We have 235 people out here according to a recent but unofficial census. 85 live on our island. Half of all of them are 65+. At least 10 are over 75. No one wants to leave. Ever.
That simple factoid presents a bit of a challenge to the community. We will need ‘aging-in-place’ programs, additional services, more cooperation….etc. We already have the bare minimum physical resources in the community centre, the bunkhouse, the ‘spontaneous’ cafes and numerous and varied volunteer efforts. And everyone helps someone. We keep community. We seem to ‘make it happen’.
Money plays a very insignificant role in the doing of that. And that makes it better all ’round. Assistance is sincere, immediate and personal. Community is built stronger, albeit somewhat unplanned and sporadic.
Of course, money DOES play a role – just so much less so than in the city. Out here, no one carries a wallet. There are no stores. Money is used primarily when dealing with the outside world and, naturally, we all keep that to a minimum. Out here we deal mostly in good will. And some people are richer in goodwill than others……
This is a community of the ‘lesser-employed’, unemployed, unemployable, retired, and isolated. We have a few really rich people, too. This is also a community of very independent-minded people (rich or poor). This is a ‘village’ of make-do, repair, recycle, barter, exchange, trade, gift and ‘pay-for-the-gas-only’ transactions. No one ‘leans’ on others and, if they do, they are un-subtly dissuaded rather quickly. And everyone supports others now and again……whether they lean or not.
One is, I admit, somewhat encouraged in building community-based-on-goodwill. This common currency is mostly founded on a sense of some civic duty, plus basic kindness and consideration. Not money. Trade and barter are OK, too. In fact, it is almost an insult to say, “Hey! Will you accept $50.00 for that?”
I mention all that because, as you know, we (the community) have incurred much more-than-normal expenses this year. The BIG one was raising $150,000.00 for a land purchase (in the community’s name). Readers will be pleased to know: that target was reached within three months!
I am reeling! One couple: $50K. Another: $15K. A single man, $20K and a single women $10k. Out here, those are big numbers. Quite extraordinary. We need $15,000 more, tho. Why? For ‘outside’ costs like lawyers and the fee for the Go Fund Me people.
We have also installed communications equipment worth say, $5,000 (if a guy came out from town)…free.
We have initiated a home-support and community support program (started with donations and now almost funded by government – we’ll see in April).
We have a winter cafe (runs twice a month) to supplement the summer cafe that runs weekly when the sun comes out.
We even have a fledgling food service in the water-taxi-delivery food orders, the soup-club and with people swapping fish-for-cheesecake kinda thing……like I said, “we make it all happen”.
But 2020 is an important year. This year will portend or suggest (but NOT determine) our future. We spent 2018 and 19 planning with SOME ‘doing’ (cleanup, etc.). We are even close to an official ‘community plan’.
As of now, we see the younger people increasing in numbers AND stepping up ‘for duty’ but, of course, they are not as experienced and confident yet. Oldsters act like mentors when asked, like grouches if not asked. One way or the other the lessons get learned. Community chores are being swapped. That ‘hand-off’ to the next generation is in progress and it seems to be working.
Having said that, the oldies are getting older every day and their needs will get more pressing. Can we adjust to the demands of aging and still grow the community? Can we all stay here-in-place as long as we want? Will the younger generation inherit and expand the informal but necessary ‘institutions’ of our OTG community?
Will we OTG’ers buck the first-world trend of having lonely, isolated people living in apartment/cabin hell? Or will we fold-up and surrender and move to some normal services-dependent society when the chores get too hard? I do not know the ultimate answer but I do know that any answer will be founded on developing strong (er) community. This is the year that will indicate how we are doing……