Aging in Place: Don’t let the bloviators hold up progress

Claudette Hollenbeck

 I am sure you have heard the saying “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” That neatly sums up my opinion of the product committee work usually produces - a hodgepodge, consensus-driven outcome, which is rarely a “silver bullet.” I cannot count the number of committee meetings I have sat through in my long work and later volunteer life.
In my view, committees serve two main purposes, neither of which serve the problem directly.  First, a committee meeting gives everyone a chance to air their opinion. Everyone has a turn to fluff their feathers and preen in front of the group even if, as occasionally happens, they are a total idiot (think of Town Meeting). Second, it is often a way to stop time, to pedal in place, while at the same time giving the impression that work is being done on the issue. Committees and “study groups” can drag on forever, kicking the can down the road and offering a sop to the observers without getting anything much done.
I got a call recently from Bernie Sanders, as I am sure you did too, asking me to join one of his telephone Town Meetings, this one on issues relevant to seniors. You mean to tell me that Bernie Sanders, of all people, does not know what seniors want and need? Give me a break! Because Congress is such a mess, they cannot do many of the things seniors want and need. He knows that. I know that. You know that. So, he offers a weak sop: Let the poor guys speak up. That releases the steam from the kettle a little bit and he looks like he is trying (and I do believe he is).
The state of Vermont is developing the Vermont Action Plan for Aging Well, a plan mandated under Act 156, the Older Vermonters Act passed in 2020. Yet another “study group”?
You could stop a third grader on a playground and ask him what old people need and he could tell you. To learn more, you can visit, if you want to get on one of the committees.
Twenty-plus years ago I was president of a committee to study housing in Wilmington, and we funded a study on what was needed. There was no will to pay for what the study said we needed and it all drifted away with nothing done. But then along came Edie Mas. On her own, she donated the land (no committee, no study), very valuable land, right across the street from Carinthia, where the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust and Butterfield Commons built affordable senior housing.
Edie had been a social worker in New York City specializing in elder care. She was very firm with Windham and Windsor about what she wanted built there and mostly got what she wanted. So this valley has, I believe, 25 apartments for seniors and disabled folks with rents based on income. There are also three townhouses with affordable rents for families.
I do understand that the price of living in a democracy is that everyone has a voice and that many processes are clunky and slow and redundant. To get things done requires patience and I am not a patient person. I love the Edie Mases of this world, who just do it. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, those are heroes to an impatient person like me.
Sadly, there are so few of them and so many of the bloviators, not to mention the impediment constructors. I have not forgotten how many West Dover folks objected to allowing “subsidized housing” in their community. Butterfield could not be filled initially with local applicants because of those objections. So, they let out-of-state and out-of-town folks rent there, I believe if they had local ties or relatives they could claim. People complained about that, too.
People are still arguing about the best use of the old high school in Wilmington.  I wonder if I will live long enough to see democracy wend its way to a solution there?

The Deerfield Valley News

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Wilmington, VT 05363

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