What Choice Do We Have?

by Charles LaFond, ISR Senior Director, Development

Every day, I see someone, on my errands, on this island, which makes me think, “I hope they will be OK. I wish I could help.” 

They may have a scowl. They may have a limp. They may wince with pain as they try to find cash in their wallet to buy eggs. They may be squinting at coupons to afford groceries or medicine. They may just be standing by their car, wondering if they can make the long trek to the ER from their car alone. They may have tell-tale dark circles around their eyes from sheer exhaustion. They haunt me, these faces. I silently move on, hoping they get the help they need, unwilling and unskilled to help by myself, reluctant to assume everyone is fine. Some are OK for now, but many are not and are hidden behind locked doors. This is why Island Senior Resources is so essential; we help those in need and also offer resources to the many who age with resilience, determination, and grace. Aging is an equal-opportunity source of wisdom, delight, pain, and fear.

We live on islands with many older citizens. Since 2000, the percentage of people over 65 has grown by 25% and will be almost 30% by 2030, and government studies show that 43% of us report feeling lonely while 25% are considered socially isolated.

It is easy to hide at home, draw the curtains and find oneself filled with the smoke of doom-internet-scrolling and nightly news. Only a few hundred years ago, and for the past few thousand years, we lived without technology in villages where everyone raised the village children and cared for the village aging – those villagers experiencing disability. Humans lived tightly for protection. Hilda saw little Mordid go by with a limp and asked his mother about it. Maude saw Katarina lurch by with a back bent over, much steeper than ever before, and with a wince of pain. So, she helped her neighbor to a stump. She brought her tea. She massaged her ancient, thin, blue legs.

But life has changed so much. We have electricity. We have computers. We have Post-it Notes. We dare not help someone for fear of meddling or offering a mistaken diagnosis. We must leave care, and information about wellness and recovery, to the professionals. Island Senior Resources is part of the safety net, no longer provided from kitchen windows and open front doors in villages. We live in bolted houses surrounded by fences and gates and land, or we live in apartments full of long, narrow corridors such that we sometimes don’t even know our neighbors well. So now, we donate money to experts so that we can at least know we have done our part. ISR serves those most in need and provides resources for those who wish to learn to embrace aging and live their best life.

Today I wept happy tears. I saw the list of donors who have given to fund our work. Name, after name, after name. Hundreds of people who voluntarily gave money to ensure their aging neighbors were cared for and cared about.

Whidbey and Camano islands are like village clusters surrounded by a blue mote. The islands are beautiful, which is why most of us have moved here. They are beautiful, yes. But what makes them good is that we care for each other. 

What choice do we have? We are in this together.