They’re going to have to carry me out of here feet first!

Man proposes. What happens when the climate disposes?

Images on TV.  A section of a Florida condo complex collapses in minutes; no warning. Death in seconds. The remaining unstable structure brought down some days later. Residents unable to collect valuables. Out West, fire destroys whole towns (Paradise, Greenville); people fleeing with what they can cram into a car. Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area have go-bags at the front door or already in their cars—acknowledging to some extent that their situations might quickly become precarious. A Greek island is being consumed by fire. The word apocalyptic is appearing more often.

I remember the almost leisurely discussions with friends and clients about aging-in-place. Stairs? Transportation? Meals? Personal care? Access to essential services? Me tolling the bell about the inevitable diminishments. The other person sometimes just changing the subject or insisting that he or she would be okay. I say leisurely because, for the most part, the changes that accompany aging come on slowly, incrementally.

But now, for many people in the third-third of life, those changes can come on quite suddenly.  Think about Florida’s Surfside Condo and California’s Paradise (2020) and Greenville (2021). Whatever ideas and pre-conceptions those older residents might have had about aging-in-place; these were destroyed within hours/days. Now they have to face the non-negotiable, no-going-back crisis of displacement.

So now, in my opinion, conversations about aging-in-place need to touch on what are you going to do if you are displaced?

It might be fire or flood. It might be poor air quality as a result of fires. It might be a rising heat index. It might be an increased cost of living as the expenses associated with climate change begin to ramp up, for example, condo association fees and fire/flood insurance.

Is displacement in your future?

Many of us Americans worship control; delight in imagining that we are the sole masters of our fate. Active voice! Now ocean waves that laugh at sea walls and fires that consume whole towns are forcing us to face how little control we do have. Passive voice! Displaced by fire, flood, heat, smoke. Forced to move by forces beyond our control.

Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer comes to mind (how I pray it); to be able to:

  • accept the things I cannot change,
  • find the courage to change the things I can
  • obtain the wisdom to know the difference…
  • take this world as it is and not as I would have it…

 So what’s your plan if your current living situation becomes unsustainable for whatever reason?