There’s planning for the future you want and then there is planning for the future that is coming. If you ever think of your aging parents or peruse over old photographs of you with your grandparents and start to wax nostalgic, you know that age brings unimaginable joys and wisdom, but it also plunges you and the rest of us into the uncomfortable position of not having quite the independence we’ve come to know. Both the good and the bad of aging take hold of all of us, but there are ways to meet these certainties with grace and ease if you just allow yourself to prepare.
If your kids are off to college and you’re meditating on the idea of doing a little bit of a remodel, do yourself a favor and think a little bit further ahead than you want. Keep in mind that one day you might not be able to get around with the vivacious efficiency that you do now, and that if you’re lucky, maybe even grandkids could soon accompany your chaotic and already loud thanksgiving celebrations. When doing a remodel, think practically as well as aesthetically. Instead of installing that marble kitchen floor you’ve often dreamed of, consider something that you could watch your grandkid fall on and not give you a heart attack. Also, marble and tile can become dangerously slippery when wet, so think of alternative materials for your floor and counter tops that will make your future version of you a bit more at ease.
When my folks remodeled their bedroom last year, I suggested that they get a bed slightly lower to the ground. It’s not quite on the floor, but it’s an easy sit rather than an effort. Right now, my parents are both pushing seventy years old. They’re both tremendously active -- my mother tends a garden all summer long and my father still swims regularly at the community pool – but I know that won’t always be the case. I know that one day, when a storm’s a brewin’ and my dad’s metal hip starts “actin’ up” that he’ll appreciate a bed lower to the ground that’s easier to get in and out of.
In the spirit of looking for a way to make things easier, my ever so wise mother suggested making the kitchen and the bathrooms wheelchair accessible accessible. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but let me explain. Neither of my parents need a wheelchair, and hopefully neither of them ever will. However, the chance isn’t out of the realm of possibility and that chance grows as they get older. In that spirit, my mom made the walking areas a little bit wider, so just in case, a wheelchair would be able to maneuver easily if need be. They also installed a handrail in the shower, because really, who doesn’t need one of those from time to time. I often lament that I don’t when I get home late or have to wake up very early.
I respect that growing older is a sensitive subject, but aging is something that we all go through literally every day. It never hurts to balance your long term plans to incorporate both the blessings of aging and the not so romantic aspects of it as well.