I recently attended a gala celebrating Holton Home, a senior residence in Brattleboro, that’s been providing care for elders since it was chartered as The Brattleboro Home for the Aged and Disabled in eighteen ninety-two.
More than just its name has changed since then. While still located on Western Avenue, the original farmhouse has been renovated into a grand stone building with upgrades to domestic comfort, like indoor plumbing, solar panels, and WiFi.
But the changes at Holton Home haven’t only been driven by a century and a quarter of new technologies; the population that Holton Home serves has also been changing. Many of the home’s early residents had jobs, drove cars, and participated in housekeeping – while these days, most residents arrive at the end of retirement – a time of life we don’t even really know what to call.
Most of us at the gala have had or currently have a relative living at Holton Home and are extremely grateful for the staff’s loving care. My Dad’s been living there for the past three years – and he likes it. When he was still able to walk the half-mile to town, he’d stop at the bank, the post office and library. Then he’d catch the bus back to Holton Home, where housekeeping, laundry and meals are taken care of for him – just as they were when my mother was alive. But after a couple of minor falls, he no longer walks that far.
Graying and balding aside, the group at the gala was younger by comparison – some just approaching retirement – others already enjoying it. Amidst the gala celebration, I couldn’t help but think about the challenges of growing old. Dad’s now ninety-two: he’s elderly. Despite visits from his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and great-grands, his hearing loss, his visual impairment, and his shaky balance are taking their toll on his enjoyment of life. His world is shrinking, and his mind sometimes drifts. But he’s otherwise healthy, and could live for many more years.
Longevity is no longer unusual, and in preparation for that Holton Home recently merged with the Bradley House, another senior residence across town, doubling their capacity to provide independent living for elders who may benefit from assistance while continuing with many activities of everyday life.
And according to current population trends in Vermont, that will eventually include most of us.