By Elaine Friesen-Strang
When your neighborhood gets 10" of snow, the sidewalk ends when it isn't shoveled. My wintry walk was about to lose its way as I approached an old man bent over his shovel. I can call him old, because he proudly told me was so--87 years worth. He didn't hesitate to hand me his shovel when I asked if he needed help, saying he was just about ready to give up. The next 15 minutes, I uncovered a pathway and he lingered behind, sharing stories from many years.
John was a watch maker. It became his trade when he wasn't allowed to go to high school. I straightened up, turned around to ask him why. "Well, that was 70 years ago, in Switzerland. They said I was linguistically challenged because I didn't do well in Latin". He asked where I lived, commenting that he's seen me out walking. I admit I didn't hear everything he said; regardless of the cold, I was starting to work up a sweat. But brought together by the snow and his shovel, John and I developed a immediate, impromptu friendship.
With almost a century of history and a world of experience, John reflected on his past and where it's taken him. He was in the hospital last year and surprised the doctors that he walked out alive. He said he figures he's "outlived his time", but now that I've met him, I was hoping he's got a lot more left.
A corner lot has lots of sidewalk--it gave me enough time to appreciate my new friend's gentle demeanor, subtle sense of humor, unyielding determination. Now when I bake too many cookies or our tomatoes ripen all at once, I know where my walk with lead me. And when I need to pause and think about time--its passage, its worth, its gifts, challenges, and how we measure it, I will learn about it from an old watchmaker from Switzerland.
Welcome to Livable Oregon.
What makes a community livable? What do neighborhoods need to help people of all ages live active, engaged lives? Livable Oregon explores the features of age-friendly communities, the people who help create them, and what we can do to make our neighborhoods in Oregon a great place for everyone.
This blog takes its lead from the AARP Livable Communities Initiative which seeks to improve the quality of life for older adults by promoting the development of safe, accessible, and vibrant environments. AARP Livable Communities policies address issues such as land use, housing, and transportation which are vital to developing communities that facilitate aging in place.
About our lead blogger:
My name is Elaine Friesen-Strang. I understand the need for lifelong, livable communities as a mother who raised two children, a daughter who helped care for her father, a professional guardian who served adults with developmental disabilities, and a woman who is experiencing the mixed blessings of aging. Volunteering for AARP empowers me to help make my neighborhood and city a more livable, sustainable place for people of all ages.