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Seniors have flown the coop

The long-time dilemma of what to do with our aging parents has been resolved by Grandpa and Grandma themselves. It seems the old goats have run away from home!

In the old days when our elderly parents reached their “declining years,” the children moved in with them and gradually took over the management of the ranch or farm. City folks might put their elderly parents in the “spare” bedroom or the utility room over the garage. A “maiden aunt” might also move in to lend a hand. Care for the old folks was clearly a “family matter,” and we honored the wishes of our parents to “die at home”

Today, several things have happened that have changed the picture of family care of the elderly. Many years of a bull market have enabled a lot of people to become wealthy. Children these days are less likely or able to take on elderly care responsibilities. Many aging parents are not willing to “be a burden on the children.” Also, the availability of long-term care insurance has helped prompt the old folks to “jump ship” from the old family homestead.

Elder care by the family has been largely displaced by large corporations, frequently listed on Wall Street, who have made the warehousing of the elderly big business. Why wouldn’t one want to move into these opulent “Nanny castles” with their Olympic-size swimming pools, fully equipped physical conditioning rooms complete with a personal trainer, golf courses and tennis courts, activity directors, travel excursions, personal gardening plots, etc. All of this housed in comfortable facilities ranging from cottages to luxury apartments built in “clusters,” or more centralized housing offering extensive, lifetime health care.

One of the first of these facilities was the Willamette View Manor near Portland (actually looking down on the Willamette River) in 1953, followed by Terwilliger Plaza, developed for retired educators. Another early elder housing and care facility was “Mary’s Woods” on the Marylhurst College campus. For treatment of more severe aging problems, special facilities were built called “advanced care” or “memory care units.”

Shortly a deluge of “retirement living” facilities sprang up in the Rogue Valley. The Rogue Valley Manor is a striking facility perched on a hill overlooking the valley. Its first director was retired college president Elmo Stevenson. The Manor was followed by Mountain Meadows, developed by former senior services administrator and Realtor Madelene Hill. Today in the Rogue Valley, there are scores of residential care facilities ranging from small foster care homes to large “villages” offering a broad range of services.

Strange enough, a significantly large number of seniors have migrated from other areas, some from throughout Oregon, others from out of state and even from other countries.

It can truly be said that a large percentage of our elderly population have “flown the coop!”

Stewart McCollom is a former interim president of SOU and a former Jackson County commissioner.


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