By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
The impact of aging on where we live was a topic of conversation with friends and relatives over the past few weekends.
At a Halloween Party on Saturday night, a friend talked about the recent move that he and his wife had made. They moved from the rural home and property they had owned to a condominium in the city. The reason for the move, he said, was that the maintenance and upkeep of the house and the 70 acres of property had become too much for them to handle.
They downsized to a condo that is about half the size of their rural home. The upside is that everything is on one floor, and they are close to shopping and services.
Also, he said, we are in our late 70s. Looking to the future, we see what has happened to some of our friends as they have aged. We are much better prepared for what might happen as we age into our 80s and 90s.
Another conversation arose two weeks earlier when we were visiting in-laws. I was curious as to how they liked the remodeling that was done to their bedroom and bathroom. The remodeling plans included the widening of the doorways to the bedroom and bathroom so they could accommodate a walker, scooter or wheelchair should the need ever arise in the future. The bathroom was reconfigured so that it now features a spacious walk-in shower and enough space so that it would be easy to maneuver a wheelchair or scooter. They love how the remodeling project turned out and appreciate how the rooms are designed to better meet potential needs in the future.
The in-laws are fortunate as well because their bedroom and bath are located on the first floor of the house so no stairs are involved to get from their bedroom to the kitchen, den, living room and dining room. It is the other bedrooms that are located upstairs.
In addition, the walk-out basement houses its own living area, kitchen, bedroom and full bathroom so it can be a place for a caregiver to stay if need be.
The situation is much different in the house where my wife and I live, I told my friends a week later as we discussed this topic over dinner. You have to go up one step to get from the front entry area to the living room, dining room and kitchen. You have to go down two stairs to get from the kitchen to the family room, laundry room and powder room.
The bedrooms and bathrooms are all located on the second floor. You have to navigate first twelve stairs, make a 180 degree turn and then an additional two steps to reach our bedroom and bathroom.
None of doorways are wide enough to easily accommodate a wheelchair or scooter. None of the bathrooms are wide enough to accommodate the turning radius of a wheelchair or scooter.
Even with extensive renovation, our house is not designed for aging in place.
Another aspect of the impact of aging on where we live that we discussed over dinner was social interaction. The importance of social interaction to aging well is well-documented. Social interaction is cited as one of the most important factors to good physical, mental and emotional health as you age. The lack of social interaction can pose many health risks.
The consensus around the table was that applications such as SKYPE and FaceTime will allow us to chat with and share experiences with relatives and friends, especially those that live a long distance away. The apps, however, will not be able to replace the impact of personal, face-to-face interactions.
Living in a suburban environment where we are so dependent on driving, what will happen if we have to give up the car keys? Will we find ourselves more and more isolated in the place that we live? Might we have to admit that when it comes to our house the saying “There is No Place Like Home” no longer applies?