Growing up in Faribault, Minnesota, Roxanne Cornell says her family home had a revolving door of kids and neighbors. “We’d make dinner for the neighborhood. That’s just the way it was. Older adults have always been a big part of my life because of how I was raised,” says Roxanne. She remembers when she was in her twenties and an older neighbor taught her how to make Swedish coffee and poached eggs.
Now a Minneapolis resident, Roxanne has started noticing more older adults in her neighborhood. “I look around and I see people that look like me, and I don’t mean people that resemble my features,” Roxanne laughs. “People who look my age. 60-somethings. It hit me that there’s a wave of us. I’ve known statistically what’s happening, but I really noticed it when I saw it every day.”
As a social worker of more than 30 years, Roxanne now owns and operates a home on Lake Nokomis shared by a group of women in their 60s and 70s. Helping older adults age in place is a subject near and dear to her heart. “It’s important for people to stay connected to the communities where they have connections. We live in a real ‘buck up’ society. We’re going to do it alone, by golly. That attitude has carried our Greatest Generation well into their 80s and created a whole history for us to follow. But it’s a double-edged sword.”
Roxanne says we need to look in our own neighborhoods and create smaller communities for elders to age in place. “It allows you that place to have a sense of belonging. I think people are craving that. We all need purpose. I don’t care if you’re 20 or 90. We need purpose every day.”
Minnesotans have a great opportunity to know and support their neighbors of all ages, emphasizes Roxanne. “We can talk over the fence. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 25 years, and I know my neighbors up and down both blocks. That’s because I talk to people.” Roxanne adds that we must overcome our fears. “We live in such a fear culture and we’re afraid to talk to anybody that looks different or is older or younger than us, but most people want the same things.”