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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673
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Silver hair, silver lining

12/13/2007

By Damon Reed

One solution to partially stemming the flight of young people from The Valley might just be the older folks we've also read about in the same series of articles.

Think for a moment about the comments we've read such as "The Valley showed an 8.87 percent increase in those 55 and older and a 17.64 percent increase statewide." What does this statistic alone tell us? I think it indicates many older folks consider Vermont a desirable place to spend their later years.

Well, if that's the case, let's capitalize on that fact, not complain about it. One of the fastest- growing industries in the U.S. is the creation of communities for those in their later years, facilities that provide a combination of active lifestyle living that transitions into continuing care.

Go take a look at Wake Robin in Shelburne, the new Lodge at Otter Creek in Middlebury, pick up any out-of-state metropolitan newspaper and read the myriad ads for active lifestyle/continuing care facilities. This industry is booming! And we've only just begun to see the positive economic impacts of millions of us entering the later years of life within a compressed span of time.

Providing housing, services and diversions for those with silver hair has the potential to infuse a tremendous amount of money and job opportunities into The Valley on a stable year-round basis.

Think for a moment about the employment opportunities: construction and maintenance, nursing and services, administration, the supply of locally grown and raised food, not to mention the increased number of people to trade at our local businesses. Visit any community where there is an active lifestyle/continuing care facility and you'll be hard pressed to find a local business that hasn't financially benefited from its existence.

I'm 63 and happily married to a younger woman. She's 58. Our children are grown and gone. We both work full time. We're not what you'd call financially wealthy but, because of our stage in life, do now have monthly discretionary income which we regularly spend in The Valley at local restaurants, shops, markets and local events. We're good for The Valley's economy. There are a number of folks like us living here. Our big question is for how long? I guess the answer is for as long as we are healthy and active and are able to fend for ourselves. But when the time comes that we are not, where do we go?

We are in a similar situation to our young people. When we are no longer able to enjoy totally independent living, we are now forced to leave The Valley to find assistance elsewhere. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were local facilities available throughout The Valley, each town could have them, that allowed us to transition into an assisted living situation. This would afford those now living here, and the many others who would surely come, the opportunity to live out our lives in the Mad River Valley, while at the same time providing livelihoods to a number of people who are younger than us.

Reed lives in Warren.
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