Marshall: Neighborhoods shouldn’t fear the elderly

Islander columnist Becky Fox Marshall shares her thoughts on some of October’s more infamous Bainbridge news items, including the flare up over an elderly care facility in the Commodore neighborhood.

Bainbridge Island got a lot of bad publicity in October – and that was before the tragic police shooting.

A 28-year-old islander accused of armed robbery crashed through a roadblock and was the object of a manhunt in Mason County in which a sheriff’s deputy was shot in the leg. News reports stated the wound may have been caused by a ricochet, but still, we’re talking flying bullets.

Three island men were arrested in connection with a string of burglaries on the north end – with a few felony warrants and heroin thrown in. All of the burglaries occurred late at night while people were home, often while they were asleep. Scary!

There were multiple drunk driving arrests, a bloody fight at a gas station, and a standoff between a 73-year-old man with a crow bar and his 25-year-old tenant, who was armed with a gun. Unloaded, but scary nonetheless.

There were at least three dog attacks – at Fort Ward State Park, Grand Avenue and Foster Road.

You had a guy apparently shooting a gun near two child-care centers who was actually angry when the cops showed up in response to calls.

Oh yeah, and a bicycle rider punched some pedestrian along Manitou Beach Drive – surely there is more to THAT story.

But perhaps the most troubling story to come out of October was the strident and frankly shocking reaction of some neighbors to an adult care facility on Whited Place in the Commodore Lane neighborhood. It was troubling enough for the local Fox News crew to show up.

How six elderly residents could damage a neighborhood’s quality of life is beyond me. I’ve lived next to a teenager who accomplished that all on his own, but the last time I checked, I didn’t have the right to pick my neighbors or reject them based on what I think “might”’ happen.

Here’s another “might:” A family moves in with three kids. They all have cars and they’re all involved in sports with daily practices, and host a few team parties. I’m not talking keggers. I’m talking parent-sanctioned, coach-attended team parties. Maybe their participation includes academic events, and there you go again with the debate club or the rocket club. You get the picture. They could easily, and most probably, generate more traffic than a home where six non-driving elderly folks live.

The argument just doesn’t have legs.

It’s ironic that as I write this, a rally decrying our obsession with fear has attracted 150,000 people in Washington D.C., and thousands in a “co-rally” in Seattle. We are so enamored with fear these days – we live in a world of worst-case scenarios – emergency vehicles running over children, plummeting property values, demented old people wandering around acting demented, the delivery of substandard care, the gateway to a plethora of half-way houses full of unrepentant, violent felons.


How about applying a different frame? What about neighborhoods that reflect humanity – a range of ages, colors, and walks of life? What about neighborhoods where people find ways to get along, rather than creating crude signs decrying the presence of a few? As far as the kids, rather than fearing their demise under the wheels of an ambulance, how about the opportunity this home might create for them to interact with the elderly? How about those kids visit in the spring with some flowers they picked from the garden or a plate of cookies at the holidays?

How about we face the coming social challenge of an aging population with small-scale, community based solutions like this home rather than warehousing old people in large institutions in commercial zones? How about we stop segregating portions of society for our own comfort, and consider their comfort?

And of course, we might want to consider not painting all adult care homes with the same brush created by those who fail their clients.

You can mark the armed robber, burglars, drunk drivers, angry gun owners and dog attacks up to bad childhoods, drug problems, mental illness or irresponsible pet ownership. But the Commodore situation can be marked up to a lack of reasonableness. And that should create more fear than six old people and a police blotter, combined.

2 thoughts on “Marshall: Neighborhoods shouldn’t fear the elderly

  1. Considering that I am an ‘elderly’ let me mention that at one time we had neighbors who, when his wife passed on, had adult folks come in to take care of him. We had never visited their home but often spoke at the shared driveway if I was outside when they went by or they came over to check on things.

    After the gentleman passed on, their home and things were sold at a public ‘garage sale’.

    I walked over late on the last day of the ‘sale’ because we were interested in perhaps buying the house if it was available. It was shocking to see it – filthy, cluttered, dirty and no doubt that was after some cleaning had been done by the out of town relatives.
    Mostly I felt badly that these folks lived right next door and I had no idea their living conditions were so bad. I also wondered what the caregivers had been paid to do?
    Their place could only be seen at a distance through the trees on both properties.

    I doubt that anyone is afraid of seniors living next door but an adult ‘home’ owners should be cause for scrutiny by the folks in the neighborhood…in my opinion. There, but for the Grace of God….

    Do they already have a track record of elder care in an adult home? I hope they do and that the care they give the adults in their care is excellent.
    Sharon O’Hara

Comments are closed.