[Noozhawk’s note: Entertainment journalist, author and senior activist Rona Barrett will be writing regularly on senior issues for Noozhawk, her hometown news source. Click here for a related article.]
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "There are no second acts in American lives."
My screenwriting friends disagree. They say our lives have three acts.
I disagree with my screenwriting friends. That’s because I'm realizing that many of us have, or will have, an Act IV, whether we are in the lead roles or we are supporting players.
Our Act I is all about creating our character, meeting up with our co-stars and setting out on our life's quest.
Our Act II is all about our adult lives — being tested, degrees of fulfillment, conflict and complications. How we choose to handle our Act II further defines us.
Our Act III is about resolution, fulfillment, rewards and retirement — supposedly, our time to live happily ever after.
Here is what happened to my close girlfriend’s parents, who are in their 90s.
Act III — Fade In
Her parents are severely ailing. For both, a series of hospital admissions included the threat of her mother not coming out. Soon the high cost of round-the-clock care was about to make my friend implode financially, physically and emotionally.
My friend decided the best course of action was to sell her parents' home and use the funds to build them a guesthouse on her property, that way she could afford care for them while simultaneously meeting the responsibilities of her demanding job.
The other day she called and somewhat frantically said to me, “Rona, we have enough money to take care of my parents for, maybe if we squeeze it, another year. And there isn’t any more money. What am I supposed to do?”
“Welcome to Act IV, my friend — the end of the story that seems to have no ending.” I then assured her, “There’s always a solution. Let me look into it.”
We don’t like to talk about Act IV because it’s disheartening. It’s disturbing. Most of us who are living longer won’t get healthier or wealthier. We outlive the money we thought we could depend on. Our nearest and dearest, our caregivers, also suffer — from health problems, from burnout, from lack of relief. Not all of us get to ride off happily into our sunset years.
How would you answer my friend’s question? How would you answer her question if these were your parents?
One place to look for options and solutions are through the good people at the Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens. Check out the website by clicking here. The agency has a free of charge Information & Assistance service to help those like my friend and her parents along the Central Coast. Aaron Pankratz, who manages this service, can be reached at 805.681.4500.
I’ll share with you some suggestions and answers they had for my friend and how her parents are getting along in one of my next columns.
Until next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.
— In honor of her late father, entertainment journalist, author, senior activist and Santa Barbara County resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village, the area’s first affordable senior living and care facility, scheduled to begin construction in early 2015. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are her own.