When my partner and I purchased our home 22 years ago, I can assure you that we were not thinking about what it would be like to manage the place many years later. We fell in love with the generous size of the rooms, the cathedral ceilings, bay windows and the lovely, bright kitchen. There is a neighboring creek, with tiny minnows, and a wood bridge that crosses over it, adding to its charm. We both have always adored the place, cozy and conveniently located. Over time, we’ve had to begin dealing with aspects of the house that are presenting less than ideal circumstances. We don’t fancy the stairs. There are 18 of them leading from the street up to the front door. There are another 18 leading from the garage up to the door that opens into our kitchen. I kid you not.
Never mind schlepping loads of laundry from the laundry room (located off of the garage) upstairs, try hauling sacks of groceries. After saying it out loud that these were problems, it didn’t take us long to unearth additional displeasing and general maintenance headaches, such as fixing the roof, replacing the water heater, rusty appliances, and, well, you get the picture.
Motivated problem solvers that we are, we decided to explore alternative living situations that might provide us with an easier way of life. I was anxious to move, my partner was not. Still, we decided that it couldn’t hurt to visit a couple of adult independent communities, so we did, but this proved to hold our interest for only a moment. It didn’t seem to fit. What followed were visits to a few “multi-generational” apartment complexes, which convinced me I wanted to stay put and not move, while my partner had begun dreaming about a maintenance-free future without stairs.
What to do, what to do? And there it was…it suddenly dawned on us that we had another option. Why not figure out which improvements we could make that would increase the quality of our lives, making it possible to stay in our beloved home. A “eureka” moment, I assure you. We set about researching chair lift and bath- to- shower companies, and collecting estimates on flooring and interior painting, as well as the cost to replace appliances. We learned that by refinancing our mortgage, we could not only decrease the years we’ll be paying on it, at a lower interest rate, it would also provide the capital to make our improvements. We felt quite well informed and wise!
All of the decision making has been terribly exciting (and at times a bit overwhelming). When the chair lift was installed, and I took it for a spin, I was abruptly overcome by the feeling that I had gotten old. Up until that moment it had not been a visceral, literal experience. I felt throttled and disillusioned, worried that all of the planning had been a mistake. This first, new addition to our home did not appear to offer freedom, as promised, but instead seemed a reflection of my limitation. Overcome with self-judgment, I thankfully confessed this to a friend; a contemporary who had been a terrific sounding board, involved in my process from the very start. He cheered me on for having the gumption to take the bull by the horns, for being resourceful, and for paying attention to what I need. Growing older has its trade-offs. Clearly, it presents some challenges, as well as some perspective. Hopefully, it provides an opportunity to learn some lessons. Taking care of yourself doesn’t always look the way you imagined it might. And growing older – that’s different from getting old.
If you’d like to take a ride on our chair lift, tickets are now on sale. Whee!
Cindy Davis is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor.
She was an advice columnist for the Times-News, and is also a PFLAG Board Member.
Watch for Cindy's column each month on our Newsletter