Column: Aging: Preparing for the later years


Commentary by Lorene Burkhart


As the clock ticks and the eighth decade approaches, elderly individuals and their families realize that painful decisions are on the horizon. Singles may be experiencing loneliness. One or both parents may be having health issues. Home maintenance may be increasingly difficult. All of these contribute to family discussions regarding relocation. If the elderly parent lives in a different city or state from the adult child or children, the problem is even more painful for the elderly person. Resolution will most likely involve a major change for the parent/s.

Retirement communities are well aware of the abundance of new elders and deluge them with mailings about the benefits they are offering. Of course, there is an option to do nothing until forced to move because of health issues or to hire live-in or other help.

The elder person can decide to be proactive and positive in the decision, which certainly endears them to their family.

My downsizing decision came as a result of realizing that clinging to my existing lifestyle wouldn’t, in the long run, be practical nor would it create long-term happiness. Expecting my heirs to deal with my “stuff” seemed unfair. A plan began to 1) decide where to move 2) when to sell my condo and 3) how to dispose of a lifetime of “treasures.”

After considering an apartment in a snazzy new building (and actually making a deposit), life intervened and health issues caused me to realize that I needed to be in a facility offering a wide range of services. With no immediate family nearby, it was necessary to consider how to function with the assistance of strangers, who would function as family.

I was fortunate that the process began while I could make my own decisions because my health was rapidly declining.

Choosing the best place for me to live was easy. I had visited a retirement facility once when visiting friends. My family and I toured it, liked it and an apartment was selected. This method isn’t advisable for everyone but I was in a hurry. (It is a rental plan thus provides flexibility.) Now I knew how much “stuff” to keep for my new home.

My family was advised that it was now or never if they wanted any of my belongings that weren’t going with me. By the way, it’s surprising what is chosen. Who would have thought that my 26-year-old grandson would want a painting!

I was fortunate that my condo sold quickly which gave me a move date.

Now the hard part. Sorting and dumping. Seemed it would never end. Family members were offered boxes of photos and mementos but they were very selective and much of it was discarded. Knowing what charities will or won’t take is helpful. It’s also helpful to have a couple of stronger helpers to fetch and carry.

In future articles, I’ll provide specific ideas for having fun and aiding others while downsizing.


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