I spent 10 days cat-sitting for a friend of a friend who lives alone in a small old house on a hillside. She’s in the same age range as me, and it got me thinking about how her living situation may have to change in the future.
There are steep steps to get to the front door and her backyard garden has a series of terraced steps. I was put in charge of watering her plants, so I had to drag a hose up and down the steps to water the pots and plants that her soaker hose didn’t cover. Her garden steps are ancient and falling apart so it’s easy to trip if you aren’t careful.
I went to the grocery store to buy a few things to eat, but can’t imagine hauling multiple bags or anything else up the front steps. Getting my suitcase and stuff up there almost wore me out and I’m in pretty good shape, health-wise.
The furniture in her house is minimal and I can see why. It’s way too much work bringing anything heavy into the house without help.
This ladder goes up to where her storage area is.
She fashions a pulley to lift things up and down. When I first saw it, all I could think of was “disaster waiting to happen.”
Update your house or change your living situation?
In my friend’s case, there isn’t much she can do to adapt her home other than fixing the old garden steps and hope she never twists an ankle. She’s healthy and active now, but if that ever changed, she would have to move.
A few years ago, I was living on a hill and often walked up and down it for exercise. An 87-year-old woman would do the same thing and was in amazing shape. One day, she told me her family was packing her off to Minnesota to live with family members. I remember thinking she was leaving sunny California to what Californians think of as the Arctic and hoped she would be okay.
Do you need to “older adult” proof your house?
A few years ago, I posted an article on my blog written by a guest author about Universal Design. It’s a method of adapting your home to age in place. That means making things more accessible in case you become or are disabled.
One example is to add a no-threshold shower in your bathroom so you can walk straight in without having to step over anything to get into it. In my friend’s case, she has an antique clawfoot bathtub in her circa 1909 home. You have to lift your leg up high to step inside it.
It works for her because she only takes baths and washes her hair with a showerhead on a hose. I tried standing up and using the hose but ended up squirting the entire bathroom. After that I took a shower in the outdoor bathroom she recently installed in her garden.
My current home is a small ADU that I rent from a girlfriend. It’s brand new and much more accessible. We have a few steps to get up to the door that are easy for me to climb. However, my roommate, who is less mobile than I, struggles with it. She’s getting a knee replacement soon.
Otherwise, our living situation is very comfortable. I have a regular bathtub/shower. My roommate has a no-threshold shower. My girlfriend/landlady next door has an old clawfoot tub. Before our new home was completed, my roommate and I had a difficult time using it as a shower. Don’t get me wrong, vintage clawfoot bathtubs are cool looking, but are probably better used as a planter when you are older.
Hillside homes may be better for young people
The old neighborhood where I cat sat is mostly inhabited by 30-somethings these days. It was originally established at the turn of the 20th century as a conclave for artists, free thinkers, and a few hunters. I love walking past the old Victorian and Craftsman homes tucked into the hills. When I was 20-something in the mid-70s, I lived in the same area for a short time.
Below are some of the old homes in the area. They all have steep steps.
But, as I grow older, I’d rather visit than live there full-time. From now on, I’ll stick to a home closer to ground level.
Do you think your living situation will need an adjustment or two to make it possible to age in place in the future? Where do you see yourself living in the next 10-20 years? Please leave a comment below.