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Re-Discovering My Outrage
The Radical Resthomes' Manifesto
When I was in my early 20’s, I was part of the 60’s Social Upheaval movement. I didn’t wear a bra (why should I be strapped in?), I stopped shaving my pits and legs (let’s go natural), I went to protests against the war in Vietnam, in support of Women’s Rights and Civil Rights. After I had my first child, I started teaching prenatal classes so more women could have natural childbirths.
I never saw myself as a rebel. I was just trying to make the world a better place.
Things changed from my mid-30’s and into my 60’s. I stopped organizing-fighting-protesting as a part of my daily life. Yes, I would go to the odd demonstration, but raising two boys and working several jobs to keep enough food on the table took all my energy. Looking back now, I find it curious that most of my friends were doing the same and none of us ever really spoke about this change. It just slowly came to be.
Little did I know there was a little spark just waiting for the right moment to make an entrance.
As we grew older, my friends and I began to witness our grandmothers and grandfathers, our aunts and uncles and even some of our parents start the slow aging decline that awaits most of us. We were called on to visit more often, take on various care duties and eventually dismantle homes as our relatives moved into old age residences and long-term care facilities. We would mumble to each other that when we got old “there was no way we were going to go into THOSE PLACES”. It was like being parked until THE END.
Back then we fantasized that we would take over the “rest homes,” throw out the management, reorganize the place so that we had a Music Room, Card Playing Room, Pot Smoking Room, and we would cook our own meals — we had oodles of time after all. We would call it “A Radical Resthome.”
For some reason, a plan to keep me and others out of traditional residences stuck with me. I couldn’t let it go. The little rebel in me had woken up and said: It’s time to get fighting again.
For the last 8-9 years, I’ve been throwing all my non-work time into Radical Resthomes — large single-family homes transformed into co-living for seniors. It’s a hard slog. It’s not appealing to governments, foundations, investors because it’s not a big enough project to attract their money. So I talk about hundreds of small houses and… I’m talking to the backs of their heads. They’ve left the room.
The people who do love the idea are… you guessed it, young seniors!
But the actual idea is not the point of this essay.
This is about the little rebel inside me.
That rebel has been waiting for a chance to find a cause. She peeks out whenever I fight the telephone company, bank rules, insurance policies, city officials, etc. whenever something doesn’t make sense and is not in our favour. But as we all know: You can have reason on your side, be articulate as hell and the odds of you getting what you need is minimal. It’s the world we live in.
Radical Resthomes is different. For some reason, both my Rebel and Me are convinced our words will make a difference.
I rail against long-term care facilities which managed to kill thousands during the first part of the pandemic. I point out that tinkering around with small changes will not make those places safe or appealing. I remind the powers that be to get ready for some hard times because the next generation of seniors are not as docile as the elders they house now. We will not be good little residents, so something will have to change.
It feels so good to say what I have to say without worrying about the consequences of my words. It may not sit well with some, but others who hear know I’m speaking the truth.
My little rebel and I came up with a Manifesto: a statement of how we see the world and how it has to change. The time has come — again — for my outrage to see the light of day.
RADICAL RESTHOMES’ MANIFESTO
We need to reimagine aging.
Seniors are not homogenous.
We come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities
We do not fit gracefully into those large, big-box buildings with lime green walls
Stuffed together like expired products, waiting to be taken off the shelf.
It’s time to recognize the diversity of everyone over 60
It’s time to create housing that’s affordable and not dependent on real estate market trends
It’s time to encourage small shared, multigenerational living arrangements
It’s time to find ways to keep people of all ages living in vibrant neighbourhoods.
Let’s throw out the old idea of care residences – those pandemic death traps
Try something different,
Treat new housing ideas with the same energy & investment dollars
That go toward new tech gadgets.
The people in power
The people with the money
The people who build the senior residences…
You all need to understand:
We do not want to age in the places you’ve created and are still building for us
We will not go quietly where you want us to go
If we end up there, because we had no other choice, we will not follow your rules.
We will reimagine aging, with or without you.
Janet Torge gets bored easily and so has dipped her toes into many careers over the years: prenatal teacher and doula, newspaper columnist, traffic reporter, construction company manager, overnight talk-show host and lately documentary film producer. Radical Resthomes will be her last career move when it finally gets off the ground.
Don’t be shy! If you would like to share your story or passion, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org