By Nancy Roen
For me, this time of year is a time for counting blessings, remembering over 50 years ago when I lived in Colorado and visited Carbondale and sent down tap roots. I was struck then by the similarities between the landscape and ethos of the area with the Mexico of my youth.
Now In my mid-80s, I realize my years are numbered and my body is fragile, yet I still feel vibrant, engaged and energized. I am blessed with good health and an inquiring mind, good friends and a loving family. I have few needs and sufficient resources. In fact, I feel that this decade is perhaps the happiest in my life. Why should this be so? What has changed that allows me to be so content and gratified, aging in this place? How can my experience assist other older people and their families to navigate challenging decisions around our unique needs and desires?
I grew up in Mexico in the 1940s, a culture in which elders were cared for by intergenerational families. Over the years, we carried on that tradition as I spent the last 22 years living with and helping my daughter raise her three children, now grown and independent. Yet, times have changed. My daughters here have offered to help me age and flourish independently with them, only 15 minutes away.
I have an apartment on the ground floor of a fourplex with a shared garden. It fits my needs and is something I can manage on my own. The tenants, all young professionals, are gracious and keep an eye on me to give my daughters peace of mind. This allows me independence. The place has an extra bedroom, if and when I need in-home care. I’m grateful to have the resources to make all this possible.
In many ways, Carbondale is very similar to Taxco, the small colonial Mexican silver mining town where I grew up. Tucked into the mountains amid spectacular scenery, it was a magnet for artists and artisans, with open markets, central squares, restaurants, colorful festivals, music and cultural diversity. It was also slower-paced, generous in spirit and supportive of its citizens. Carbondale has the same ethos.
Coming from a family-centric culture where touching, hugging, openly-affectionate expressions and boisterous gatherings are frequent, it has been a wonderful experience having a social group and spiritual life here. I have a community with warm embraces, welcoming circle suppers from fellow congregants, and a circle of close friends who share my values and outlook.
Miles of paved bike trails, pocket parks and accessible open space provide me with opportunities for recreation and exercise. Fresh organic produce is available from nearby farms and local farmer’s markets and quality grocery stores assure good nutrition. The benches along Main Street encourage and allow for social interaction. Further afield, they serve as places to rest, to bask in the sunshine, read and enjoy spectacular views and wildlife. Having recently had surgery and had to navigate months on a walker, cane and hiking poles, the paths made my mobility possible.
Health care is easily accessible. My doctor, dentist, physical therapist and veterinary support for my dog are all within walking distance. Major medical centers like Valley View are only minutes away. The Rec Center provides programs for seniors that strengthen and keep seniors balanced and agile.
Access and transportation
I live downtown and can walk virtually anywhere. Literally, every opportunity is a stone’s throw away. RFTA is an extraordinary asset. I can walk half a block to the Circulator and go anywhere from Aspen to Glenwood Springs at no cost. This service makes it easy for me to go to appointments, cultural venues and to visit friends in other towns. The Rec Center provides outings in their large van for ways to experience day-long visits to more distant locations.
I can’t imagine a more perfect landing spot than Carbondale. It fills my needs, nourishes my soul, it enriches my life. It allows me to flourish. When you and your loved ones embark on the journey to making a good life in later years, consider these essential human needs: a place that feels like home, family nearby, a community, social circles, physical and mental engagement and the opportunity for independence.
Mature Content is a monthly feature from the Carbondale AARP Age-Friendly Community Initiative (CAFCI)