EDITOR, Daily News:
I recently took part in the senior housing survey for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Planning Department’s Comprehensive Housing Assessment Project.
Its stated aim is to better understand our needs and preferences in housing in Ketchikan. I took the survey over the phone with a gentleman from the Planning Department, and appreciated the opportunity to ask questions about the survey, as well as learning that Ketchikan demographics are pointing to an older population outnumbering the younger in the future.
I ask that the city and all other organizations, agencies and individuals who will receive the survey results to remember that one size does not fit all, and that if these entities act on this assumption, this survey fails in its purpose.
There are many types of seniors. Those with legitimate medical or mental disabilities. Ones who loudly feel entitled simply because of age. Others who are able, but fearful, of being independent. Older folks who are as active as they were decades ago, and people who wish — and have every right, despite age or ability — to age as and where they please.
Then there are those people whose jobs decide the fate of seniors for good or ill; and others who put themselves in that position. This includes all the established agencies, departments and organizations that deal with older folks. It includes families and friends who manipulate seniors into doubting their own abilities, mental and physical, out of their own fears, and no one can serve those whom they are there for if both hands are used to cover their backsides.
Since I see the looks and hear the comments, I assure you I do know there are folks who legitimately do need someone to make their decisions for them. I’ve also seen over a lifetime that number is a lot smaller than the numbers of people it happens to.
And a point that cannot be overlooked is income. Seniors at a higher economic level, who own homes, condos or businesses, are the least likely to be forced by others into a lower quality of life. The prejudices faced by seniors of moderate to low income, and renters, makes these people likely to be treated as less able to make informed decisions for themselves regarding housing and all the side issues therein, and to have quality of life forcibly taken away.
It’s a sad statement that I need to say this, but, as an older person, I ask that further deliberations of local government and entities regarding senior housing in Ketchikan — and the considerations entangled in that issue — respect us as they would want to be themselves.
I understand that when looked at financially, grouping disparate wants and needs may seem the best use of funds. But then, no one is served well. Many of those who will use the survey results to decide our lives are not seniors. Yet.
But, the decisions made now will affect you, and people you know, in the future.