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Monday, May 11, 2015

Staying Home

Where I live has always mattered to me. I am happiest in a space I can be myself in, a space I can arrange to suit my tastes and needs and the tastes and needs of those I choose to share my life with.

In the Third Phase, questions about home take on new meaning. For those who've had children, there are decisions about "downsizing." For those who've had homes in cities where real estate has jumped in value, there are decisions about selling and moving - "cashing out." But move where? A condo? An apartment? A smaller home in a smaller town? For those who are struggling financially without any secure pension or job there are questions about how to pay for an apartment in tight markets.

But in all those questions there is an assumption that, physically, we can manage our living situations.

Hanging over us all though is the question of what will happen when we can no longer take care of ourselves or, for many, no longer afford rent or property taxes. For some those question have to be faced earlier in life than expected; for others they are made in a rush after a fall or the discovery of a disease. Few of us want to think about our final home, but in the back of our minds, even the minds of jogging, fit and disease-free third-phasers looms the last phase of life decision about a home where we will receive care and respect.

That's why it terrifying to hear news about abuses in homes for seniors or stories, like the one from Quebec, that Andre Picard so chillingly analyzed, about whether more than one bath a week is a luxury requiring extra, black market payments.

In the United States it's predicted that by 2035 those over 65 will make up 20 per cent of the population. The fastest growing demographic group there is now over 85. The Conference Board of Canada says this country's senior population will double in the next 25 years. Where will all those people live and how they will all be cared for, especially those without means to afford private care?

For our third phase we chose to get out of the city and settle in a house in a small, beautiful town. We chose a house that works for us now - much of it is on one level, has enough space for us to have offices to work from home in and a garden for me to indulge my need to get my hands dirty. So far it has proved the right decision for us. We did try to think ahead too: we have a house that we should be able to manage for at least 15 years or, fingers crossed, twenty.

But as I climb ladders to put on screens or dig a hole for a new fruit tree I wonder if this house will be manageable for that long. And if not, hope that we can carefully select the additional costs we will have to make to get things done. And hope, we get governments who will offer assistance to stay in our home. I want to pick the fruits (pear, cherry, paw-paw) of my labours.

When my mother lost her mobility she continued living for a time in the town house my father and she had bought after selling their highly needy, old farm house. A nurse from the Victorian Order of Nurses came to help her with her bath and hygiene. She had no wish for her children to visit just to bathe her and found the nurse a comfort. Then when she knew that wasn't enough she moved herself into a home with care.

And that's what I want too - to stay in our house as long as possible and to not be a burden on our single child with a busy life of her own just trying to get by.

So the option of "aging in place," appeals to me immensely. And I'm not alone. It's what most seniors want. But it takes foresight, luck, money and a government willing to include that option in it's wheelhouse of how to help the aged. Sure, we'll need well-inspected private and public care facilities and lots of them but letting the old live as independently as they can needs to be a real, well-assisted possibility. D

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