FRED FIRST: Many Hope To Age in Place . . .

But Maybe Not the Place You Thought

The phrase “Age-in-Place” is kind of the Holy Grail of late-in-life housing ambitions for many of our local friends and age-peers, and this is easy to understand. If we are happy in the place we are, it seems natural to want our current address to be that same address for the final years of our lives, if we can make that work.

Our age-peers and friends are comfortable here in Southwest Virginia, and so are we. Many moved or retired here from other places and did not plan to move again. They are familiar with the seasons, with the terrain, and enjoy the local vibes. They have their friends and neighbors nearby. Aging in place has its merits. The devil is in the details.

In practical terms, aging in place implies being situated so that, as your physical abilities diminish and your needs for assistance increase in kind and extent, those needs can be purchased, bartered, or received from neighbors (or if you’re fortunate, family) right there where you live–at your chosen anchor point and Last Stand.

In our case, since June 2020, we live in what is turning out to be a temporary anchor point, about 20 miles from Goose Creek (2000-2020). It will not be our Last Stand after all.

LEAVING OUR HALF WAY HOUSE

Even so, the move from the Outback of Floyd County gained us easy access to a snug structure at a time of life where a wheel chair might be necessary. No ramps are needed here. We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, office and great room, all on the ground floor. That’s a good plan for healthy elders with good knees that might go bad.

The move in 2020 also gained us a much easier reach by car –for visitors (who rarely risked a random drop-in to Goose Creek) and for workmen and potential future caregivers. The old path up and out of the holler was risky in the best of weather, and the round trip to and from town was an hour.

We are better off than we were living in and loving the FloydCo Bush, now being just ten minutes of paved roads from town. Easy Peezy.

So why not just hunker down and live our our lives in THIS PLACE? I ask this over and over, to be sure we are getting this right for us.

If this is working now, why fix it?

THE ENDGAME IS KNOWN

At 75, in the coming years, the human corpus can be predicted to fall apart by degrees. Since we are fairly sound at 75, we’ll potentially last some additional years, during which we will need increasing help with a lot of things, even if we remain “healthy” for our advancing age.

It is those yet-to-come and crudely-predictable years we need to prepare for, to anticipate conditions that have high probabilities of popping up: One or the other of us could become disabled by a fall; by an organ-system issue. We both might need daily health-related skilled care or need transportation to medical services when we don’t drive. One or the other of us could die, leaving a needy survivor.

If aging in place in a rural spot like Floyd, all those services (which we will talk about soon) would need to be arranged, coordinated and paid for on an ongoing possibly years-long a la carte basis–if they could be reliably and consistently obtained in or near Floyd County (or your Last Stand setting) at all.

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THE TIMING IS UNCERTAIN

If we have one more move left in us, it is best undertaken NOW, while we are reasonably sound of mind and body. The best option for us seems to be to move in the present year—this ONE LAST time—not into another house but into a system of care. We can then move within that system for escalating services as the need arises for one or both of us under the same roof.

Next time in this line of conversation, we will look at the CONTINUUM OF CARE–an option that includes a wide range of services built into the plan and coordinated within it.

Darn right, it is expensive. But Aging in Place expenses over the years will be costly; and it could become a complex, ongoing dance and possible slow emergency of morphing and inconsistent providers for years.

So it seems like time to get our foot in the door.

The BOOMER rush into elder housing is just beginning, as the first War Babies are aging out and needing extended healthcare and housing. Already there is almost as much demand as there is supply for senior living options, and that is likely to get a lot worse.

Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” – Benjamin Franklin

SPOILERThis long-winded several-parted preamble to The Next Chapter in our lives is going someplace positive. For someone immersed for two decades in the notion of “sense of place” and “personal ecology”, a transplant like this just could be revelatory, in a botanical, zoological, geological way! And more!

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