Aging in place is a phrase that is thrown around a lot these days. Young people have the idea that their life and life of their parents will be simplified if they just widen doors and retrofit the sink, etc. The children can come home to the house they were raised in for Thanksgiving and MOM/Dad will have the same bowl they ate out of when they were two. I know that is what I thought when my mother was facing her eighties. She asked about the possibility that she might need to move because she could not do the things necessary to maintain the house. I remember being flip with her and talking about aging in place. I regret that now.
But as time passed I changed my mind! Communities are different now and older people are so isolated in a neighborhood where everyone works night and day. I have come to the opinion that we are better off seeking a community that surrounds us with age mates and lots of activities. Living is what we need to do...not age in place! Even the blog called Aging in Place talked about the "context" of aging in place. There are no rules or directives. We just need to remember that making the bathroom door wider is not enough. Your parent is not going to be happy because they have a big bathroom door...your parent is living the last part of their and the life should be full and beautiful. So, if that cannot happen in the house they have lived in for 40 years, then there needs to be a positive change. If children do it right, the parent will be delighted. It is all about the context of the suggestion. Here some things I have learned:
- Living with my age mates is a good thing. I did not realize how much younger I felt around people my own age until we began spending our winters in a 55+ RV Resort here in Arizona. I actually felt alive, interesting and even young...by comparison. I have learned about being active in my old age and I saw good examples for living a very long time.
- Try it on first. It could be that those of you that are debating about your next life choice could benefit from trying the lifestyle change your debating before you make the leap. Cohousing, condo living, 55+ communities and even Retirement Housing may not be the life you are seeking. That is what we are doing now. I have learned that resort living is lots of fun and I will seek something that mirrors the life I have here...but with a little more help!
- Take the lead. I would like to have figured it out before my children have a chance to take over. If we are to get just what we want then we need to begin finding how and where we want to live.
- Transitional change? As we age the stages of life are playing themselves out. I hear people in their late 50s talking about moving into something forever. My friend calls it her "forever house". I am beginning to think post retirement is a good time for a transitional home purchase. Like The Three Bears home, the house should be "not too big, not too little but just right". Boomerang children are discouraged from coming back to nest but they can visit for a short while but not get too comfortable. We can get rid of part of our stuff but keep enough to satisfy us and we can learn to share the space with a little more room. As we downsize gradually, we will adjust better. It is just a thought!
- Stay Bendable! Here is the biggest challenge of all. Although we hate change even worse as we get older, we need to remain flexible if we can! I know...it is like changing the tides in the ocean. But still, it is absolutely the truth! If we don't see change as a good thing, we will have choices made for us and honestly, we will probably be cranky about them.
- Close but not too close. I know that I will want to be close to a family member. I do not want to ever move in with them...ever. Even if I didn't see them very often, I would find comfort in the fact that we were breathing the same air.
So there you go. I just thought I could help you think this through with someone that is walking this road. Come on out to play. We could hold hands and giggle along the way.