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Elderproofing the Yard

“The only way I am leaving this house is in a body bag,” asserted one of our new friends, a founder of the Denver virtual village now known as A Little Help.  Along with Bill and me and 90% of those responding to a recent AARP survey, she prefers to age in place in her home rather than contemplate a move to a senior care community.

On the other hand, younger family members can become concerned about this trend which means more elders living alone and unsupervised.  Are they safe?  Are they happy?  Are we doing enough for them?

The tension between these two viewpoints has given rise to many technological innovations designed to monitor an elder’s safety and daily activity from afar.  These range from simple panic buttons that summon help in case of emergency to caregiver robots that support long distance observation and communication with family and medical people.

Bill and I already have the much recommended bathroom grab bar situation under control—they make great towel holders.  We are both still fine on the stairs.  Going forward, our plan is to address further modifications inside and out gradually over the next several years. The focus this spring is on out of doors projects designed to support our comfort both now and down the road.  Number one on our list is a transition from overhead to drip irrigation in our flower and vegetable gardens.

Our do-it-herself neighbor to the north has often told us how easy it would be for us to make these modifications to our existing system ourselves, but Bill and I are both intimidated to the point of catatonia.  My idea was to call the guy who came to our rescue at short notice during a heat wave last fall.  When he identified and fixed a sprinkler malfunction in half an hour, I thought all our problems were solved.  He gave us a very reasonable bid for doing the conversion, and we hired him on the spot thinking we couldn’t go wrong.

I had to reassess however when he showed up for work for only three hours in a 10 day period.  I could imagine this job stretching out until Labor Day.  Or Christmas.

Next, I turned to Angie’s List.  I called four A-rated companies and eventually got estimates from two of them.  The other two were amazingly uninterested in our business.  One guy even tried to dissuade me from putting in a drip system at all on the grounds that it would end up being so much more work for us to maintain.

At this point our neighbor to the north was a comforting source of information and experience.  She reinforced our assumptions that we could easily put in a flexible system that would meet the varying water needs of xeric perennials and thirsty veggies.  All that remained was to find out how much this wonderful new system was going to set us back.

Eventually we did receive a new set of bids. The difference between them was surprising.  They ranged from nearly $3000 to well under $1000.   We were delighted that the company with the lower bid also seems most able to meet our needs.  Finally, it looks like this project is going to happen.

They start tomorrow.  If all goes well, by tomorrow night we should be one step closer to creating a safe, happy and comfortable sanctuary for our declining years.



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3 comments to Elderproofing the Yard

  • dragonet2

    i Am really happy my mom uses a lawn service. She is in her late 80s, is relatively healthy and living in her own home with my sister living just around the corner. We both help with stuff, and sometimes when there are big things (like when her small basement flooded because ‘that sump pump keeps running and it worries me’ and she unplugged it. Just before her town got almost a foot of rain in a day’s time.

    If she’s like most of the rest of her family that did not die of cancer from cigarettes, she will just stop one day. Or go down with a last, short failure. We will make sure she is okay, I sometimes go over and cook for her making sure to make leftovers, and we talk all the time about what is going on, how we can help better, etc.

    So far, so good. She keeps saying she ought to have moved into ‘one of those old folks’ apartments’ but she does not like being near other people that are strangers. So I think we have the best thing right now.

  • Here’s a further comment emailed to us by our neighbor to the north:

    Thanks for sharing, Carol. There are many things I regret with the house, but my drip line is not one of them. It takes a day each season to make tweeks and fix any minor issues and then you may need to change water flow, but that is really it. I am a “gardener” because of this. I would never be able to water that consistently. Ten out of ten times I would choose to put in a drip line again if I was starting over. Now to attend to the front by the street. Sigh…..

  • They came, they worked, they left, it’s great,

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