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Getting Ready to Age in Place

Environmental Pitfalls to Overcome

On one of my visits to North Carolina to see Mom and Bernie, some of Mom’s friends took me aside to express their deepening concern about the elderly couple’s safety and habits.  It seems that Bernie liked to sit around the house in his underwear, and Mom was getting more and more forgetful.

Comfortably ensconced in their dream home, neither Mom nor Bernie had any intention of moving to a “safer,” more supervised environment as their friends were sure they should.  “Safer” meant less control over their lives.  It meant many losses that they were unwilling to sustain–including the loss of their home with its wonderful woodland views.

One of the things that Bill and I learned as caregivers is how intense the pressure can become, from friends, family and the community, to move an elder from a long-time home into some form of more or less supervised and institutionalized senior living residence.  Many elders relocate very happily.  Mom’s friends loved the very nice senior community in nearby Tryon.  But Mom and Bernie did not want a change.  They hung on to their dream home for as long as they possibly could.

When I think about our future, I find that I’m with them.  Bill and I are focused on transforming our 1937 Historic Denver house into the kind of home that will support our needs as we age.  Right now that means remodeling the 5 x 7 kitchen into a space where food preparation and cleanup are both safe and easy.

The kitchen is the room adult children and other caregivers of aging-in-place elders worry about the most.  What if they leave a burner on and the house burns down?  What’s that green moldy stuff at the back of the fridge?  How old is all that food in the freezer?

A New Refrigerator is our First Step

Having learned all about these worries with my parents, Bill and I want to take preventative measures while we still have our marbles.  We also want to install a dishwasher.  In 76 years, this house has never had one.

The only solution is to remodel the kitchen.  I can’t tell you how unexcited I am to be undertaking this task.  But if I want to live out my days here, I must bite the bullet and build!

The project starts in earnest on February 25.  As a way of easing into it, we began to acquaint ourselves with some of the new features this fall.  Our biggest step was to take delivery of the new refrigerator in October.

We chose a counter depth French door model with a bottom freezer.  It is lots harder to lose track of leftovers in this fridge, because the distance from front to back is shallower.  And all the refrigerated food is more or less at eye level.  Looking down into the freezer’s pull-out drawer, it seems easier to spot things than it was on our old eye level freezer shelves.  Plus there is less stooping and crouching to sort through the food or to clean the shelves and drawers.

We like the French door model as it enables us to divide the fridge into equal areas for his and her food preferences.  Bill needs to eat gluten free.  I avoid dairy products.  He prefers a spicy Southwestern menu.  My tongue and digestive system are happier with a blander “American” diet. Now we each have our own refrigerator door and shelves!  Even the freezer is divided into two equal compartments.

This fridge and the other appliances we have chosen were not available to Mom and Bernie when they remodeled their North Carolina kitchen upon their retirement.  They did their best, but eventually arthritis and dementia defeated them.

We hope that with a safer kitchen and the help of ever improving technological health aids and safety monitoring systems, we will be lucky enough to be able to live out our days in the familiar comfort of our South Denver home.

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2 comments to Getting Ready to Age in Place

  • Please, please keep us informed as the remodeling process continues. I’ll be interested to see and hear about some of the changes you are making.

    • Thanks, Marti. We can think of little else. Today we packed up all the soapmaking supplies that were stored in a little kitchen area in the basement so we can shift our cooking tasks downstairs during the remodel. Starting in mid to late February, it will take 6 to 8 weeks. And that’s if all goes well.

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