Tuesday, December 7, 2021
What Do We Mean by Care? Heather McGhee Interviews Ai-Jen Poo
The New York Times is a host for The Ezra Klein Show, a podcast (and short written commentary) with episodes that generally appear on Tuesdays and Fridays each week. Ezra Klein is on paternity leave right now, and in his absence, Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us, interviewed Ai-jen Poo, MacArthur grant winner and author of The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. The discussion is timely.
Interestingly, the title assigned by the NYT to this podcast is "Every 8 Seconds, an American Turns 65. How Do We Care for Everyone?"
Use of that statistic seems to be intended to shock, or at least, to cause a nervous, worried reaction. Yet the "8 Second" rate is also used for new births in the U.S. At the outset of the interesting interview, Heather asks Ai-jen for a definition of "care." Ai-jen responds in her usual fashion -- thoughtfully and carefully -- and says, in essence, "Care is the most fundamental form of support we offer others. We both offer and rely on care; care is essential." She adds, however, that for most families, private care is unaffordable, whether the need is for child care, disabled family member care, or elder care.
I wonder why it is that we so often ask whether "we can afford" the care of older adults? That implies the public form of "we." Yes, too often the response (if not the answer) is "no," but I tend to think that one of the reasons for that fact is that we continue to think that we, as individuals, have some "right" to stay in our homes no matter how long we live, and no matter how much this becomes impossible to manage. Is it just "too" hard as individuals to plan for alternatives? I think the answer is "yes," but if we aren't going to plan as individuals, it seems likely that the costs will always be treated as unaffordable by "the public."