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02/07/2012

No, I didn't say all elderly people should be put in nursing homes

I knew this was coming. I got a call this afternoon from an 81-year-old man who read me the riot act for suggesting in my Tuesday column that elderly people be put in nursing homes if they can't shovel their own sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall.

"I've been reading your column for a long time," he said, "and I almost always agree with you. But this time you got it wrong. You said people who don't get the walks shoveled on time should go into nursing homes." 

To recap: In my column today I supported the new, tougher city regulations that increase the fines for people who neglect to shovel their walks more than 24 hours after a snowfall, to around $100 for the average home. I answered the claim that the new regulations will be an undue burden on the disabled and elderly who can't shovel their walks — at least not in a timely fashion — with this. If you can't physically maintain your property — lawn, sidewalk, etc., — and you can't afford to hire someone to shovel your walk, or get a neighbor or relative to do it, then perhaps it's time to consider other living arrangements. Such as an apartment, or condominium or — if you're in poor health — an assisted living facility.

I  knew some people would jump to the conclusion that I hate old people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I simply suggested that home ownership in a city comes with certain responsibilities and you can't expec the city to make exceptions to those responsibilities because of physical infirmity, regardless of age.

One thing I should have added, however. A second option for people who aren't able to shovel their walks, in addition to hiring someone to do it for them, is to rely on the kindness of neighbors. My neighbors, on either side of me, are both in their 70s and 80s. They've made it clear to me that they're perfectly able to shovel their own walks. But the day they aren't able is the day I'm out there shoveling their walks for them. I need the exercise anyway. Please, folks, pay attention to your neighbors, even if you don't know them very well. If they need help with something like shoveling a walk or driveway, give them a hand.

A final point. Seniors are precisely the group of people I'm most concerned about when I condemn people who leave their walks unshoveled for weeks or months at a time. No one, especially seniors,  should have to risk a broken hip or ankle while trying to walk four blocks to the local convenience store.

 

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