Decisions, Decisions….

I never thought aging would be easy, but I also never realized it would be quite so confusing.  It’s hard enough to help my almost 89-year old mother figure out whether she wants to continue to stay alone in the spacious house she loves and has lived in for the past ten years, or move to a retirement community.  Moving would require downsizing to a one-bedroom apartment, but staying means that sometimes she is lonely and we would have to scramble for help if she fell or became seriously ill.  It’s not an easy choice to make, but it’s one she has to make for herself.

I may be only 61, but I’ve still reached the age where I’m confronted with far too many choices.  My husband and I live in a modest house with a big yard, with the master bedroom and bathroom upstairs.  We’ve lived here over twenty years and are very attached to our house.  But is it time to move somewhere that will work better for us as we age?  Somewhere with a first-floor master suite, a smaller yard and a driveway that isn’t long enough to park seven cars?  Sometimes I think living in a condo within walking distance to stores and restaurants would be great.  Other times, I think I’d rather just stay here until one of our kids signs us into a nursing home.

And those are the just the choices about living arrangements.  Because face it, the days when women reached a certain age and started dressing like “little old ladies” are basically over.  Stores that cater to women my age and up don’t exactly feature the house-dresses and sensible shoes my grandmother wore.  But there are still times when I look at an item of clothing and think, “is this too young for me?”  I still want to look nice, but I sure don’t want to be like the seventy-something woman I saw last week wearing a micro-mini skirt.  (Yes, she had long legs.  But no, it wasn’t a good look for her.)

Sometimes I think that medical science has advanced just a little too far, at least in the cosmetic surgery department.  Almost everything on our face and body can be plumped here and taken in there, which means we have to decide just exactly what kind of adjustments we’re willing to make in order to cling to our youthful looks.  And while I know that each of us gets to make our own choice, I sometimes find myself almost apologizing for my wrinkly neck and ever-growing under-eye bags because I know they can be fixed.  I’m just too chicken to actually do it.

No doubt about it, the choices we’re faced with as we age are as difficult as they are plentiful, and there is no “one size fits all” answer.  All we can do is establish our own priorities and pursue our own goals, and respect the fact that other people might make choices that are different from ours.  We each get to choose what is most important to us, and we each live in different circumstances.

But the one thing we have in common is the fact that we’ve lived long enough to even address the issues of aging.  Because even though growing older can be a pain some times, our life is still a gift, no matter what our age happens to be.

87 thoughts on “Decisions, Decisions….

  1. My mother is 91. I wish we’d moved her a while back, cause now she refuses. But she is states away from my sister and I, which makes it all very inconvenient. We try to visit as often as we can, and I hate to say it, but we have lives. She has dementia so therefore no more common sense. It’s been very challenging. Personally, I’ll be ready for a condo or a downtown situation where I can walk, and never have to do gardening. It’s hard work!

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    • Oh, I’m so sorry about your mother! That must be so hard. I a very lucky that my mom is a little forgetful, but otherwise in great health and doing fine. But at 88, almost 89, I know we need to look at options. It’s so hard to know what is the right thing to do. As for the home where you can walk, I love that idea! But I do want a small yard for our dog. I’ll always have a dog!

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  2. I understand, Ann, I understand😏 I would move tomorrow to a place that meant less work for us, fewer expenses and responsibilities. But, it’s not up to me, so I guess I’ll move when the undertaker claims my carcass.

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    • It’s also hard when we have too few choices, Larry, and I’m sorry you’re stuck. Sometimes I think there isn’t any easy way to age…whatever happens, we give up something precious. But we usually get something precious as well!

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  3. Hi Ann, great post. This came into my head while I was out walking by myself today, after we’d done some painting, and before I settled down to write: ‘If you can navigate your way through all the complexity and distraction, keep your mood and motivation up or sufficiently level, and do something you want to do in this life, that’s achievement enough.’ It’s great to have choices, but at times the amount of choices can feel overwhelming. It’s good to accept the aging process and be realistic, but at the same time, all the meditation teachings etc advise don’t live in the past or future, don’t worry, live in the now… It can be confusing but as you say, acceptance- of ourself and others- as well as appreciation and gratitude- seem to be keys to contentment and happiness.

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  4. Deep musings and well-written, as always. I don’t have much to add to the other comments above, except that you should consider yourself very fortunate (and smart!) in that you made the conscious choice to live in close proximity to your Mom and somehow convinced your kids to do the same. Don’t worry about moving yet… enjoy your beautiful home and you’ll know when it’s time to move….

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    • Thank you so much, Bomi! I think (and hope) we will know when it is time to move. And I am so glad that we are close to Mom to be able to provide the support she needs and that our kids are close to us. I know it is hard on you and Louise to be so far from your Mom, but that you take comfort that your sister is there with her. All we can ever do is our best, wherever we are! And we don’t always have to be nearby to provide support!

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  5. Good points, Ann. My 75 year old mom, (Just 16 years older than your’s truly.) lives in my late grandparent’s house. It was built in 1854 & it shows. Her bad knees keep her in the “barely mobile” file. So far she refused to leave the house she grew up in, even though it’s falling down around her. A few days ago her massive Sycamore was uprooted by a tornado and smashed it onto her tin tile roof. It’s a wonder it didn’t collapse the old place, but it did leave the front porch roof and its support posts leaning a bit. STILL she won’t budge. She insists on staying put. Arg! So, I pray and gently bring up ideas of selling and moving into a condo. But I need to remember what you wrote. She needs to choose what is most important to her. -Alan

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    • I’m so sorry, Alan! It is so hard when what our parents want and what might be best for them are two different things, and we have to let them make their own decisions as far as we are able. As long as your mom is able to keep herself well-fed, clean, safe and secure, she’s probably okay in that house, despite it’s condition. You will know when it is time to push the issue. My husband has an aunt that is the same way…she won’t leave her house because he father built it, but the house is deteriorating rapidly and she’s not doing very well any more. Luckily her daughter lives nearby and is able to help. I think all of us just do the best we can with the situations we find ourselves in!

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  6. We are there with you on the aging parents thing. On this side of the ocean we visit each week and it is emotionally draining. Some days are better than others. But always hard. I just keep reminding myself and the hubby we have to treasure the moments we still have. On the other side of the ocean the situation is much like many in your comments. Old house, sick parents, farmer stubbornness to the point of outright nonsense. But, again it is their life and nothing will change their minds so why fight or worry about it. Living closer would only be stressful. We each can only do what we can do.

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  7. The decision to move or not to move is going to be a tough one for all of us aging people. No matter how long we wait, there will come a point in our life, when we will have to give up our beloved home. Your post, Ann, describes well our own situation here in Canada. My wife and I have lived on the same property for over 40 years now and we are caught by the same dilemma. Perhaps another 10 years ….

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    • It’s so hard to give up a home we love and raised our children in, isn’t it? And not knowing how we’ll feel about a new house/condo/apartment doesn’t make it any easier. What if we move and hate it? I guess all we can do is follow our hearts and trust that we’ll know when the time comes to move. Thanks for the comment, Peter!

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  8. Another interestinh post Ann that resonates with a lot of people and has generated very interesting comments. In our case we have moved three times making progress each time but now we could move again and downsize. Like you I consider town life for convenience but would miss our peaceful rural life. Life is a path with many crossroads and it moves too fast through its different stages!

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    • I agree, life does move way too fast! And each choice that we’re faced with is difficult, because most choices offer both good and bad. I think we just have to establish our own priorities about what we love the most, and choose accordingly. It is a comfort to know that other people are dealing with the same issues, though.

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      • I agree Ann, it’s very difficult to know if a choice will be good or bad. Social connectedness and knowing others are dealing with the same issues is so helpful, particularly when people openly share their struggles and how these struggles are overcome.

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  9. We have been in the same house for twenty-seven years. It is the house where we raised our four children. Although we no longer need all the bedrooms all the time, we still need them on various occasions when the house is full and everyone comes back to visit. Now we have grandchildren and our children’s spouses. I have loved this house and I started a lot of gardens. Now, of course, it is a lot of work. Still, I feel like this is home and I am not ready for change at the moment. I think it is good to keep an open mind as we age…more of a day by day way of thinking. Then, when that day comes, we will know. If we are indecisive, then we are not ready. My mother lives close by in her own house at the age of 85. So far, that is working out.

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    • I think that’s a good point, that if we are indecisive, then we’re not ready. I don’t blame you for staying in your house, especially if you need those rooms for when your family visits. The downsize of moving to a smaller home is that you don’t have a space for your guests. And it does make it easier when our aging parents live nearby, doesn’t it? Thanks for the comment!

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      • It is not an easy thing helping our parents make decisions, and we still are trying to guide our children with their decisions! We really are in the middle! This was a post that hits ‘home’ literally for all of us in this age bracket. And whichever way you turn, there is an up side and a down side! One day at a time, I guess, and a lot of prayer! I do think time is the answer…weighing the options and not rushing into anything.

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        • I agree! We need to move forward with open eyes and a certain amount of faith. And yes, there’s a reason they call us the “sandwich generation.” We take care of our parents, our children, and our grandchildren!

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          • Sometimes, we feel more ‘sandwiched’ than other times. We do need to find moments of quiet peace, and have some time just to ourselves to recharge. As the saying goes, you cannot take care of others, if you do not first take care of yourself. It is easy to keep giving and giving… We must remember to take a break. (I guess I am getting onto another topic!) 🙂 Happy Fourth of July Eve!

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  10. Last year, I went through the “big move” decision with my parents. They were in a large single family home and my father was caring for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. I can’t tell you the sleepless nights I had worrying. In the end, they moved into a continuing care facilities where they are living independently, until the time comes that my father can no longer care for my mother. Being an adult can be tough, can’t it? Wishing you the best, Ann.

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    • Boy can it! It’s hard enough to make decisions about our own life, but it’s even harder to help our parents make the big decisions that come with old age. I’m glad you parents are in a facility where you dad will have access to help for your mother when he needs it, as that must be a huge relief to you. I think Alzheimer’s is such a cruel disease, and I’m so sorry your family is having to deal with it!

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  11. I am visiting my parents, grandparents and inlaws. I live continents away from all of them. It makes me sad and anxious to see them aging. I know I will come down whenever they need me the most but it is a guilt I always carry with me.

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    • I’m so sorry, Deepa! It is hard to see your family age, especially when you don’t get to see them as often as you would like to. I hope you don’t feel too guilty about not living nearby. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. We are lucky that my mom was willing to move to St. Louis ten years ago after my dad died, because we weren’t in a position to move closer to her. We all just do the best we can!

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  12. Great post Ann! It does seem like there are so many choices to make at our age. But as you said, we are lucky to around to make them. And totally agree about any surgery, too chicken! I would rather spend the money traveling.

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    • Yes, we are lucky to be around to even be faced with these choices! And I’m with you on that traveling thing. I’d look better with plastic surgery, but I’d have much more fun traveling. So, if you think about it, that’s an easy choice! Looking forward to seeing you soon, Louise!!!

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  13. As always, Ann, you do so beautifully putting things in perspective after laying out all the ups and downs of aging – our own and our parents. At 78 and still in good condition, I’ve begun thinking I should at least explore nearby options just in case I need help. My glitch could come if I have to rely on my family who I love very much but on whom I don’t want to lay any burden. That independence thing is so strong, isn’t it?! So we go on, with our minds alert and our spirits listening so that if and when that alarm starts to awaken us, we’ll know what step(s) to take. I depend on that go-with-your-gut thing ffor now and hope it will be enough.

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    • You know, the more I think about it and the more I read about other people’s experiences, the more I think you are doing exactly the right thing to “go with your gut.” Sometimes we have to let our intuition guide us, I think, especially on the big decisions. Exploring other options is also good, because that way, if something happens, we at least have an idea of what direction we want to take. Thanks for your kind comment!!

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  14. We have a lot of stairs in our house and I regard that as a bonus – it helps to keep us fit! However, if I still have all my senses, when I start to think I can’t manage i’ll be into sheltered housing like a shot (i’m talking, I hope, about many, many years away still). My mum, on the other hand, is one of those who is determined to stay put – fine just now, at 92 she can still look after herself with (increasing amounts) of help from me. However, she tried to make me promise the other day that I would never “put her in a home” and I had to say I couldn’t. If the time came when her needs made that the best option and she was no longer able to make her own decisions then I would have to do it. I’m not a nurse and I couldn’t cope. I think she knows that really, but I felt awful saying it.

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    • That’s the way I feel too. If/when the time comes when we can’t stay home anymore, we’ll move into a retirement center very quickly. I don’t want to stay in this house when I no longer have the ability to maintain it, or to navigate it myself.
      And I’m so glad you didn’t promise never to put your mom in a home! That’s a promise that so few people can keep. When someone needs skilled nursing, that means they need assistance with so many things: feeding, walking, hygiene, etc. and we can’t provide that sort of round the clock care in our own homes.

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  15. Yes. Everyone has choices but I think being the kid we must not let our parents away from us especially when they are really old. When we were babies so they took a very good care of us and when they need care and look after and they really need us, our existance we must bestow them.

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  16. Great post about our choices, you can keep that nip and tuck rubbish … I prefer to age disgracefully and every wrinkle and grey hair are proof I’ve done it!

    Downsizing into more suitable space is a very wise move … forcing the kids to sign you in coz you can’t shovel your 7 car driveway is an unfair responsibility 😦
    See it as your next adventure and make the new space what you want. So many fight nursing home or aged village admission and then find they thrive on the social life it provides … why do we have such a negative view?

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  17. My mom at age 85 is still in the house she raised us in. Fortunately she can live on just one floor. To her, her house is her home and I’m glad she still lives independently. It makes me sad when people sell their homes the second their kids are out of the house.

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    • The more I read the comments on this post, the more I realize that there really isn’t just one answer for everyone. Some people want to move as soon as they can, others are quite happy in their familiar homes and don’t want to leave their beloved houses. And it’s all good. I’m glad you mom is still in her home since that’s what she wants. We really do all get to make our own choices!

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  18. I’m fortunate that my mother made the choice to move in with my sister. I don’t have to worry about her well-being. As for myself and the husband, we have plans in place, we are surrounded by extended family, and our sons live very close by. We have made choices and luckily come from good stock that is very long lived… our 60 is the new 40!

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    • You know, now that people are living longer than ever, we have even more choices. And in that sense, it’s a good thing. You are very lucky your mom wanted to live with your sister, and that your sister wanted to have her there. My husband and I are still happy in our own home, but once he retires, we may decide to move somewhere else in the area. Our kids, their spouses and our grandson all live nearby, so we don’t want to move far away!

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  19. Yes Ann, you’re right, every day is a gift. Yet there’s no doubt that aging requires us to make certain decisions. We live in a multi storey home with many steps and I often joke that it’s getting harder to lug the clothes basket around!

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    • There are so many choices! And for all I worry about the stairs in our house (master on second floor, washing machine in the basement), my mother still manages stairs very well at at 88! And yet my brother-in-law who had knee surgery struggles with them. All we can do is choose what makes the most sense for us at the time, I think. And remember that even having those choices is a gift!

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  20. Exactly! We have far too many choices,then you feel under pressure to make them,then under pressure to make the right one……and so on. I’m lucky that I’ve embraced my getting older. Looking younger is a side effect of the world we live in, I’ve earnt my wrinkles!……stairs though? 😟 Thank God for hand rails!

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    • I know! With our parents, there is pressure to help them make the “right” choice, although opinions on exactly what is the right choice vary considerably. And now that we have the option of having procedures done to make us look younger, it’s almost expected that we should do it. But they hurt and they’re expensive, and I think I’d rather spend my money on other things. Like you say, we earned our wrinkles!

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  21. That must be an incredibly difficult decision for your mom, and you, too. It’s understandable how that makes you reflect on your own situation in terms of living arrangements. I’d like to say you’re young enough that it’s not something you need to be thinking of changing yet unless things are already problematic, but at the same time, forethought is good because then it won’t catch you off guard as the years go by as something you’d never considered before. As for the clothing, you’re right about how it’s not what it used to be; when I was younger I don’t remember any older women dressing like they do now, and I think the change towards embracing age is fantastic. I can’t really give any mind-blowing thoughts on this at my ripe old age of 30, which I’m still miffed about because I feel like I missed my 20s, but I would say that when you look at it for what it is – birthdays being a social convention, age and time being numbers us humans have made up and really mean nothing – age is just biology and the way you feel and approach life doesn’t have to be attached to that. I really do hope things get sorted for you mother, and that she comes to a decision that she’s happy with in moving forward  ♥
    Caz xxxx

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    • Thank you! I know that we will sort it all out with my mom, and that it’s just a matter of seeing what she is most comfortable with and planning for the different scenarios that we could be faced with. I’m still at the information gathering stage, and she is at the stage of deciding exactly what is most important to her. I think my husband and I will stay in our home for at least a few more years, and I hope/believe that we will know when the time is right to move somewhere else.
      And thanks for such a well-thought out answer! You may be thirty, but you are already realizing that aging does bring choices, and that a lot of it is about attitude. I didn’t have a problem when I turned 30, but I remember being unhappy when I turned 25 and was still working in a dead-end job, because I thought I should be further along by that time. It’s all pretty individual, I think!

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  22. Your post made me feel much better, Ann. I will be 59 in a week and am stuck in a young/old rut. Our parents are dead and we have no children but still we worry about future housing/money/health. Then we drink wine and chocolate to feel better… We tried to persuade my husband’s elderly parents to move into somewhere more suitable but we had to wait until a crisis intervened. Perhaps that’s the best way? As for Botox, I live in a wealthy town full of plastic surgeons. It does not look good unless you have the gentlest of touch. I am surrounded by scary old Barbies. 😄

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    • I think just the fact that you are thinking about future choices is good enough! No one can really predict what the future will bring, so all we can do is educate ourselves about different scenarios, and then get on with living our own lives. And yeah, there’s so much plastic surgery that doesn’t end well….in my opinion it isn’t worth the risk, much less the pain and money. (I did have my drooping eyelid taken care of because it was causing a problem with the the tears getting caught in the corner of my eye and causing a sore. When I was talking to the doctor beforehand, he told me that he could get rid of the bags under my eyes and that I would look much younger if I did that. And I said, “but all anyone would have to do is look at my neck and they’d see I wasn’t young anyway” and he agreed! LOL!)

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  23. I’m sorry about your mum, Ann. The decision at this late stage in life can be tough on some people. My mother-in-law is well into her 80s and getting more frail by the day. Yet, she holds on to her house and her independence. She lives too far away from us for us to be much use to her although right now, she needs help like never before. But she won’t move either.

    What I think might coax her into leaving would be to have her won little house but in our neighbourhood. So she has her independence and her freedom as well as the security of knowing we’re nearby.

    Trouble is, the local hospital here is next to useless and we have to travel a 2 hour journey to get to good medical care. At her age, that is a major concern for us.

    Looking at everything, I think that when a decision has to be made, it will likely be one that doesn’t make us happy on all fronts. That alone makes me want to savour what we have now, because if it ends, it’ll hurt for sure.

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    • I understand! Sometimes, what we have going on in the present is working, so it makes it very hard to even think about the future, especially if there aren’t any new choices that will “cover all the bases.” One way or another, sacrifices have to be made, and it really comes down to a question of which sacrifice we feel we can live with. For me, it helps to remember that as hard as it is for my husband and I, it’s harder for mom, because she’s the one who is impacted the most. I can’t imagine reaching the stage where every time we give something up, we know it is never coming back. So I try to be patient and hopeful, and when it feels overwhelming then I vent to a trusted friend, have a glass of wine, and most of all…pray!

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    • You’re right, we need to remember that with aging comes maturity and that really is an excellent tool to deal with it. I miss being physically younger, but I don’t miss being mentally younger! Good point, thanks!!

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  24. Most homes in Florida are all on one floor, but being from up north, my hubby and I just purchased a townhome a couple years ago. When my 92-year-old grannie visited, she said, “You must not plan to live here very long” lol I knew what she meant, but I do hope we’ll tolerate the stairs as long as both our bodies can handle them. As far as everything else, I get it. I have the same issue with clothing. Sometimes the clothes decide for me. You know certain things don’t fall right on a specific-aged body, so I put it back. Other things, I still wear. I guess what I’m saying is we should all do what we want for as long as we can/want and then shift from there ❤

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    • I think you’re right, we all get to decide for ourselves about our clothes (and I know what you mean about sometimes the clothes decide for us….LOL!). Honestly, I thought the seventy-something woman looked a bit silly wearing a skirt that just barely covered her butt, but I think younger women look silly wearing something that short too. So you’re right, it’s not really about age at all!
      As for stairs, you and your husband may be just fine. Some people have problems with stairs as they age, but others don’t. My mom will be 89 next month, and she still goes up and down stairs with no problems!

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  25. I understand the parent issue as mine are getting to where they can’t care for themselves but don’t want help and don’t wish to leave the house they spent so many years in. It’s a difficult and sad time.

    I do love your last line, life is a gift! 🙂

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  26. Fighting aging is like fighting a losing battle. I subscribe to the theory of aging gracefully. As much as it is possible to get a nip, a tuck a shot to regain your youth; the bottom line is we are still that age. In my opinion people who accept it and go along with it seem to age more gracefully than others.

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    • I agree! The more we fight it, the further away we get from the reality that our bodies really are aging. And the less we realize that aging isn’t always a bad thing…it also brings wisdom and patience, if we let it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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  27. I’m not yet 50 and am already thinking about somewhere to live when I am wobbly on my feet, or need a sit-down shower, or even to be closer to the shops. I want to move sooner rather than later so I can establish a network of support and friends while I can, before I need it.

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  28. We’re dealing with my 93 year old mother in law and 92 year old aunt who are both very stubborn and haven some short term memory issues. Its not easy. We’ve kicked around moving to a one floor home or townhouse but we’ve been here for close to forty years. All our memories are here and there’s not much that we need that more than a mile or two away. Maybe we’ll haver to make that decision at some point or maybe it’ll be made for us. The 92 year old aunt, who doesn’t take a single medication and still drives around town for groceries, etc, says that sometimes we live too long. Maybe she’s right but I’d sign up for her health and independence at her age today. We don’t know what the future might bring so I guess we should just be happy living how we want today.

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    • I think you’re right, George. We need to be happy in the here and now, because we really have no idea what the future will bring. My husband and I are also attached to our home, and while it won’t be ideal if we stay here until we’re in our nineties, it might work. We can hire people to take care of the yard and shovel the driveway, and we can move downstairs to one of the kid’s old bedrooms if stairs become a problem. As for my mom, it’s just time to explore the possibilities and have some honest discussions with her about what she really wants to do at this stage. Like your aunt, she’s still very independent, which is good. But she’s also getting a bit lonely and the house sometimes overwhelms her. One way or another, things will work out!

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