For Some Seniors Without Housing, A Parking Lot Is Home

Sep 18, 2016

Marge Giaimo makes her way to a picnic table under the shadow of an oak tree. Santa Barbara's trees, like its oceans and mountains, are one thing she says she never tires of here. After losing her senior housing three years ago, this table is where she does her painting these days.

"I feel very fortunate to have my car," Giaimo says. "It's a little cramped, but it's softer than cement."

Of all her once-valued possessions, today her 20-year-old, gold Oldsmobile is her most important one. It is her home, and she keeps it as neat as a pin.

Until March of this year, Janet Prochazka was active and outspoken, living by herself and working as a special education tutor. Then a bad fall landed her in the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Doctors cared for her wounds and treated her pneumonia. But Prochazka, who is 75, didn't sleep or eat well in the hospital, and became confused and agitated. Then she contracted a serious stomach infection.

As people get older, their health care goals may shift from living as long as possible to maintaining a good quality of life: quality over quantity.

In many cases, the medical treatment older people receive often doesn't reflect this change in priorities.

In this installment of NPR's series Inside Alzheimer's, we hear from Greg O'Brien about his decision to sell the home where he and his wife raised their three children. O'Brien, a longtime journalist in Cape Cod, Mass., was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in 2009.

Greg and Mary Catherine O'Brien have lived in their house on Cape Cod for more than 30 years. It's their dream house. They used to imagine growing old there.

In just 12 years, the oldest members of the huge baby-boom generation will turn 80. Many will need some kind of long-term care. A new study from AARP says that care could vary dramatically in cost and quality depending on where they live.