It’s fascinating and helpful to learn how and where other elders are living as we move into these later years. The choices and decisions many have already made are as varied, creative and interesting as the people who’ve made them.
There are so many things to consider: health, strength, independence, driving abilities, proximity to services and public transportation, family and finances, to name just a few.
Couples seem to have an easier time of it, depending on each other for support in their decisions. Single people have more of a challenge. We are it, and our kids may live far away. We all must adapt to change and face up to some loss in our level of independence. Perhaps real independence is recognizing when it’s time to ask for help.
There’s a whole new world out there that some are already experiencing. A couple I know have recently moved to Denver and bought a townhouse in a senior living community to be closer to their kids. Another couple is building a new house with room for a nurse, so they will have in-house care. Other friends have bought long-term care insurance for when that time comes. A single friend in Maine has set herself up to be an independent woman on the land. She is subsistent, grows much of her own food and is as strong as an ox at 76. Another has downsized to buy a smaller house here in Durango next door to her kids – that’s handy!
Some are moving from the country/woods/ski area into town to make things easier. Two women live with their daughters. Another woman I know has a spare room and encourages friends to come and stay for long periods of time, for companionship and help – a sort of Mable Dodge Lujan-type salon.
I’m wanting to “age in place,” the new term for staying in my house as long as I can. I can walk to everything, I’ve learned that the Durango/La Plata Senior Center has many services to offer us, and I see many home-care businesses that have sprung up all over town. At some point, I may want to modify my house a bit when needs change.
Many of us tried to create a senior co-housing community several years ago here in town, but we could never find land convenient enough to make it worth it. There are, of course, senior communities, assisted living and senior apartments as options.
Community is important. If we have like-minded people around us, there will be companionship and interaction. It’s probably easy to become isolated and housebound as we age.
Then there’s the question of whether we want to live near our kids and depend on them for our needs. Many of us don’t want to uproot ourselves from our communities and friends. Moving to a new area seems daunting as far as making new connections at this age.
We need to communicate our needs with family and loved ones. The earlier we assess these needs and how they may evolve over time, the more choices and control we may have.
We need to be patient with ourselves and accept the losses that we may feel now or later. We also need to be open to new possibilities and consider other options. We never know when we’ll find new friendships or new interests we never considered before.
The safety and confidence we may feel when we’ve made some of these decisions will go far in enhancing our later years.
Martha McClellan has been a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus now to the other end of life and has written a book, The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.