Dear members of AT HOME WITH GROWING OLD,
The discussion we had on older San Franciscans living alone triggered so many thoughts. Thank you for spending two hours of your time with me! It was one of my most stimulating experiences.
I was lucky to gather even more feedback in Boston at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America that I attended the day after our evening together.
As you may recall, my argument is that living alone in older age in stunning San Francisco is a breeding ground for a precarious existence, an existence often constellated by a chronic struggle to maintain or access scarce resources at many levels. I underlined the importance to break free from the micro level of analysis, the level that is confined to the personal sphere. Once we are free from a perspective that looks mostly at personal attitudes and histories, we can consider the influence of the meso and macro level of analysis. The meso level includes our relation with institutions (be it the family, religious institutions, nonprofits, city departments). The macro encompasses dynamics often beyond one’s reach, such as the market economy and globalization. It was a joy for me to witness the quick adoption of this frame of analysis by the audience. I remember hearing someone saying to the person next to them: “Hey, do not consider only the micro level! Move beyond that”
The most important lesson I gathered from you was to move beyond the mere analysis of the hardships associated to living alone in older age. Interestingly, Graham Rowles, one of the first social scientist that studied the experience of living alone in older age reiterated your subliminal message in Boston.He said that for three decades he repeated what is wrong with the system with little result. “it is like bumping against a wall” he said. Rowles said that to foster change, the best strategy is to honor what we have. Use what we have to improve what we can improve. Leverage and celebrate existing resources. Be creative and practical at the same time. This was we discussed towards the end. It was exciting to envision San Francisco as the pilot city for changes to improve the condition of older Americans living alone. In this way the knowledge on the shortcomings becomes a platform for improvement, which is exciting. Most people in the audience agreed with me on the need to work with public institutions to create change. It was exciting to have one member of the SF Long Term Care Planning Committee in the audience and to learn that Susie is part of that committee as well. I am happy and eager to continue a dialogue along those lines. I am also happy to send a printout of my dissertation to whoever is interested in learning more about my findings. You are welcome to follow my blog at elenaportacolone.com<http://elenaportacolone.com>
Please also see the article about my work at SF Gate.
Grazie grazie grazie!