‘There’s a window, and once it closes, it closes forever’


“There’s a window, and once it closes, it closes forever.”

Len Fishman, director of the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Gerontology Institute, was talking about an urgent issue in a society that values “aging in place”: deciding the right time to leave your home and move into housing for seniors.

Make the move too soon, and you lose an important part of yourself. That’s one fear. But wait too long — until your physical or cognitive state has greatly deteriorated — and any place that’s not depressing won’t take you. That’s the other fear.

“It’s a real pressure point,” Fishman said.

(W)ith horror stories about elder abuse at facilities seared into the public’s mind, and prices that can run $10,000 a month or more, the specter of moving into an old persons’ home — even if it’s not called that — can cause stress between older parents and their adult children, between spouses when one is healthy and the other isn’t, and of course for the seniors themselves.

“What they call ‘assisted living’ is a misnomer,” said Murray Cooper, 94. He laughed joylessly. “If you need assistance, they don’t want you.”

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