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Caveat elder

Thank you for the terrific article about elder care in the spring Scope. It’s essential to ensure that older people have control of their care. At a recent gathering, I found I was the only person who hadn’t filed an advance directive. Too often hospitals and doctors’ offices simply hand out these forms and people sign them without enough thought or understanding. Also, advance directives leave decisions in the hands of health-care providers. I prefer a health-care proxy, which designates a friend or family member to act for me.

In their book The Service Society and the Consumer Vanguard, Alan Gartner and Frank Riessman argue that consumers have to become coproducers of the services they consume. Of all the articles I’ve read about elder care, the Scope piece is the only one that comes close to that ideal.
Herb Heaton, P ’68
Tucson, Ariz.

In my elder-law practice, I have yet to meet someone who wants to go into a nursing home. But certain medical conditions can make staying at home impossible. And in some states very few benefits are available to cover the costs of care outside of a nursing home.

Often families must use up their assets to become needy enough to qualify for Medicaid benefits. I’ve seen situations where qualifying for Medicaid is easier for a wealthy spouse, who can tie up funds in certain investment vehicles, than it is for a poorer spouse who simply wants to keep enough assets to pay for living expenses. People need to plan ahead and find ways to keep themselves at home—for example, if you buy long-term-care insurance, make sure it includes benefits for at-home care.
Kevin Coffman Bopp ’91
Williamstown, Mass.

“Age and Agency” was researched and written with depth. The author stated the facts about the so-called senior surge in no-nonsense fashion, an attitude that adults of any age should accept. It’s true that there are fewer adult children now, and in the future, to care for their old and ill parents. In suggesting that the resolution of this dilemma is unclear, the article is pessimistic.

But what if older adults adopted a lifestyle designed to prevent or at least minimize debilitating illnesses that require dependence on children or health-care workers? The answer couldn’t be simpler: eat right and exercise—and it’s almost never too late to start. Granted, this is not a blanket solution that covers every situation, but in general people who discover the benefits of good nutrition and regular physical activity can expect their advancing years to bring illness-free happiness and personal independence.
Ann Hammel Kahl ’51
Apopka, Fla.

The Scope article about the elderly—which, if lucky, we will all become—was very unsettling, though nothing I haven’t thought of or worried about already. Whether for our own future or our parents’, trying to make “plans” is often, as Woody Allen would say, “the fastest way to make God laugh.”
Jane Alpert ’70
Newton Centre, Mass.

Segregation or integration?

I strongly object to many of the arguments in the letter about the “segregation” of student diversity clubs [spring Scope]. When I arrived at Skidmore in 1999, I encountered individuals who immediately made assumptions about my socioeconomic status and how I was admitted to Skidmore. Although I never thought my “skin color offers me a special placecard,”
I was treated differently on account of my being Latina.

Frustrated by my inability to connect with my peers, I joined Raices, the Latino student organization. Raices offered me a place where I wasn’t judged, a place where I was understood. Raices made my Skidmore experience. As PR rep, treasurer, and co-president of this group, I acquired the strength to take on situations that were outside my comfort zone. For example, during my junior year I became a head resident, a position I honestly believe I wouldn’t have been given if not for the leadership skills I acquired in Raices.

Raices’ speakers and events also helped provide others on campus with an awareness of the Spanish-speaking world that no other source offered (other than the foreign-languages department). Because of Raices, many Skidmore students saw professional Latino performers, sampled food from different countries, and danced merengue and salsa for the first time. Seeing students of different nationalities dancing to a new rhythm (you know who you are!) was a true multicultural experience.

To suggest that groups like Raices should “close down their special-interest clubs for one semester” is to ignore the needs of students who, like me, have much to learn from these groups.
Jasminne Paulino-Cevallos ’03
Union Township, N.J.

The College Hall organ?

I can answer
the question [“Who, What, When,” spring Scope] of what happened to the organ that was in College Hall. When a digital organ replaced it, the original was put into storage. But Prof. Saxton asked permission of the Filene family to take it out of storage, and it was eventually sold to a church in Waterbury, Conn. That church had a dedication ceremony for it in 1987, which my husband and I attended. Mr. Saxton played the organ for the dedication. He still played wonderfully, and it was great to see him.
Phyllis Friedman Levenson ’45
Somers, N.Y.