Category: Elderly, Empower, Independence, Self-sustainable, Senior

Empowering our Seniors – Senior Roommate Housing Project

Hi – it’s Tatjana.

As you may recall, the recent experience of my mother-in-law’s tragic death, Meta Buchheim (67), on November 26th, 2013, and us consequently becoming a care-taker for her life partner Bill Duff (91), catapulted me to initiate a conversation with a few people about exploring a community project in our immediate neighborhood.  One person is George Chung, founder of George Chung Realty, and Jacqueline Botting, a business development consultant and founder of Wise Tribe. I met Jacqueline during one of my monthly Skool MeetUp for Women events in 2013. Jacqueline too is currently going through the experience of being a care-taker for her mom.

Caring for our Seniors in a self-empowered way

The vision is to contribute & empower our seniors, specifically as it relates to independent living, an alternative to our current system of assisted living facilities. Most facilities are old, cold, and depressing, and or cost a fortune.

I have a multitude of ideas within that topic. However, to start out I’m interested in exploring the concept of Senior Roommate Match Making Service for Shared Housing in our immediate neighborhood:

A sense of Independence, Joy & Fulfillment:
On an individual level, I envision to match Senior Home Owners with (Senior) Home Seekers in our immediate neighborhood. The mission is to match seniors of varies age groups and with varies abilities to complement and help each other managing their daily lives, and share tasks or hired resources (cleaning, cooking, laundry, running errands, driving to doctor appointments, etc). It would allow for seniors in still reasonably good health to stay in a home as long as possible and live “collaboratively” independent.

On a community level, the point is to generate a self-sustainable community amongst the seniors themselves, where they can empower each other with or without cash transactions (exchange). That way we are shifting the sole care-taking responsibilities and burden somewhat away from their adult children and initiate a mindset of self-empowerment within the elderly’s capacities. The biggest challenge Mark (my husband) and I experienced in becoming a care-taker for Bill (and Meta) is that it heavily impacted our lives. I had to stop my work, cancel my course I was teaching, and put a hold on my daily routine so as to accommodate their needs and fulfill the tasks and responsibilities they could no longer execute. It was physically draining and took a toll on my own sense of happiness, joy and vision I had for my future. Was this my new future I’d face? And for how long?

When circumstances as such arise, the tension experienced derives from a conflict of interest, a conflict of schedule, responsibilities and life routine that is very different between those two generations. As much as one wants to help and be there, over time I began to feel resentment towards family members and towards the “patient(s)”. I started feeling frustrated how it impacted my life and my work, and the nature of witnessing someone going through cancer and becoming a care-taker became rather depressing. To stay sane and healthy myself in this experience, I needed to put down healthy boundaries with family members and “patients”, yet, even if you do, you can’t help it and feel guilty for doing so. Especially if your loved one passes away.

On the contrary, retired seniors tend to share similar schedules and daily routines, and could certainly support one another within their “retiree schedule”. Instead of stripping our seniors from all sense of responsibilities, I envision a system where they get to help themselves within the realms of their capacities. Not only does this contribute to a sense of independence, but they actually get to contribute to each other, socialize and stay engaged in the community, elevating a sense of meaning and purpose, versus “waisting away in front of the TV”.

Organized Neighborhood Initiatives:
Here is a great example of Organized Neighborhood Services filling in as a response to the currently overburdened system and lack of quality-resources available – it’s called Time-Banking in Senior Care: The Fureai Kippu

The Fureai Kippu refers to the Japanese Health Care currency created in 1995 for people to earn credits by helping seniors in their community to stay and live in their homes. The earned credits accumulate and can be used for services or transferred to someone. To name a few benefits:
  1. Creating independence and a self-sustainable economy beyond the federal currency, the yen, or the dollar here in the USA. I recently joined the Time Bank Community in Mar Vista, which executes a similar concept of using credits in exchange of services. 
  2. Keep the seniors within the comfort of their home
  3. Creating personalized relationships and community

Next Steps: Customer-profiling – exploring relevant goals and needs
To move forward I’d like to to facilitate multiple events to engage in “research” conversations with:
  1. The Seniors in need for support: Exploring their needs, goals, fears, desires, and interest in “collective living”.
  2. Adult Children of Seniors: Exploring their challenges, fears, needs, goals, and interest in “collective living” for their parents who can no longer live alone, yet are no where near of needing to live in a nursing or convalescent home…..or can’t afford Assisted Living Facilities.

How you can help I need:
  1. Exposure: Please help me spread the vision of this project across your social media, database and communities
  2. Location sponsors: I need organizations who will host a public event, or individuals who will organize a private gathering for me to facilitate mentioned research conversation within West Los Angeles
  3. Media partners: to market and post the events to their social media, database and communities
  4. Contributors / Collaborators: for now this is a loose and organic development. Specific needs and roles will be defined after the inception phase and customer-profiling. For now I need volunteers to assist me and be part of this vision. Down the road I will need to work with graphic designers, and information architect (wire framing) and developers to create a website for a Senior Roommate Match Making Service in West Los Angeles.
  5. First meeting:
    March 8th, 5 – 7pm: For details visit here

You know they say it takes a village to raise a child. I think it too takes a village to care for our seniors. It ends up being in everyone’s best interest to move forward in a collaborative, and communal mindset. For at some point, we too, will be “seniors”.

– Tatjana

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Tatjana Luethi
Designer, Coach, Host, Producer

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