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Now is the summer of my discontent made glorious autumn

I mentioned last month that my asthma was back, and it was pretty much ruining my summer.  I spent many days lying on our sofa like a consumptive cockroach, coughing with any exertion, trapped inside by the smokey air outside.  Week after week, whenever the air was hazy I was wheezy (my least favourite Disney dwarf), even when we went on our vacation to the Okanagan. It was kind of awful, and it was scary, too.

Nothing makes you feel old like ill health.  Actually, isn’t ill health the very definition of being elderly?  Not able to do the activities you love, the boundaries of your world shrinking, your physical frailties becoming more and more apparent. Needing help with everyday tasks (DH was responsible for EVERYTHING.  He never complained, but it made me feel like a parasite).  I am not ready for that.

Fortune is once again shining on me because the sun is not.  Autumn has brought rain, which calmed the forest fires and cleared the atmosphere.  I’m still using my inhalators and meds but now they are actually keeping the asthma under control.  I’m back, baby!

Autumn used to mean the start of a new school year for me, and I always looked forward to that.  Autumn meant the things I was good at (reading, writing, etc.) and the end of things I wasn’t so good at (swimming, hiking).  There’s a freshness in the air that signals new beginnings.

Here’s five reasons I love autumn (and none of them is pumpkin spice*).

  1. Grandchildren.  The teachers in the family have gone back to work.  And I am needed for baby-sitting.  Right now I am responsible for the youngest (15 months) one day a week, and for the others now and again.  Grandchildren really are the greatest!
  2. Exercising.  It was too freaking hot and humid to get out for walks this summer.  Just a trip to and from the grocery store left me with sweat dripping off my nose.  Of course, the answer to that is customarily getting up early and getting out and about before the heat hit (about 8 am).  But I was coughing every morning.  Now I can use my errands to get a brisk walk, get out to the gym 3 days a week.  It’s not just fun, it’s good for me.  Nothing keeps the symptoms of old age at bay like exercise.
  3. Cooking.  The kitchen of our little laneway hit 30C every afternoon.  I would close the blinds to keep the sun from heating the furnishings, open all the windows to get a through breeze, turn on a fan.  And still the heat was brutal. Just putting on the kettle raised the temperature by a couple of degrees. That meant barbecue and salad for dinner every day.  And that’s great, but we miss casseroles and roasts, long-simmering soups, the occasional batch of muffins or cookies.  Now we can use the stove all the time, and the oven was cleaned in preparation for months of use.
  4. Sleeping.  Our bedroom is specifically designed for temperature control and darkness.  It’s built into the slope at the back of the house, with a window that can be kept open all night.  But even with a fan running 24-7, it was hot and sticky.  We would take cool showers before we went to bed, and would wake up soaked with sweat.  Also asthma likes to give you little visits in the night, you wake up gasping and coughing.  I don’t miss that.
  5. Hobbies.  Ironically, although I spent many hours sitting (all right, lazing) on the sofa this summer, I wasn’t able to keep up with my knitting.  My hands would start to sweat, and pretty soon the yarn would stick to my fingers and the gauge would be all wrong.  It was kinda creepy feeling, too.  So I read, and read, and read.  But I missed all my other hobbies, knitting, cooking, and taking walks.
  6. Hallowe’en!

I retired so I could do more of the things I love.  And now I can.  The season change has led to a much brighter mental feeling for sure, and it’s given me a boost.

*Pumpkin spice.  Of course it’s really just the spices you would put into a pumpkin pie were you to bake one (pumpkins aren’t actually spicy on their own).  But don’t dump it in everything!  And why does everyone make everything so sweeeeeeeet?

Aging in Place in our Laneway

 

What does it mean to get older?  Don’t shake your head at me, I’m serious.  What will it mean to me, physically, to get older?  Not just greyer and wrinklier, but weaker and more frail.

But still, you know, hip

But still, you know, hip.

I recently had the pleasure of spending some weeks with a relative as she started her recovery from hip replacement surgery.  Overnight a healthy, athletic lady became disabled, albeit temporarily.  She needed a walker to get around even short distances.  She had trouble getting up and down stairs.  And she wasn’t allowed to bend over from the waist, meaning she needed devices to grab items, a long-handled shoe horn, etc.  She’d prepared for the recovery by having a sturdy metal bar installed in her bath/shower and used a bench when she showered.

She’s well on way to regaining her bouncy life.  But staying with her really brought home how prepared we have to be for getting older without having to move.  Because moving is out of the question.  So I looked it up on the AARP website to see if they had any good ideas.  And they did!

Of course, it’s more than making a cozy home, it’s safety, too.

Aging in place isn’t just about comfort. In very basic terms, it’s about avoiding falls. If an older person can avoid falling and breaking a hip, he can prevent a cascade of other health problems.

We have stairs, not ideal in a home where we’ll be getting older.  But our bathroom and bedroom are on the same floor so we don’t have to try to go up and down a flight of stairs in the middle of the night.  And our shower is big enough to get a bench in.  The sink and shower faucets are easy to operate, and we set the temperature on one fixture without having to fiddle with knobs.  Living small means our sink counter is close enough to the toilet to supply a hand-hold if we need assistance standing up.  Also in our shower,

a tiled shower area with recessed shelves at arm’s level to stop you from having to stoop down to the floor or reach up to a shower rack

The kitchen/living room area on the top floor has enough places to hold onto to make it easy to get around if balance is a problem.  And we can sit at our counter and work, so won’t have to stand for long periods if we are trying to avoid that. The dishwasher is in a counter-level drawer for easy loading and unloading, we have deep drawers instead of under-counter cabinets, so no stooping and reaching into the depths.

All our flooring is laminated hardwood, no carpets to trip on.  We do have an area rug, a cowhide in front of the TV with no pile.  But if we ever had problems with tripping, out it would go, decor be damned.

Elsewhere, we have lever-style door handles, again, no knobs to turn.

Some other ideas for making your home senior-friendly can be found at this Reader’s Digest article.  This includes

• No-step entry: You should have at least one step-free entrance (either at the front, back, or side of the house) so everyone, including wheelchair users, can enter the home easily and safely.

OK, we have a very small sill, easy to step over but definitely a problem if we are in a wheelchair.  But then, if DH or I end up in a wheelchair we are kind of screwed.  The doorways are not wide enough to accommodate one, the hallways are too narrow.  But short of that, our place is pretty well set up for aging in place.

If you’re thinking of making some changes in your home, though, read this article on things to consider about putting in expensive renos like stair glides, elevators, or even walk-in tubs.  At first glance they look like a great idea, but they might not be suitable for you.

Of course, another reason we’re set to get older in our laneway is the proximity of our family.  If (or when) the time comes that we aren’t able to get around town by walking and transit, they’ll be close enough to take us for an occasional shopping trip or medical appointment.  But we are also really lucky that transit is so close to our home, and shopping is a pleasant walk down and up the hill.

How do I get there from here?

My Facebook pal, let’s call her Ann, has retired after 24 years in a civil service job.  Now she is ready to take on her next career – real estate agent.  She has taken the courses and got her license, and she is raring to go!  And more power to her for following her dream.  But it’s not my dream.

Ann loves being around people, loves being part of their lives. In short, she is not like me at all!

Planning for retirement is like planning for so many other things.  Weddings, education, vacations — for all these life-changing events it’s a highly personal journey.  And when you’re on a journey, the first place to start is with a map.  (I know, the first place to start is the internet, but go with me here).  A personal map, that shows you all the marshy bits and pitfalls that you might not be aware of.

X marks the retirement

X marks the retirement

So a couple of days after my most recent birthday, I signed up for and filled out a Retirement Success Profile. This is a series of questions that focuses on how you feel about retirement, and therefore, how prepared you are for retirement.   There are 15 factors that are examined and each is rated for your expectations, your present behaviour, and the variance between the two.  A large variance between what you expect in retirement and what you are doing now means that you will have to do some work in that area to transition to a happy retirement.

I’m not going to give you a complete rundown on my scores because it would be of no more help or interest to you than if I showed you my x-rays.

Chatting with the counselor who explains the results was very helpful and interesting.  But I found it most enlightening that the test scores showed three areas I should work on — focus factors:

  • Health Perception
  • Leisure Interests
  • Replacement of Work Function

The first was a surprise to me because I’m in pretty good health and don’t complain about it much.  But I also realize that this is a bit of a wake up call because I’m now aware that I’ve been taking my good health for granted and I know I’ll have to exercise more and work at staying healthy. The counselor  pointed out that when I retire I will not be taking transit every day and will not be exposed to the amount of germs and viruses I am now (that knock me out on a regular and seasonal basis).  Also I will have enough time to go to the gym and take fitness classes, maybe get a personal trainer to help me get back into shape.

The flag on Leisure Interests intrigues me.  And it ties in with the replacement of work function.  Because I’m kind of an introvert (a loner), I rely on my work for a lot of my socialization. I also rely on my workday to schedule my time.  Again, the counselor pointed out a couple of things I hadn’t thought of:  I’ll have time to take courses in anything that really interests me (currently I am quite fascinated by geology.  Yes, I meant to say geology.) Also there are meet-up groups for various activities.  I love to read (not really a hobby as such, I regard reading as necessary as breathing) so could join a book club.  Also cooking classes could expand my repertoire, and maybe lead to a group of like-minded people to hang out with.

Obviously a lot to think about.  But I have time to make some plans. The next question to be answered:  Can I afford to retire?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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