I don’t think of my parents as old even though my dad is 84 and my mom is 80.
They’ve slowed down a little and they’re a little forgetful but, for the most part, they’re in good health and have most of their wits about them.
They moved to an Active Living Community about 15 years ago where they have a lot of friends, belong to clubs, play golf and participate in card groups and go to the theater. My dad still goes to the gym about 4 times a week. My mom mostly talks about going to the gym, but at least she walks the dog every day, which is good. Navigating airports is getting harder but they still travel.
All of this has kept their minds sharp and their bodies healthy.
Until last year, my mom cleaned her own house regularly—mostly because, in her mind, it doesn’t matter how much you pay someone to come clean, they’ll never do it exactly the way you would do it. (Gee, no idea where I get my control issues.) Until the last couple of years, my dad did most of the handy work around the house. In fact, the neighborhood widows would call regularly and ask if my dad could come over and help them change light bulbs or help with other small jobs. Now my parents have more help because it’s getting to be too much for them. My mom’s back can’t handle her getting on her hands and knees to scrub the tile floor anymore. My dad no longer does any of his own gardening, and now they call a handyman when they need stuff done.
To me, that doesn’t seem unreasonable. In fact, I’m surprised it took them as long as it did to bring people in to help.
But now they’re starting to scout out those places where you can live independently in a small house or apartment and then slide right into assisted living if you or your spouse needs more help.
And I’ll be honest. It’s freaking me the the fuck out.
On one hand I understand the appeal of these places. They have emergency systems in every home. They don’t have to worry about maintaining and house and yard, someone comes in and cleans a couple of times a week, and they even get meals if they want them. They still have gyms and pools and a gagillion other things to do if they want.
But these places are for OLD people. And I’m afraid that if they move somewhere like this, they’re just going to give up and die. It’s not like they aren’t surrounded my old people now, but a place like this could easily jump start the inevitable decline.
They have zero desire to move in with us (or my brother). In fact, last year, the house next door was for sale and we floated the idea of them buying it, but my mom got all indignant about maintaining their privacy. (This coming from the woman who gave me exactly zero privacy from the time I hit junior high until I left for college!)
I get that moving into a place like that before they need to will make for a smoother transition. I helped my mother-in-law go through her house after her husband died because she wasn’t able to live alone, and it was one of the most difficult things I think you can do in life. I also understand that if one of my parents does get sick, it’ll be easier to get assistance without a lot of upheaval.
I’m not in denial about the inevitable, but I don’t want them to usher it in either. I should be grateful that they’re planning ahead. I know that. But I guess this whole thing makes me sad.
I’m extremely lucky to still have my parents. I’m grateful that they’re healthy. They’re coming to terms with the fact that they won’t always be and I guess I need to do the same.