Aging, Respect, Caregiving, and Honor: How Many of Us Could Do This?

For Mr. Bronson, a Neighbor’s Kind Act Led to a New Family tells the story of a couple in the Washington, DC area, John O’Leary and Nadine Epstein, who became friends and shared a home with Mr. Bronson, a 90-year-old man who had lost his home. What began as a spontaneous offer of a bedroom 25 years ago, when O’Leary offered Mr. Bronson a place to live, developed into a caring relationship for all three individuals. Over the years, the couple helped him find a subsidized apartment, shared nights out, celebrated holidays, even took vacations. In turn, Mr. Bronson gave many gifts to O’Leary and Epstein — gardening, storytelling, enjoying Epstein’s son, Noah, and even attending  Grandparents’ Day at Noah’s school.

Washington Post reporter Annie Gowen describes how Mr. Bronson’s new family added extra support as needed as he grew older. Dementia and balance issues required additional care, and he is currently living in a rehabilitation community, but O’Leary and Epstein, who both work full-time, continue to live nearby so that they can visit, share meals, take trips, and manage transportation and appointments at doctor’s offices. Next they need to figure out what to do when Mr. Bronson no longer needs rehabilitation. In article Epstein commented, “We want for him what we would want for our own parents.”

The amazing thing is that O’Leary never needed to get involved 25 years ago — but he did. This is an extraordinary story about aging, intergenerational gifts, caregiving, respect, and honor, and O’Leary and Epstein are clearly extraordinary people.

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