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For elderly in rural areas, too difficult for many to hang on

By   /   April 15, 2014  /   2 Comments

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old manWhile we’re re-committing America to an undefinable, protracted and un-winnable war in Afghanistan, we are beating our sick, our poor, our weak elevated elderly into third-world existence. Meanwhile, today in Oslo President Obama gives a bedazzling speech on the goodness of War as he accepts the Noble Peace Award. Next year, more cuts to the elderly will be massive and devastating.

“Some people who study rural America say the tough economic times and new budget woes could make it too difficult for many rural stoics to hang on.”

Who cares about our advanced aged befallen heroes? The men and women who, in the glorious  past, have been the backbone of democracy and the pillars of this great nation. It need not unfold like this. There are alternatives. It’s not written in the sands of time we sacrifice our country to kill cavemen. A word for Mr. President: Your speech today is gandhievery much the same old rhetoric we’ve hear the last eight years and all during the Vietnam era.  How dare you evoke the names of  the late Martin Luther King (the man of peace) and Mahatma Gandhi (the man of nonviolence and conflict resolution).

Here’s the article:

For Elderly in Rural Areas, Times Are Distinctly Harder

New York Times, By Kirk Johnson, December 9, 2009 – [Short snip] Growing old has never been easy. But in isolated, rural spots like this, it is harder still, especially as the battering ram of recession and budget cuts to programs for the Uncle Samelderly sweep through many local and state governments.

Ms. Clark has been able to get help since her fall two winters ago because Wyoming, thanks to its energy boom, continues to finance programs for the elderly. But at least 24 states have cut back on such programs, according to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington research group, and hundreds of millions of dollars in further cuts are on the table next year (emphasis added).

The difficulties are especially pronounced in rural America because, census data shows, the country’s most rapidly aging places are not the ones that people flock to in retirement, but rather the withering, remote places many of them flee. Young people, for decades now, have been an export commodity in towns like Lingle, shipped out for education and jobs, most never to return. The elderly who remain — increasingly isolated and stranded — face an existence that is distinctively harder by virtue, or curse, of geography than life in cities and suburbs. Public transportation is almost unheard of. Medical care is accessible in some places, absent in others, and cellphone service can be unreliable.

Even religion and the Internet are different here. Churches have consolidated or closed — a particular hardship for older people, who tend to be avid churchgoers. And a lack of high-speed broadband service in many rural areas compounds the sense of separation from children and grandchildren, as well as the broader world.

The distance between friends is what gnaws most fiercely at George Burgess.

Mr. Burgess, who has lived and worked for most of his 96 years in Wyoming and Nebraska as a hired farmhand and in later years as a machinist, still drives his truck almost every day into Torrington, Wyo., about eight miles from his home, for a hot lunch at the senior center. But his driver’s license expires in January, and he is deeply worried that he might not pass the test this time around.

Mr. Burgess gets housekeeping assistance under a state program that helps older people stay in their homes and out of nursing care. But if he could not socialize in town, he said, he would be lost.

“I might be on roller skates,” said Mr. Burgess, still cowboy-thin in cinched-up Levis, his booming outdoor voice filling his home on a recent snowy afternoon. He glanced around the tiny, cluttered living room — the coal stove, the broken television, the walls lined with pictures of his wife, Laura, who died just over a year ago after more than 60 years of marriage.

“I wish it was different, but it isn’t,” he said. “So you endure it.”

Some people who study rural America say the tough economic times and new budget woes could make it too difficult for many rural stoics to hang on. But others suggest the fortitude of the rural elderly simply runs too deep for that.

“The people will remain, because they’re rooted and anchored to the land,” said Teresa S. Radebaugh, the director of the Regional Institute on Aging at Wichita State University. “They’ll stay no matter what.”

Verna Bairn, 67, is a farm widow who has lived all her life in Oshkosh Neb., about 115 mostly empty miles southeast of Lingle. She has seen the young people leave, she said, and the businesses on Main Street close. She has seen the median age in Garden County — where Oshkosh, population about 900, is the county seat — climb to 45 to 50 years old, according to the census, more than 10 years older than the nation’s as a whole. The counties in northwest Nebraska are now some of the oldest in the country.

“One foot in the grave, the other sliding,” said Ms. Bairn in describing her town. Ms. Bairn has a daughter in Wyoming and a son in Wisconsin. Her husband, Edgar, died in 1998, of cancer, at 60.

“He and I had one plan for our life, and God had another,” she said of her husband’s early death and the personally hard times that followed. “We played our cards the best we could.”

It is in fact quite easy to find older people who take comfort in the surroundings they have known since they were young, however difficult things have become. Memory is everywhere, and hardship has been the norm in life, many say, so what’s new?

But an equally important reality, gerontologists and psychologists say, is that people who have managed to reach great age in a tough environment have, in turn, been toughened by the experience.

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About the author

Branson Hunter

(This story was posted by Cactus Thorn contributor Branson Hunter)

"The ends do not justify the means." If you use illegal mean to accomplish a legal and even desirable result, the good result does not make the bad means you used justifiable.


  1. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    Hows that vote for Obama feel now?

  2. Branson Hunter Branson Hunter says:

    Things would be different with McCain?

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