Aging in place has been -- and will remain -- my choice for as long as possible. But the situation for an 86-year-old man with Parkinson's could suddenly change. If I fell and sustained serious injuries, I could require assisted living care at a senior residence tomorrow.
I spend as much time as possible sitting in the rocking chair on my screened-in back porch looking out on this scene. But I've remained inside for nearly a week, as Washington's heat and humidity have been especially bad. The older I get, the more the humidity wipes me out.
My Housemates Are My Second Family
I've often discussed the role serendipity has played in my life. In 2001, as I planned my first visit to India, my mountain-climbing son said, "If you're going to India, you really should go to Nepal, too." Since then, I've made a dozen trips to Nepal, and now several Nepali families living here in the Washington area are treasured friends.
The couple in the photo below are my housemates and my second family. They have enriched my life immeasurably. The house really comes to life when it is filled with them and their young friends. And so do I.
This development raises a crucial question:
Will I Continue To Choose "Aging in Place" If I'm Living Alone?
I have my doubts.
I've lived alone in this house since 1978 without any qualms. I've traveled extensively by myself. I've always enjoyed my alone time.
But living alone at age 86 with Parkinson's disease is different. Already, I've been surprised by several anxiety attacks I've experienced when my housemates were away from home and I was having an especially difficult "down" on my health roller coaster.
Several friends my age have moved into senior residences mainly because they were no longer comfortable with "home alone."
But I Do Not Need to Live Alone
No, I'm not thinking about marriage.
For the past year, she's been kind enough to share Joey with me. I hire him as needed as a driver and gardener.
Joey's wife is a nurse at Sibley Hospital, just a ten-minute drive from my house. When I began coming to terms with the likelihood that my Nepali housemates would inevitably move out, I asked Joey if he could find an individual or couple among their Filipino friends who'd be interested in renting the lower level of my house that's been converted into a kind of separate apartment for my housemates. I'd offer the lodging at a reduced rent with the understanding that they might be available to help if I had a health emergency.
Joey's answer reassured me. He knew a young couple who might well be interested. They didn't have children, and they both work as nurses.
Talk about win-win! I'll certainly explore this option if and when my present housemates move out.
Would This Work for Others?
Our neighborhood has an active Palisades Village group made up of local seniors. I've talked with its executive director about whether some sort of ongoing relationship could be established with Sibley Hospital to create similar win-win arrangements. Please stay tuned for developments.
Circumstances could arise where I would have no choice but to move into an assisted living facility. But as long as I am physically and mentally able to opt for aging in place, that's what I'll do.
Yesterday's post clearly showed that if I moved into a senior residence, the financial hit would be very significant. If I continue to age in place, I could hire around the clock healthcare aides and still come out ahead financially.
The last three years' experience has shown that the separate living quarters we created in the lower level of the house make it easy for me to continue to have my privacy and still share the house with others.