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The Alicia Wallace Column: We All Need A Plan For A Time We Can’T Avoid

We are ageing, living longer and it is does not seem like we realise it. We know, intellectually, that youth does not last for ever. We do not, however, appear to understand that ageing comes with changes to the body and mind that we may be able to delay, but may not be able to completely avoid. Good genes, workout routines, excellent diets and commitment to spiritual practices will only take us so far. We are living longer, but we are doing little to change the world we live in which does not automatically adapt to suit the needs of its ageing population.

It feels like breaking a rule that protects the silence around issues of ageing, declining health and death, but it is important to find out what those older than us would like to happen in certain circumstances. I would definitely like to be able to plainly state my own wishes without being shushed for fear I will call bad luck to myself. The people responsible for raising me are all over the age of 45. Most of them are over the age of 60. Some of them have had to, after raising their own children and helping with others, care for their elders.

Pause to consider the future that likely awaits you. Do you feel prepared to make decisions for your loved ones? Are you okay with guessing? Do you know how the bills will be paid?

Pensions do not leave enough money to take care of expected expenses and cover care workers. Two pensions do not cut it either. Many people, senior citizens themselves, are left with no choice but to become caregivers. Some, of course, would always choose to care for their loved ones, but money, time and ability are also determinants. It may seem morbid to think about end of life care, but this is a reality we need to face as more of us boast of having grandparents and great-grandparents nearing 100 years of age - and fully expect to get close to becoming centenarians ourselves.

Someone once told me taking care of a parent or grandparent is a privilege. I thought that was a very nice way to think of it, but the sentiment missed the reality of the general confusion about what to do when someone has never expressed their wishes. How do you know if they want to be in their home, someone else’s home, or an institution? We all know of older people refusing to leave their homes, even when we insist it is safer for them to be somewhere else, just for a little while. We think we know what would be most comfortable for them now, but they often disagree. How can we be certain that we can make decisions they would appreciate if we do not ask now?

What do you think would be most comfortable for you? If you are hospitalised, how long is too long for your family to wait for your condition to improve? Which child or sibling would you prefer to take care of you? Does that person have the resources to do it? The temperament? Would you like to have an open-door policy for visitors? Have you ever had this kind of conversation with anyone in your life?

Generally speaking, people do not seem particularly interested in this conversation. It is important to note the content of this kind of conversation is dependent on the resources available to the people involved. I have not found a single person with a plan for the unexpected turn in health or inability to care for themselves. It is not something we have been encouraged to think about. Many would have us believe that we are calling ill fate upon ourselves by thinking about and planning for the possibility. We are supposed to hope for the best. Eating kale, praying and walking by Baha Mar can only guarantee us so much, and we need to face that, as individuals, families and friends.

Not only are we ill-prepared and our loved ones left clueless and without resources, but we are stuck in a system and society that refuses to acknowledge difference. Just look at our response, at the national level, to the passing of the Disabilities Act. How many buildings have made the necessary changes to ensure differently-abled people have access? How many times have you watched the news and seen sign language? Are there designated parking spots for differently-abled people at the places you frequent, from banks and utility companies to grocery stores and schools? Are they being used properly? There are some challenges shared by differently-abled people and elderly people, so the way we respond to their needs closely mirrors the way we regard the other. It may not be today or tomorrow that this becomes relevant to our own lives, but as our elders often remind us, “Ya ain’ pass nuttin ‘til ya dead.”

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Toni Morrison pictured in 1994.

Toni Morrison, the reason many fell in love with the written word

Toni Morrison, author of Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula and numerous other books died yesterday. There has been an outpouring of love and gratitude for Morrison and her work. She started by writing the book she wanted to read, showing us better than she could tell us how to fill in the gaps we see. She was the reason many have fallen in love with the written word. She was fearless in her writing and speech, unafraid to touch complex issues like race. Peppered throughout the expressions of grief were a few posts acknowledging that Morrison got her flowers while she was here.

As National Heroes Day approaches, let’s take some time to celebrate the people who are still here. There are people still with us who have helped to shape us and the world we know. These people have poured into us, directly and indirectly and some of their names are not known to the masses. Even when they are gone, even if they are forgotten, they will leave a little bit of themselves behind in the work they have done. Their names may not roll off our tongues with the same ease as those matching the faces printed on our money. The average Bahamian may not be able to pick them out of a crowd. This makes them no less deserving of recognition and it may be worth more to them when it comes directly from you.

Building relationships and women’s rights advocacy

Equality Bahamas has been hosting the Women’s Wednesdays monthly event series for two years with the support of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. It has been a space to explore a broad range of topics including financial management, building healthy relationships and women’s rights advocacy. This evening, the focus will be on women in the arts. Young Bahamian artists June Collie, Jalan Harris, Jodi Minnis, Xan Xi Sweeting and Angelika Wallace-Whitfield will talk about their experiences as women in the art world, using their work to spark conversations about social, cultural, and political issues, and serving as a catalyst for action. The event begins at 6pm and more information on the artists and their work can be found on the Equality Bahamas Facebook page.

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