Saturday, September 18, 2010

When Possessions Lead to Paralysis


David J. Ekerdt, who directs the gerontology center at the University of Kansas, has a knack for digging into aspects of aging that most of us register only in passing. I’ve been a fan since I read his work on the “busy ethic,” a phrase he coined to describe our attitudes towards retirement.

So I was delighted to learn that in his new research, underwritten by the National Institute on Aging and undertaken with colleagues from Wayne State University, he’s investigating Stuff.

Dr. Ekerdt can’t document — yet — that Stuff often prevents old people from taking good care of themselves, especially when that involves moving to another location. “It’s entirely unproven,” he acknowledged in a recent conversation.

But the social workers, geriatricians, retirement community administrators and family members he’s been talking to since 2002 universally believe this: The sheer volume of objects in a typical household, the enormous physical and cognitive effort involved in sorting out what’s essential, the psychological toll of parting with what’s disposable — all can lead to a kind of paralysis that keeps seniors in place, even when the place isn’t the best place..." More

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