Independence, but not always bliss
Active seniors still face financial, health worries
By Lucy Sutherland
Worlds apart from the dependency that characterized previous generations’ latter
years, elderly homeowners today are enjoying longer, more autonomous
old still has its challenges—both financial
|A huge legion of people are growing very old.
“Money is a big concern,” said Marjorie Gann, care
management director of Boston-based Ethos, a non-profit that helps
elders live in their homes. “We’re talking about the
very old; they’re over 80.”
For these senior homeowners, many of whom enjoyed well-paying
jobs during their working lives, years and even decades of retirement
have drained the value of retirement pensions.
“When they retired at 65, it was an adequate pension,” said
Gann, of the typical problem. “At 85 it’s not adequate
Almost no private
pension is indexed to inflation, which decreases the purchasing
power of a pension dramatically, according to the
Alliance for Retired Americans. For example, even a decade of modest
inflation – say 3 percent a year – makes a pension
a third less valuable 10 years later.
homeowners don’t sweat the highly-trumpeted
battle over rising property taxes as much as they do the steep
cost of housing repairs, according to Gann.
“If they need a new roof, if they need to get the house
painted, anything like that, then they really need their savings,” she
When it comes
to seniors’ feelings about money, there’s
high anxiety across the board, said Deborah Grose, program manager
at the Boston Money Management Program, which helps seniors with
daily money management such as balancing checkbooks.
As more elderly in southwest Boston choose to live at home, the
demand for such volunteer services has doubled in the past two
years, Grose said.
activity a day keeps the doctor…and the worries… away
But for other active seniors living on their own, health is still
the principal worry.
At a recent
senior dance hosted by the VFW Parkway Seniors at the West Roxbury
Elks Lodge, participant Alice Gillis admitted, “I’m
getting to the point where I don’t say ‘How are you?’ anymore.” Gillis
has grown tired of the long list of ailments that follow such a
Abundant retail shops in West Roxbury help seniors maintain
an independent lifestyle.
Ruth Nasman, program director for the Senior Place, an adult day
health program, said seniors living at home often compromise their
health by refusing to admit they need help.
“They put it off, put it off, and end up getting sicker
in an emergency room,” said Nasman.
But West Roxbury
senior Robert Liljegren, 77, isn’t shy
about getting healthcare when he and his wife Phyllis, 75, need
it. “We like to be near hospitals,” said Liljegren.
For many seniors, the answer to the constant stress of financial
and physical straits is to stay as active as possible. And for
many, staying active can be the key to staying happy and even dramatically
At the West
Roxbury/Roslindale YMCA, trainer Amy Franz has seen a steady
increase in the numbers of elderly who come to exercise. “The
majority of them are independent, and have been active most of
their lives,” said Franz.
member Rachel Larkin, a woman in her mid-80s who needed a quad-cane
and couldn’t walk up stairs. In just a
few months of strength training, she didn’t need her cane
and was using stairs again.
DeRoma, a participant at regular VFW Parkway Seniors dances,
characterizes her life as a hectic stream of activities
she enjoys. “I’ve been very busy…every day this
week I’ve been out,” DeRoma said. At 84, she lives
alone and still drives.
As a favor
to her niece, she chauffeurs her grandnephews and grandnieces
to various activities. She also loves the full calendar of activities
planned by the VFW Parkway Seniors and other elder organizations,
such as parties, day trips and luncheons. “You don’t
have time to go to all of them,” she says of the many senior
|For many seniors, staying active can be the key to staying
DeRoma, staying at home keeps your mind on a worrying tack. “A
lot of them, they’re always complaining,” she says
of inactive seniors.
DeFilippo, who grew up in Hyde Park and now lives in Norwood,
loves any kind of dancing—line dancing, ballroom,
even the jitterbug.
“Where there’s dancing, you’ll find Rose! I
love to dance,” DeFilippo said.
of her less active friends: “Some of them
get depressed. You have to keep yourself active.”