Buddhist Home at Saraha is Saraha's local initiative for altruistic, wisdom and compassion-based senior care to be undertaken within in a social and educational (as opposed to institutional) context here in Saraha's local community of Eugene, Oregon. This local initiative is an offshoot of The Buddhist Home senior care facility project which you can learn more about HERE...
How and Why? In this country senior needs for aging and dying, when addressed institutionally, break down into distinct categories such as at-home care, retirement communities, active and assisted living, nursing homes, hospital, hospice and funeral homes - each configured differently to address different types and stages of care. Given this type of piecemeal and standardized approach, it is easy to loose sight of the fact that living, aging and dying presuppose an unbroken spiritual continuum that each person faces in an individual way.
Understanding and addressing this complex continuity needs to become the unifying basis for senior care. Even the best institutions are only geared to fulfill certain needs. When their "care plans" are revealed, they generally contain protocols for feeding, housing and the administration of medications. Physical acts intended to embody the means of care. But suffering, which care is meant to alleviate or prevent, and happiness, which it is meant to entail, are experienced nowhere other than the mind. Spiritual means mind, and every kind of care is, at its origin, root and fruit, nothing other than spiritual.
Because of this, in addition to what care facilities can provide, and what we can afford, there is vast scope for positive participation of the individual in her own aging process. Styles of living and dying are completely variable and can become replete with positive meaning. This is a crucial point. In addition to the active engagement of the individual, there is the opportunity for chosen society, family, trusted friends and caregivers to support and fulfill many important spiritual as well as physical needs.
The role of the individual and the role of chosen society, these are areas where the specific tools of Buddhist faith, practice and culture offer myriad opportunities of benefit and care for seniors. Fortunately, we have found, these types of contributions to senior care are usually welcomed not only by individuals but by caregiving institutions as well. These types of benefits and activities are things that we can engage in ourselves as we age, and that we can use to help support others, cooperating freely within the framework of many existing types of care and living situations.
This is a creative and cooperative social approach to senior care, involving kindly looking outward towards the lives of others, learning to care from an early age, acquiring the habits and ability to care for one another, building relationships of trust, and then sincerely and practically helping as the needs and opportunities arise.
At present, as "Buddhist Home at Saraha," we are proposing to do this in the context of senior care. But it is easy to imagine how this model could be applied more universally to any plan of altruism. Most of all, it seems, it would be best if this habit of altruistic thinking, joined with doing, should become a type of reflex for both the young and old. In this way, the positive meaning of "Buddhist Home" could become ubiquitous, as everywhere and every home.
We begin this effort by identifying some local organizations and programs that seem to epitomize well-run, convenient living situations, and conscious senior care.