A recent article in the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland described neighbors’ resistance to a proposed senior community. A developer had planned a community on 15 acres with 100 units of assisted living and 90 units of memory care, but those plans have been shelved after residents complained about the prospect of increased traffic and noise from sources such as ambulances and garbage trucks. The developer, Marc Silverman, countered that it’s “ridiculous to think that people between the ages of 75- to 80-years-plus walking down a path on a 15.6-acre parcel, sitting under a gazebo, or planting a garden would make too much noise.”
Is Ageism a Factor?
While it hasn’t been reported to be a factor in the case outlined above, the prospect of a nearby Alzheimer’s care community have sometimes frightened local residents. A scathing 2010 article on a New York Times blog was titled A Danger to the Community? and begins, “So much for the stereotype of those nice, welcome Minnesotans.” The article goes onto describe a proposed memory care assisted living community in Woodbury, Minnesota, in the suburbs of Minneapolis–St. Paul. Despite the fact that the community would be secure, residents voiced fears about the safety of their children.
One parent wrote an email opposing the project, voicing fears that ” “may see/hear inappropriate things from the residents of the facility.”
Another parent argued in an email opposing the project, ” “Would you want your young children to be exposed to potentially physically or sexually aggressive individuals on a daily basis?”
The cases cause pause for thought about whether ageism might be a factor in the resistance to the communities. Indeed, the mayor of Woodbury dismissed criticisms of the project as “fear of the unknown”. Indeed, fear of the unknown has been long been understood to be a primary cause of discrimination.
Of course, in some cases like those described, neighborhoods may have completely legitimate concerns about issues such as traffic and land value. Even so, we we believe neighborhoods should consider the benefits of inter-generational interactions, and also the importance of assuring that care is available to the community’s elderly residents.