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deep roots - an alternative to buying land at wheaton labs

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Location: Wheaton Labs
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I was thinking about deep roots, and the Otis thing, and symboo village, and some ideas about permaculture elder care (or the lack of it) that have been percolating in my mind for a while. And I was thinking about what happens to Gert as she gets older. Hopefully a permaculture lifestyle can extend her healthy years, but most of us break down eventually. And I can see a spot in symboo village for a younger person who is just establishing their site and learning permaculture skills to offer a sort of on-site assisted living for older and/or less able members of the community, to help with site upkeep and their activities of daily living in exchange for coin or a share of the harvest. Or perhaps Gert would “adopt” a promising boot or gapper, and if Gert and Paul (or whoever follows Paul) believe this person is worthy, this person “inherits” Gert’s deep roots plot after caring for her in her final years, so that Gert can stay in paradise and does not need to go to a nursing home. And this would mean that Gert does not need to worry that her small stash of coin and residual income streams will prove insufficient if she needs to pay for care in her later years. So she does not feel pressured to participate in government programs or jobs that do not match her values. And her slice of permaculture paradise is so amazing and Gert is so lovely and wise that she will be able to choose from a list of young people who could never afford to buy such a beautifully developed site. I think something like this could be a really cool thing for the future.
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I recently heard some interesting numbers:   full time eder-care is $13,000 per month.   Oh my.   It seems like there could be a lot of wiggle room in there for something to be figured out - but at the same time, you gotta walk before you can run.  

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paul wheaton wrote:I recently heard some interesting numbers:   full time elder-care is $13,000 per month.   Oh my.   It seems like there could be a lot of wiggle room in there for something to be figured out - but at the same time, you gotta walk before you can run.  

The $13k per month is what I recently heard about for one 24-hour live-in nurse or nursing assistant through an agency. When you direct hire yourself, I think it can shave 20-50% off that figure.

From some research I've done, assisted living or a bed in a nursing home is more in the range of $5k (and up!) per month, though a huge amount of that might depend on the cost of living in your area.
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Around here, the going rate for a nursing home/assisted living situation is about $6000 to 6500 a month.  If you need special assistance beyond "normal" bathing, feeding, and help with your meds, yes - it can go as high as $13K as Paul mentioned.

Looking over the horizon, there are a couple of key demographic issues that are going to hit our society in the next 20 to 30 years.

First, the Baby Boomers are living longer than any previous generation.  That means that the number of people living well into their 90's will continue to rise significantly.  Bottom line: more old people who will need care.

Second, the expectation of using any means necessary to prolong life would appear to be rising with each passing year as technology and medicine keep people alive far longer than in decades past.  It used to be that when someone reached their 70's, the medical establishment and the families that cared for the elderly used to make some common sense (albeit difficult) decisions about how much sense it makes to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep Grandpa alive.  Does it make sense to pay for a new artificial hip or knee when the person hasn't been active for 10 years and prefers to roll around in a wheel chair?  25 years ago the answer was clearly, "No."  Today, we keep 89 year-olds alive on life support for months when all hope has passed for their recovery.  Our medical system thrives on draining the last dollars from their patients' bank account with (from my perspective) needless procedures and heroic ICU-type hospitalizations.

Third, the number of people being born today is below the number of people they are supposed to be replacing.  This is true in many countries throughout the world, most seriously seen in Japan, Russia and the nations of Europe.  There was a fascinating book written a couple of years ago called, 'What to Expect when No One is Expecting" (a play off the title of the classic pregnancy text).  Only now are we starting to realize the demographic time-bomb that awaits when nations do not produce enough young people to sustain systems of commerce, retirement, healthcare and education.  In my own field (higher ed), we're seeing declining numbers of students who are of college age.  It's predicted to continue to fall for the next two decades.  These are the young people who have traditionally taken jobs in healthcare and elder care.  Today, most of these facilities (including my father's home) are staffed almost entirely by immigrants.  On a national scale, the ratios of young to old will continue to skew older and older with each passing year.

Finally, people who choose to not have 2 or more children will be faced with a dilemma that was traditionally taken care of by their offspring: can I have a room at your place rather than choose the above mentioned $6000 a month "standard option".  Kids are expensive -- trust me, we've got two in college right now.  But far more expensive is paying someone else to give care to you when you would have been able to stay in a home with minimal assistance -- something the family has traditionally done.  The changing demographics of the "typical" American family is going to pose a serious challenge for many people when they reach those later stages of their lifespan.  Simply put: they won't have a child there who would be willing to let them move in with them for that last decade or so.

Is there a permaculture solution?  Given the definition that permaculture mimics natural eco-systems, perhaps its not as easy to see as other permie solutions.  But a couple of principles come to mind.  1.  Cooperation and diversity of the family system is good.  Having my mother living with us enriches the whole system.  Yes, its work, and yes, the social dynamics can be challenging.  But she doesn't need $6K/month care.  Its good for our children to see us dealing with these challenges, and it's good for them to have to step up and help with here care.  "Go help Nanna figure out whats wrong with her cell-phone.  Go help Nanna adjust the legs on her new shower chair.  Will you go over and help your Nanna bring in the stuff she just bought at Lowes."  

2.  There is a time and a season for everything (as the Good Book so poetically says it), including death that comes naturally at the end of a long life.  In the same way that it's perfectly OK to tell that apple tree or old non-laying hen, "You've served the system admirably for the span of your life, but now its time to depart with dignity", I do not feel its cruel or heartless to say, "Is this artificial life-extending technology something that we really need to utilize?"  Yes, those lines are fuzzy, and require a lot of thoughtful conversation, prayer and even tears, but I don't want to be kept alive for months or years using heroic technological means.  When it looks like the old pear tree is no longer benefiting the eco-system, let it die a natural death and plant something new in its place.  When I'm failing and I'm not going to recover, please medicate the pain but don't put me into a facility that will just prolong the inevitable.  I'm not talking about euthanasia, but rather, just letting natural systems run their course.  That seems pretty permie to me.

3.  We need to challenge the culture that says that the elderly are no longer needed in our family eco-systems.  And the elderly need to humbly realize that they can't be such greedy consumers of family resources.  Somewhere in the middle is a healthy solution.  

Those are my long-winded, rambling thoughts.

My ultimate permaculture solution: compost my old bones under the avocado tree when my time is up.
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There's a permaculture community getting serious about this kidn of idea (elder care and younger people) on Cape Cod. You can find their info on IC.org (intentional communities).  I'm going to let them weigh in on what they're learning.

Their mode is to run as a business first, elder care, and then transition into living together, at least as I understand it.  

The cost is one thing, the amount the aids are paid is a different story...a lot of money goes into the middleman's pocket, the insurance company, the legal fees...but doing what must be done makes sense and trusting that the money can be handled somehow.  
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Along the lines of Elder Care, I recommend that those interested in how society in general could manage this issue read this book...


For those who don't know yet, a tontine is similar in function to an annuity, but without the guarantees.

But what could be done to help is what is known as a Familiar Housing Tontine, and it works similar to that old sitcom The Golden Girls...

Several single people, who may be related or otherwise know each other well, move in together in order to share resources and keep each other company.  When they do this, however, each of them puts an equal multiple of the "rent" into a shared investment pool.  A good number is 10 years of rent, divided by the number of people in the tontine.

So if a group of five women all rent a house together, and the monthly rent (and utilities) comes out to be $2K per month; each of the five participants contributes $48K to the investment pool.  (($2K monthly rent * 12 months * 10 years)/5 people).  The key part is that this investment pool has no value to that person's estate, so if she dies during the 10 year period, her portion stays in the pool to the benefit of the remaining four people.  This protects the remaining 4 from a sudden increase in rent, since the rising rent would be divided by 4 instead of 5. (In the world of tontines and annuities, this is known as a "mortality credit")

If the 5 participants are of different ages, and therefore life expectancy and health conditions, this arrangement still works so long as the oldest participant isn't within 10 years of life expectancy.  At the end of 10 years, this arrangement can be renewed indefinitely or the tontine ended and the remaining investment funds distributed among the surviving participants.

An astute reader of Paul Weaton's will immediately notice that there are some very close similarities this idea to Paul's Deep Roots idea.
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