just like we all take care of the children now.
Another terrific asset of MC living is having friends and family right here, just a few steps away. I spend a lot of time with my grandchildren and the other children in the MC, and I also spend time with all the other people here. In fact, two of us elders who live singly knew each other before we joined the MC; and I also knew the couple who is living with their children in the extended family. We used to get together and sometimes wished that we could live nearer each other without actually living together, but none of us had the wherewithal to up and move. So when this MC thing started happening, it was the perfect solution for us—live near each other so we could get together easily, but live independently.
Our MC is on a block with a lot of different types of houses. It was a perfect fit for our group because we have all sizes of households. Some of us rent; others bought their new homes. It's a neighborhood that has both older and smaller houses plus a few newer and bigger ones. Our MC center is the lower floor of my house. We remodeled slightly so that the upper and lower floors are completely separated and both parts have bath, kitchen, and other basics. It's more like a duplex now. Caregiving goes on downstairs from about noon until 8 P.M. every day. Twyla, our five-year-old, goes to kindergarten every morning and gets home at noon. She comes to the care center for lunch with the other grammar school kids. Everyone but her goes back to school and she takes a short nap. Not too long after she gets up, the 6, 7, and 8-year-olds come home from school and ready to play. Two people are always available for Twyla even if no other kids are around, and she's a delight to be with. When the other kids come home, she usually goes off to play with them, but sometimes they all want some adult attention, so two caregivers are always available, one (the primary one) right there, and the alternate (usually at home). I am one of the designated caregivers from noon to four every afternoon, except Thursdays. And each elder who is available has a daily shift (three or four hours). All the parents have their scheduled time with the kids starting at 4 P.M. or later and on the weekends because all the parents in the MC have outside jobs.
Caregiving works out really well. I enjoy the kids, and I also have outside work that I like to do, too. I've been setting up meetings and presentations for people who haven’t yet become involved in MCs, mostly describing my experience and encouraging others to register at The Big Answer and answer the questionnaire to find out who they’re compatible with. I do that on Thursdays plus Monday and Wednesday mornings. So I have my time here with the kids, my family and MC friends, and I'm active outside, which makes for a very satisfying life.
Life was pretty lonely before my MC-enhanced lifestyle. I had my volunteer work two mornings a week. But it was a big hassle to visit friends across town, or to see my daughter. She was usually working, and if she wasn't working, she was busy with every other part of her life, including her family. Now my relationship with her and her family has become very relaxed and comfortable. We can get together for five minutes if that's all the time we have, and we cover a lot more in several five-minute get-togethers a week than we ever did after several hours together. When you drive across town to see your daughter, five minutes feels terrible, like an insult. So things were always tense between us. She'd feel guilty that she didn't have the time to spend with me. And I'd feel badly because I was taking up too much of her time. Now it's perfect.
I had the same types of get-together problems with friends. We wouldn't always want to spend the whole afternoon together—maybe just an hour. But who wants to drive 30 to 45 minutes each way in order to spend an hour with a friend? Of course, your friends are worth it, but after a while the time and distance just felt like a bigger and bigger barrier. So getting together with friends usually happened only on special occasions when we could spend at least half a day together. I'd watch a lot of TV when I was alone, work in my garden, and do volunteer work. I traveled a couple of times a year to see my other children who live out of state. And they'd visit here every so often. But mostly I was alone. My children have all moved into MCs, too. And I'm glad about that. I know it's made my daughter's life here a lot more enjoyable, happy, and livable because I see it happening, so I'm sure it's doing the same for my other children. And that makes me feel good, even though I don't get to see them as often as I'd like.
I'm a pretty social person. And though I've been living alone for nearly ten years, since my husband died, and like living alone a lot, before I moved to the enhanced MC lifestyle, I missed having company. I'm finding that with MC living I can entertain spontaneously—like inviting someone to dinner at the last minute, or sometimes just getting together over separately-prepared dinners. Working in the garden, grocery shopping, and just about everything else is more fun for me with company.
I've also learned to be alone. I never have taken much time in my life to reflect. I just went from thing to thing, not really thinking about my life as a whole. Being in the MC has given me a great gift—it's made me aware of my value as a human being with a great deal of experience, and it's given me time to think about it.
I discovered this primarily with the kids. They sometimes ask me such wonderful questions. I can sometimes answer them with descriptions of my own experiences which they can apply to their lives, or sometimes when there isn't a straight answer or an experience that gets them thinking, we try to figure things out together. P.E.T. communication, the way caregiving is set up, and PSBs have really expanded my world, my ability to communicate, and to listen. I even help the kids with their homework. History can mean more to the kids when they hear how it was for the people who lived through it. I'm pretty good at a couple of foreign languages, too. It's a thrill to use so many of my talents that had been in mothballs for so long. I've rediscovered many things that I forgot! I feel good about myself.
We have a terrific garden in our MC. That's another thing that I love to do. There's always someone out there on weekends tending the vegetables, flowers, and fruit trees; and when the weather's good, you often see the elders and the kids doing something in the garden all week long. When we first looked at this block, we were concerned about the available yard space because we all wanted to have a big garden with fruit trees, etc. As on most blocks, each house had a small separate back yard. At first it looked like we wouldn't have much garden space, even when the dividing shrubbery and fences were removed. But we started doing some measuring, and what looked pretty small and cramped because about 40 per cent of the area was overgrown with blackberries, turned out to be a generous amount of space that we've turned into a wonderful outside living space. When one of the old neighbors came by after we'd cleaned up the yards, he was completely amazed. He couldn't believe how totally different the space looked.
I'm so happy with MC-enhanced living. At a healthy 75, I've got a good number of years left. And they'll probably be some of the very best in my life. I have a great deal to contribute to the world, and I intend to continue to do just that. I had always looked forward nervously to a lonely old age. I expected that I'd probably spend my last years in an impersonal nursing home where no one would care about me. Now I know that I will remain in my MC, and that is a future I can feel good about.