Saturday, July 28, 2018

Eco-cohousing for Elders: A project dear to our hearts

One of the things that a lot of people don't get around to doing as they get into old age is to make plans for how they are going to spend the last stage of their lives. All too often, they just drift along, year after year, until one day they reach the point where they can no longer cope with the tasks of daily life and someone else has to step in and make decisions for them—frequently, decisions with which they are not at all happy.

In all the years I spent working in community health, I saw this pattern over and over again. Families, social workers, community health nurses, all faced with the dilemma of what to do with an elderly person who was no longer able to live comfortably—or even safely—in his or her own home and yet was stubbornly resisting the need to move somewhere else. And in so many cases, the solution that was eventually found was really not a happy one, from anyone's point of view. Very few of us really want to end our lives in a nursing home.

The time to plan and made decisions and come up with the sort of solutions that we are sure we shall be happy with is now, while we are still able and flexible and creative enough to think it through.

Furthermore, it is now a well-established fact that loneliness and isolation shorten lives. Like so many other species, from sparrows to wolves to elephants, we humans need a tribe. We need community. We need others around us. Yet, being modern humans with a well-developed sense of self, we also need some space and solitude, especially the introverts among us. Cohousing is the perfect solution. and since an elder cohousing community - unlike an ordinary retirement community -  is designed by the people who are going to live in it, we know we shall end up living with compatible and like-minded people.

So a few years ago, Sky and I came across the concept of eco-cohousing for elders, we knew this was the solution we wanted for ourselves. Not only is elder eco-cohousing a sensible, creative solution for how to live happily and creatively to the end of our days but, being community based, it is also eminently sustainable and ideal for our 21st Century. Pioneered in Denmark and rapidly gaining popularity in the USA and elsewhere, cohousing communities for elders provide not only the ideal blend of privacy and togetherness that intergenerational ones do but are also specially adapted to the specific needs of older people in ways that range from accessible structures to shared in-house care.

We are now part of a group that is planning our own elder eco-cohousing community in the county where we live. Right now, we are still in the early stages. I shall be setting up a separate blog, at some point, to give details and updates about all this. And I shall be announcing that here when it is ready. So watch this space…

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

'Elderwoman' Republished at Last!


In 2015, when Findhorn Press told me they were taking my book Elderwoman out of print after thirteen years, I decided to republish it myself. It has taken me all this time to get around to doing it, but finally, here it is, the second edition, with an extra chapter that I added about how it felt to turn eighty last year.

And now, as well as a paperback with a brand new (and I think much nicer) cover and a cheaper price, there is also (at last!) a Kindle version. 

Here is a link to it on Amazon.com And here is one to Amazon.co.uk.

My hope is that by now there will be a whole new generation of women crossing that midlife threshold who may find the book helpful. And if so, I hope some of them might even take time to go on Amazon and leave me a review.

Please help me spread the word!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Me - A Retrospective

Like most people, I save photographs. And like most people my age, a lot of those photographs pre-date the digital era. But of course paper deteriorates over time. Some folk who, like me, have collections of old photos in a box in the attic, are tackling the task of scanning them in order to preserve them for future generations.
Whether or not future generations will have the slightest interest in my collection I have no idea. And I certainly have neither the time nor energy to scan the hundreds of photos in that big old box.  But I decided to nominate a few categories and pick out just a few pictures in each category to be scanned for posterity.
Here, then, is the first category. Me.
1943
1948
1955
1961
1969
1975 (approx)
1985
1994
2011
2013
It feels strange to think that the further back I go, the fewer people there are who remember those earlier versions of me. But looking back at them has been fun.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Down from the Mountains


Whenever we visit Italy - which we have been doing every year for the past six or seven years - it is usually to the Mediterranean coast because I am such a lover of the sea. But Sky also has a great love of mountains. So this year, as a special treat for him, I organized a trip to the far north of Italy, to the Dolomites.
As usual, we came overland - train from London to Paris, Paris to Zurich and then down into Italy, watching with fascination as Alpine Switzerland gradually morphed into Alpine Italy. I had often wondered what it would be like to live in that border country. So we rented an apartment for a week in the beautiful little town of Ortisei, nestled in a valley between majestic mountains, where everybody lives in gorgeous, Tyrolean-style gingerbread houses bedecked with flowers and you would swear you are on a set for The Sound of Music and yet people are speaking Italian. However many also speak German and a lot of the signage is in both German and Italian. This area once was a part of Austria called South Tyrol but at some point in history it changed hands and became part of Italy called Trentino-Alto Adige. It is fascinating to see this blend of cultures.
Here is Garni Salegg, where we stayed: 

This was the view from our balcony:

It would be hard to find a more picturesque little town than Ortisei, nestling in a little green valley called the Val Gardena. Here's a view down the main street with Sky in the foreground:

And here is a view up the street in the other direction: 
Wood carving is the local cottage industry and there are interesting, innovative examples everywhere you look. (These carved figures have bee colonies living in their tummies!)

For the first couple of days we concentrated on exploring the town and taking some walks in the valley. Then we bought ourselves a three-day pass for all the lifts and cable cars, of which there is quite a variety. We started off by taking a cable car up to Seceda, at seven thousand feet... 

...and hiking across the Alpine meadows...

 ...to an interesting rock formation called Pieralonga. 

There, we had a picnic lunch beside a mountain hut. What a glorious feeling, being on the roof of the world!

The following day, we rode the funicular to Resciesa, high up on the western side of the Val Gardena.

There, we enjoyed a cup of coffee on the terrace as we gazed out at the beautiful mountain scenery.

 In the afternoon, we took a bus down to Selva at to the other end of the valley and rode a cable car up on the eastern side to a spot called Ciampinoi. The views from here were amazing.

On the third day, yet another cable car ride on the  eastern side, this time from Ortisei, took us up to six thousand feet and to the edge of a glorious, undulating plateau called the Alpe de Suisi, dotted with trees and criss-crossed by trails, some of which wound their way up into the far mountains. There, we took two short hikes, one part way down into a shallow valley...
... and the other along the edge, with magnificent views of the mountains.

After a wonderful week of 'ups and downs' in this delightful little corner of the Alps, we spent a few days in Verona. The weather was hot and Verona was extremely crowded with tourists... 
...especially around the area of 'Juliet's balcony' (so called). 
However we enjoyed walking around the city and our little B&B on the bank of the River Adige was a delightful and very atmospheric place to stay. 
After Verona, we headed south and east towards the Abruzzo, a rugged mountain region of Italy that we had never visited before. Here, we enjoyed a peaceful week in an apartment in the historic centre of Sulmona. This time there were no crowds, and almost no tourists at all and everything felt very laid back. Sulmona, with its narrow streets and ancient alleyways...
 ...and its beautifully preserved medieval aqueduct... 
...is a most pleasant place to visit...

...and a great base for anyone planning to explore the Abruzzo's several national parks.

One of Sulmona's claims to fame (as well as being the birthplace of Ovid) is its'confetti' stores, of which there are at least a dozen along the main street. Whoever knew that so much could be done with one simple confection, i.e.sugared almonds?!


Yes, all the bright and flowery things you see in this picture are sugared almonds.

It was a great trip to the mountains, to Verona and to Sulmona. And now it's over.


After a four-day train journey via Milan, Geneva, Paris and London, we are home again.
(And already planning our next adventure.)





Saturday, May 28, 2016

At This Time of Year...

.
...in our Devon hedgerows, 
the campions reign supreme.
And when I get to the top of this lane, there is another beautiful sight to behold. 
The wild orchids have popped up again...
...like they do every year around this time,
despite the rough treatment this ground has seen during the winter, with those big, clumsy agricultural machines that gouge out deep, muddy ruts and hack the hedges around.

Nature is so forgiving, so resilient. Will it always be able to bounce back, just as these orchids do? As climate change bites ever more deeply and the sixth great mass extinction picks up speed, what will survive? Who will survive? In a hundred years, a thousand years, will the orchids still pop up each year? Will the campions still reign supreme in the month of May? How many more years will the hawthorn tree outside the bathroom window of our cottage blossom in glory, like it is doing right now and probably has done every year since the cottage was built in 1733?

Who knows? But right now, in this moment, in the midst of all this beauty, and despite the dark despair that so often tries to overwhelm me, I feel blessed. 

Living in these times can feel schizoid. But as Charles Eisenstein said in a recent essay,

"I am fond of saying that no optimism can be authentic that has not visited the depths of despair. But today I have realized a corollary: no despair is authentic that has not fully let in the joy."

I think he is right. So much so that when I look at these orchids and I start to cry, I realize that it is neither joy nor grief that makes the tears flow. 

It is both.