A few weeks ago, I did my good deed in Hartsdale, New York. A small town, in central Westchester County with a population of a little over five thousand people. What did I do? I helped an older man cross the street. Something you would have expected of a scout, but this geriatric care manager, never a Girl Scout, just rose to the occasion. It could have been out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but it was just me walking up the street at the right time and a gentleman, cane in hand, brace on neck, about to step into the street.
It went something like this. First of all, Hartsdale Avenue is a busy thoroughfare connecting two major county routes. To my way of thinking, it is what we call a NORC, a naturally occurring retirement community. Both sides of the street are flanked with apartment houses. People who reside on Hartsdale Avenue are just starting out in life or winding down. This gentleman was the latter. Despite his cane, he was unsteady as he stepped from the curb into the street. He was not at a light and crossing zones designated by horizontal lines in the street are ignored by most drivers. Seeing the potential for an accident, I approached the gentleman and suggested he wait for a moment. I walked into the traffic coming from both directions. No reflective vest or “stop/go” placard, I became a momentary crossing guard. I extended my arms in both directions. Cars stopped and the gentleman crossed the street. About forty minutes later, after leaving a client’s home on the same block, I looked across the street. There was the gentleman sitting on a bench on a lovely spring day.
I share this story with you, not to tell you of my good deed, but as an example of what has to be done in communities to make them senior friendly. Here in Westchester County, New York we have such a program called “Livable Communities.” It is just that, volunteers looking at various aspects of their towns: the evenness of sidewalks, the time span of a red light, supportive services, anything that can make it possible for an older adult to live safely and longer at home.
So why did this gentleman cross the street in Hartsdale, New York? Probably for the same reason the chicken crossed the road, he wanted to get to the other side. I just feel fortunate I was able to make his crossing a little safer.