Guest Columnist

'Sandwiched adults' have new options

My friend Lewis and his spouse juggle growing careers while raising two kids and finding time to care for his aging, widowed mother, who hoped to remain in his childhood home until she passed. But a few weekends ago, he and his mom ruefully decided it was time to move into a senior-living facility.

Lewis’ situation is part of a growing generation of “sandwiched adults” with seemingly few alternatives to balance their careers, household activities, and care for aging parents.

His predicament is a harbinger of things to come for my kids in 15 or 20 years.

My adult children will be horrified when their 75-year-old father is crawling on the roof to clean the gutters; they’ll be saddened when I can’t change garage ceiling light bulbs because it’s too dangerous. They’ll be exasperated by my inability to program a new TV or connect a new web-enabled device.

The fact is, I want to age gracefully at home, but will likely need help with household maintenance and chores. I’ll want an active social life, but don’t want to burden my family to manage my activities and social engagements. I’ll want to remain independently mobile and not depend on my kids for transportation.

For better or worse, how we age is top-of-mind for our community’s fastest growing demographic — young families and their aging parents. Thankfully, there is a new surrogate resource to fill this need.

TRAIL of Johnson County offers a “go-to” option for aging residents who wish to safely remain in their homes and stay active. TRAIL, an acronym for “Tools and Resources for Active Independent Living,” is a trending nonprofit, membership-driven organization. It’s locally managed and supported by wonderful volunteers to offer a range of resources and services for full- and partial-members, as well as qualified subsidized members.

TRAIL resources and services include some routine household chores; a referral resource that screens and qualifies reliable professionals and services beyond those of TRAIL volunteers; transportation to and from doctor appointments, regular errands, and community events; and access to a robust selection of networking/social activities.

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In fact, TRAIL is hosting a FREE (open to the public) event that will feature Janet Schlapkohl’s monologue: “Invisibility, elderly cats, and swimming raccoons: An irreverent look at aging and its surprises.” The event will be Thursday, Oct. 10, from 4:30 — 6 p.m. at the Coralville Public Library, and will include jazz entertainment by Mektoub, and light refreshments after Janet’s presentation. Registration is requested (but not required) by visiting trailofjohnsoncounty.org or calling 319-800-9003.

Don’t get me wrong, Iowa City is blessed by more than 12 wonderful retirement communities and senior-living facilities. These residences provide safe, healthy, comfortable, and active environments with degrees of care and supervision for our venerable parents, neighbors, and friends. But after learning about TRAIL, my options have expanded, and perspective changed. With the help of TRAIL, I’m looking forward to staying active, independent and in my home for many years to come.

Alex Taylor, a local business owner and community volunteer, serves on the board of directors for TRAIL of Johnson County.

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