At the senior apartments where her parents live, reports Nancy Stallings, residents who use walkers would park them in the hall before they entered the dining room. But the seniors without walkers complained, and eventually the management had to build a little wall to keep the walkers out of sight. Apparently all those mobility aids were too much a reminder of what lay ahead.
In a society that clings to youth, even the old themselves are sometimes ageist, notes Stallings, director of Caregiver Support for Utah County Aging Services. Her own mother refused to wear a shawl that Stallings made her; Stallings guesses that the shawl said "old age" to her mom.
Take a tour of upscale Sunrise Senior Living in Holladay, and you'll discover a locked door that separates the independent living apartments from the assisted living facility in the same building. Even though the people who live on the independent side know they can move to the assisted living side if the need arises, they don't want to be reminded of it, says administrator George Wright.
Senior centers across the Salt Lake Valley are working hard to lure what gerontologists sometimes refer to as the "young-old," offering salad bars, Wii tournaments and hiking groups.
Some centers are even looking at what to call the place in the future, as they try to lure baby boomers who once famously didn't trust anyone over 30. At the Sandy Senior Center, quarterly brochures will now use the name Sandy Center for Mature Adults.
"We wanted to get away from the word 'senior,"' explains director Ken Donarski. "We have people in their 80s who say, 'I don't want to be in there with those old people."'
At the Sunday Anderson Senior Center, the sofas that once sat in the lobby will be moved to a back TV room. "We don't want someone walking through the door and seeing people lying on the couch," explains program director Darylne McPheeters. "We're trying to change the image of a senior center. It's not synonymous with 'old folks home."'