Here in Belize, the family is the center of its own
world, and has its own gravitional pull. It is very
common to have three generations living among
each other, either on the same property or close
by. This closeness becomes a support system at
every generational level, especially with the care of
the young and old.
The oldest generation contributes until they are
dead in the ground. There is no illusion about
retirement heaven among these elders. They are
tough, and you couldn't stop them if you tried.
They are active members of the family, and also
carry a wisdom that is respected by the
younger generations. This is the revered generation.
The parent/adult generation is the bread and butter
generation. This is the generation that brings in the money
to support the whole family. This generation requires daycare
and baby-sitting for their children, as they work. These services
are not contracted out, but are provided by the family
support system, itself.
The children go to school, but they work when they are
home. The teenagers give care to the elders and toddlers,
and support the parents by doing laundry and cleaning.
The boys keep the property in shape by cutting grass,
and going after firewood for the evening meal.
The weekends and holidays are times for family gatherings.
The grill is usually fired up, as cousins and siblings gather at Mom's
for the day. There is always a crowd gathered around the
vocal domino tournament, each awaiting their turn at the
table. The men and the women also have their own gathering
spots as they share tales of old and new . Of course, the bottle
of rum is placed among the Coke and Sprite, which helps to
loosen tongues and laughs.
The house lot sizes here are large, so it is common to have
three or four microhouses on a property. These houses are
close, around 50 feet apart, yet spread out for privacy.
This is village living. The same is not true in Belmopan, where
the house lots are small, and they only allow approved
concrete homes. In the village, the adult and the elders can
have their own microhouses, on the same property. So they
have both closeness and privacy.
"I have fallen, and I can't get up". That commercial
shows the tradegy of elders living on their own. Sadly,
it is usually their choice to live way. So, they pay money
to wear a pendant they can push to call an ambulance
if they are in trouble medically. In the future, this choice
may disappear with the industrial age that supported it.
If we could go into the future and look back on the last
fifty years, I think we would see that only two generations
of elders were able to live independently in first world
industrial nations. That would be the Lost Generation,
born from World War 1, and the Echo Lost Generation
born from the midst of the Depression to World War 2.
Before 1920, most people didn’t have any money, and
worked day jobs here and there for $1 a day. After World
War 2, America had its industrial base whole, so it was
able to provide the rest of the world with products. This
created a factory age of prosperity, from the mid-1950’s
onto the millennium. This prosperity created funds for a
future time for rest and recreation. With the creations of
social security and bank saving insurance in the 1930’s,
there is close to $5 Trillion saved in money markets alone,
today in the United States.
Institutions were created by the fact that elders had
savings and pensions. Organizations grew, such as AARP,
that focused entirely on legislation and the needs of
retired elderly. These generations wanted luxury and
the easy life. They wanted childless gated communities
and bingo, over changing diapers.
Industries catering to independent living are huge,
but soon that choice will go along with the nanny state
that supported it. If you own stocks in nursing homes, or
assisted living developments this might be a good time
to sell them. The nanny state is bankrupt, so are their
promises and programs. Loss of income will mean more
dependence for older people.
"No one comes to visit me", is the realization of the result
of independent living. I heard this from many people in a
nursing home, when I use to visit a woman through Little
Brothers, many years back. Seeing that place was the best
education for me. What those people don't realize is that they are
too far away from the younger generations. An earlier decision
to part from the family flow of life, and living independently,
has its effects. The effect is called future isolation.
A secret to to staying young is being around the young.
In gated communities for elders, someone is continually either
sick or dying. Was does that do to the psyche of the healthy?
In Belize, elders are around the young. The babies know the
grandmother's name before "mom". These grandparents are
an active part of the lives of all the grandchildren. Yes, there
are deaths and sickness in the village, but it is not constantly
occurring in the core of the family. Among the family there is
the flow of Life, which can also mean drama and excitement.
Independent living is an illusion feeding billion dollar industries
that feed into nursing home industries tied to healthcare insurance
and nanny state largesse. All of these are products of a
defuncted industrial age. These institutions will become more
dysfunctional as time goes on, and the nanny state collapses.
The information age will produce completely different living
arrangements, like ecovillages, or perhaps going back to the
way things use to be out of necessity. Mainly, because the
money won’t be available for any other type of living arrange-
ment. In the end, we may discover that having friends and
family close by that you can count on through life is assisted
living at its best.