“We’ll All Get Old If We Live Long Enough”

—Jan’s Granny

Mom was talking the other day about finding herself a nursing home or assisted living place to move into before we (my three brothers and I) are “burdened” by her. She’s gotten a bit forgetful of late, although I haven’t noticed it all that much. Her father had Alzheimer and she may be thinking about how he didn’t even remember her.

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My oldest brother, a nuclear engineer who is hanging out with her for a bit between consulting jobs, laughs it off. “She doesn’t remember anything she doesn’t like to do,” he says. “Anything else, she’s fine.”

I need to ask her a simple question: Where do YOU want to be? Maybe 30 years ago, she moved to the country into a simple house that she’s turned into a home. Another one of my brothers owns a construction company, so he’s done a lot of upgrading at her direction. He can certainly do more.

Oh. Did I tell you that, at age 85, Mom can run circles around us young’uns?

Sources say that as many as 90% of people over the age of 65 want to remain in their current residence as they age. I know I do. Way back in 1990, my husband and I walked into the living room here during an open house and instantly had the feeling we were at home. I like my house, my neighborhood, my friends. The locally owned coffee shop, the independent grocer, and even the funky farm supply store just outside the nabe.

At any rate, languishing away in a nursing home isn’t my idea of a good time. A friend and I used to talk about getting a big house and moving in with some other like-minded women – and hiring a hot dude who is an awesome cook to look after us.

Perhaps due in large part to the post-World War II baby boom, a movement called “Aging in Place” has come into the forefront, not just in the United States, but around the world. According to aginginplace.com, the term “refers to living where you have lived for years…using products, services, and conveniences which allow you to remain home as your circumstances change.”

I was surprised when I went to visit some friends last month. They had a house built, and you’d think it would be more accommodating. It did have levers instead of doorknobs on the doors – which enabled their rambunctious Siberian husky, Thor, to open any door he wanted. On the plus side, there were deep drawers under the countertop stove to hold pots and pans and a kitchen faucet that could be turned on and off with a touch (and was right fun to play with, lemme tell ya!).

On the other hand, I had to use two separate bathrooms to go to the toilet and to wash my hands. I could shower in one of the hand-washing bathrooms. And I couldn’t get outside the house because of doorsills. I could get out through the garage, but couldn’t get back in via the back porch or the courtyard because of steps.

Building a house would have been a perfect time to incorporate features that could possibly allow them to live there longer.

When I became disabled, we had to do a few things to our house. For one, I needed a ramp. The best way to get a ramp was to have one that went down from a deck. So I got my deck in the back of the house.

What my friends could have done was to use landscaping to make a “ramp.” Have the landscapers make a gentle slope up to the door, plant some flowers and shrubs or something. Voila! Instant (invisible) ramp!

Frankly, however, these are not things you think about unless you need them. Now.

The one time I thanked my husband for his propensity to procrastinate was when we got a new front door. If we had gotten it before my leg amputation, we would not have thought about getting one that was zero entry.

Much in the same way, we didn’t think about having the bathroom walls reinforced when it was remodeled several years ago. You need stronger-than-usual walls to install grab bars. They’re upgraded now.

A recent article in The Washington Post notes that

it costs far less to include most aging-in-place components during a construction project than to go back and add them later. Installing supportive blocking for grab bars while the bathroom walls are open, for instance, adds almost nothing to construction costs; adding them later means cutting into the wall.

This site has a list of accommodations needed to address various conditions. Just scroll down.

You can take a look at the top 10 trends by going here.

I’m not having a new house built – and mine is about 100 years old – but I can do a little bit here and there. If I’m having an electrician in for something else, I can have him move some outlets higher so I can reach them. I can change the knobs on my kitchen cabinets and on the doors in the house. I can decide that if the dishwasher has been broken for 15 years and I don’t miss it, maybe I could have a couple of deep drawers put in that space to hold pots and pans.

Then I can stay here or, if I decide to move, it might make the house easier to sell.

We’re all getting older and will be coping with the infirmities of aging. On top of that, we have diabetes and are at risk for complications. Oh, joy. Must be time to get started.

  • jim snell

    I love it. “O Joy!”

    The comments about adding grab bars and support rods are dead on. After my stroke, I had to have my son add the stainless rods and bars in the bathroom.

    Showers are another stupid mess. Smooth walls and no holding support anywhere. My home, the hotel, on an on it goes.

    Yet the cost to add at construction time is small and high after market add after house built.

    Why our world is going around creating Mona Lisa bathrooms/showers and tubs totally escapes me – no
    safety grab bars in case ne slips, disabled etc.
    One is lucky to have a strong soap dish if at all to grab!

    After my stroke, hospital would not let me go home until they inspected changes to add the requisite bars and hand holds. Needed – dam rights and thank goodness I did.

    Keep shooting Jan. Love the article!

  • Jean

    Hello Jan,
    I would like to know if you are still posting here.
    I think I can help your mom with her memory problem. I am staying with my dad now who is 84 and suffering from Alzheimers.
    I will be trying a protocol with him for 90 days as I learned this disease can be revered in 90 days. I will keep a look out for you in case you get this and respond. I would like to let you know how this goes for my dad and if it works I will tell you what I did so you can help your mom.

    God bless you!!