Aging for the long-term

As much as we don’t want to admit it, we boomers are quickly becoming the “older generation.”
With a month of summer still ahead and the promise of a mild weather for our early fall season, there is still time to take on home projects that will facilitate “aging in place.”
“Aging in place” is a term used in the eldercare industry. Its loose definition: “The widely-shared dream of remaining in our homes as we age.” An AARP survey indicate 87 percent of baby boomers, age 65+, want to continue living in their current homes.
However, as much as we all love our homes, our homes will become burdensome as we age. So how can we make living in our house more sustainable and lessen the weight of caring for it?
Boomers – Get to work!
While you have the capacity, take action and make physical changes to your home and yard; changes that will reward you in the years to come. I suggest structuring a two to five-year plan; bite off doable chunks, one at time.
First, while the weather is nice, let’s look outside – at the yard. Do you have flower beds, a rockery, a vegetable garden, and a lawn? These make a house a home. I’m not suggesting you go without. In fact, yardwork has a calming, therapeutic effect. It’s also an activity that keep us physically fit. But, the demands should be in balance with our abilities to do the work.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, our physical strength and stamina will slow with age. Chores we do now with ease, will become difficult.
So what I suggest: Consider a changeover of your yard to make it as maintenance-free as possible. If you’re reasonably-fit, fashioning a low-maintenance yard is something you can do that will pay dividends.
Doing work to save work
I’ll share examples of what a couple of friends did.
I have a friend, Jim, who is in his upper-sixties. He has a house in West Seattle with a small yard. He decided to take out the lawn and planted decorative grasses, succulents, a palm tree, and an ornamental evergreen. The new vegetation requires little water and minimum maintenance.
He covered the soil around his trees and plants with landscape ground-cloth that keeps the weeds from sprouting but still allows water to pass. Then he covered the cloth with small rocks of mixed colors; ones he got from a local mineral yard. He topped it off by adding a small water feature.
Jim did the work himself over the span of a couple years. He has received numerous compliments from neighbors and from people passing by on their walks. Birds like it too. Most importantly, he now has a yard that will require little maintenance over his coming years.
The Saving Water Partnership has a helpful list of wet winter/dry summer plants for Seattle:
Another friend in her upper 70s, has done something similar. Karen has a much bigger yard with 3000 square feet of flower beds plus a rockery. As much as Karen loves her flowers and vegetables, the yard is getting to be too much.
Over the past couple of years, beds were getting weed infested and she couldn’t stay ahead.
This year, with the help of friends, she has completed a major weeding, pruning, and a clearing of unwanted growth. She is in the process of covering the open areas with ground cloth and is going to layer it with bark mulch.
This will keep the weeds down; requiring much lower maintenance over the next five or six years. Maybe, by then, Karen will consider selling her place. Who knows? She loves her garden.
Big projects
If you are a boomer still working and getting a regular paycheck, think about hiring companies to tackle major projects. If your house needs painting or a new roof, do these now. It will be much tougher to undertake the expense of major projects when you have a fixed income.
They say “home is where the heart is.” I think, for us Northwesters, this is particularly true. We love our private sanctuaries. If you start working on a thoughtful transition now, you’ll be able to enjoy your sanctuary for many years to come.
When the fall and winter weather comes along, you can think about tackling improvements on the interior of your home that will add to your safety over the coming years. I’ll share those ideas after the seasons change. Right now, enjoy the summer.

MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to