Ades: Now let’s get back to Paul Peterson, the child star from the golden age of television who has become a terrific advocate for everything that deals with senior citizens.
How do you help someone realize and take the first steps to downsizing?
Petersen: Well, the first thing is to not pretend that you’re the first person that ever faced these decisions. Downsizing is a phrase that were all familiar with, it means something significant. You don’t need a 6 bedroom house when your kids are all gone and maybe moved out of state. The retirement communities I think, especially the upscale ones are pitching a bill of goods that not many people can actually accomplish. I think you have to look at your neighborhood resources and not be afraid to call. You know, I’ve told people this for years, in my 6 years with the department of aging working through the television show. There are competent people there waiting for the phone to ring ready to help. Oh meals on wheels, here are 104 distributors’, who’s in your neighborhood, you need help getting to the dentist, do you need transportation issues, are you in a wheelchair. If you just pick up the phone or go on the internet you will find answers to your questions.
Ades: How much responsibility do you think there on a neighbor level if you live in a community where there’s an elder in the neighborhood. What can we do as neighbors to help our seniors?
Petersen: I think keep out eyes open. Frankly, I believe in these intergenerational programs where young youngsters in high school who have community service obligations could be a wonderful asset within the community, first to do the survey to find out if Mrs. Brown is having trouble watering her lawn. And of course all of our fist responders are given pretty good training in this to. See the signs of neglect or abuse. A post person a person delivering mail, why is this mail backing up, I haven’t seen Mrs. Jones in 3-4 days. These are all important.
Ades: Are there neighborhoods that are more conducive to elderly living and a comfortable lifestyle.
Petersen: Oh absolutely. And the best ones are what we call NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) NORC. The Fairfax district is a perfect example. Quality medical care, good shopping, good transportation infrastructure, a sense of community, lots of houses of worship there, and frankly an activist community. Our city fathers and government officials are going to have to encourage this because I don’t want to clump all the seniors together in one spot, but you know just in terms of efficiency it’s not a bad idea.
Ades: Is there a central message your trying to get out?
Petersen: Uh, ya. I’m trying to get people to think about this. We have held off this impending tsunami long enough in our consciousness. This is huge, 80 million people let me repeat that number, these are the boomers. They’re coming. And sadly, circumstances have changed in our country and a lot of promises aren’t going to be able to be kept unless we aggressively group together and address our common concerns. And this is family stuff, good quality care, good nutrition, transportation, shelter, these are things were going to have to help each other with.