Everyone Ages: Don’t Get Old Before Your Time

I’ve been watching as my parents’ age. Next month they’ll be 85 and 86 years old, both having August birthdays. They’ve maintained, and even fought for, as much independence as they can tolerate. This includes still living in their own home, a large rambling ranch with a finished basement, grocery shopping in person two to three times a week, and occasionally going out to dinner. They don’t travel anymore, nor do they feel the need to do so. My father finally contracted to have their 2-acre lawn cut and trimmed and their driveway plowed in the winter. He realized he cannot do it anymore. That is all okay.

They limit trips to their “basement” where things are stored in totes and another whole floor of finished rooms and filled closets await. Those trips are made only by my dad, as my mom cannot take the stairs anymore. She depends on a rolling walker and cane if she’s going any distance. Lifting a foot causes imbalance and hence the stairs are a danger and tiring.

Despite still owning two cars, my dad is the only driver. My mom never liked to drive and once she retired (at 55) she rarely drove. My dad drove them everywhere they needed to go and she rode along. Rarely, not even occasionally, she’d meet a cousin or friend out for lunch. In that case, she drove. We think it’s been well over seven years since she last drove. She now has memory issues so those preclude any driving as well.

As my husband and I approach our sixth decade, there are lessons we still need to learn from both his set of parents (now deceased) and mine. Both families, thankfully, have longevity in their genes, so we should be able to look forward to many more years. We want to make good decisions about our future.

However, we also have to be careful not to rush into being old. A case in point was the planning of the recent sale of our own rambling ranch where we lived for the last sixteen years. It was too big for us once our boys were grown and flown (to borrow an expression from another blogger). Like my parents who owned their ranch and a condo in South Carolina, we owned a primary residence and a lake home or four-season cabin. This served us well while our boys were growing up but we began to question the need to keep both homes. We jumped and sold our primary residence last month. This left us free to move to the lake. My parents had talked about moving to their condo in South Carolina but after my mom had a serious illness last fall that left her hospitalized for 55 days, they knew the time to move to the condo had passed and sold it. We had learned our lesson, move while you still can.

But, the cabin is not ideal. There are stairs, and lots of them, no garage, and much less storage. Is it a beautiful and relaxing place to live? Absolutely. But, who wants stairs as they age? Not many people. As we also own another parcel of land (15 acres) on which we put a driveway last year, I was charged with finding a house plan that would have one-story living, an attached garage, and a storage shed for my husband’s woodshop. I was bent on having a zero entry and no stairs to navigate unless we were still in good enough health to navigate. Thus, all the plans I looked at had all needed living space on the main floor.

Stairs? No

Water closets for the toilets? No. (Why is this a thing?)

Main floor laundry? Absolutely.

An office for my writing and other hobbies? Of course.

But, there are a few problems with this. 1) Typically, I don’t like ranch homes. I never have despite having owned one. 2) We want a smaller home. And, when we met with a builder, the plan I had picked out was still large, if we finished the lower level which was under the whole house. To have a smaller footprint, one must build up – that means stairs. 3) Moving to the lake home meant stairs, a non-zero entry, and no garage, let alone an attached garage. 4) Even though we cleaned out as a middle-aged couple, we still need storage and should have it.

We’re working on some of these “first world problems” we have with decision-making about our home. The fact is that have a beautiful place to live – one that would make some people envious. Is it perfect? No. Can we navigate stairs? Absolutely! Were we making ourselves “old” before we are? Yes.

My husband is doing everything possible to make us comfortable at the cabin while we decide about building on the acreage. We installed heating and cooling units on all three floors to negate the dependence on our pellet stove. He is building another private bedroom and finished a second private bathroom downstairs. We’ll have another TV area down there as well. This will work great for when we have guests. We can live on all three floors but don’t need to. We’re approaching our sixties, not our eighties. I don’t want to be old before our time.

One floor living?! We absolutely don’t need it yet. But, I think it’s important that we look toward the future and make smart decisions now. I’m still learning some important lessons from my parents.

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