[EDITORIAL NOTE: I enjoyed my conversation yesterday with reporter Patty Henetz of The Salt Lake Tribune. We talked about elders in relation to Representative Paul Ryan's budget proposal and President Obama's Wednesday budget speech. She was kind enough to quote me. You can read Patty's story here.]
On yesterday's post Mage Bailey, who blogs at Postcards, left this comment about the painting I'm having done in my home this week:
”Don't laugh if I suggest that a post or two on elder home upkeep/redecorating might be appropriate. I've been to too many estate sales where the home's walls are stained, the upkeep not kept up and life in that house frozen in the 1960's. That too is an important part of aging.”
So while the painter is here today, I'll take a first stab at it.
There is no telling how many apartments I've painted in my life. Years ago, it didn't seem to take much effort. I got up and down the ladder with ease, shoved furniture out of the way, wielding the brush and roller with enthusiasm.
I rather enjoyed it and at most, I strained an arm muscle or two reaching for out-of-the-way corners. Nothing serious and I had the energy to paint on whim, just because I wanted a new color.
No more. At 70, I'm aware that a fall could break a bone and I'm not willing to chance that. Plus, painting no longer strikes me as fun as it once did. The last time I did it myself, about ten years ago, parts of my body I hadn't known I had ached for several days after I finished.
Today, while I write this and get some other chores done, it's a different kind of fun watching the transformation as the painter makes his way around the walls.
This time I am painting because I don't like the color choices of the previous owners. But the time will come when it will need refreshing. It's hard to know when that will be. In New York City, the regulation for renters is that the landlord must paint every three years and that has been the standard interval for owners too.
I will have to wait to see how long this paint job holds up. At least elders don't have kids marking up walls with crayons. But I wonder if elders let their home go, as Mage mentions, because our eyesight fades with the years and perhaps some don't see the stains and dirt that accumulate?
Or that it seems to be more work – even to take down pictures and pull nails, etc. - than they have the energy for? Or, too, there might not be enough money for a painter. Or maybe an elder can no longer get around easily enough to go to the store to select colors?
I don't have any, but I would think adult children and grandchildren would help aged parents with minor repairs and painting when needed. Given my childless circumstance, I don't know if that is common or not.
Mage didn't explain enough for me to be sure, but we may part company about redecorating. For example, I've had my sofa – which needs recovering – for about 25 years and it was nearly an antique when I bought it. Although it needs some other work, which I'll get around to in time, I'm quite attached to it now and it's not going anywhere before I die.
My ancient, round, oak dining table will stay too. I bought a new set of chairs for it about five years ago which should last for whatever the definition of indefinitely is to a 70-year-old – probably death in my case. My large, wide desk falls into that category too; I see no reason to replace these pieces of furniture with anything new.
Maybe I just don't “get” redecorating - I like the main pieces I have and work with them whenever I need anything new – lamps that are broken, a worn-out chair or replacing something I bought on the cheap because I couldn't afford better at the time.
My home has no identifiable style. I guess I go for comfort and I wonder if those homes Mage has seen that are “frozen in the 1960s” are not still comfortable to their owners or if they cannot afford to redecorate. Of course, that's an entirely different issue from repairs and paint.
I agree with Mage that upkeep of elders' homes is important for well-being and self-respect. But I can understand that, depending on age and diminishing capabilities, needed maintenance can get away from someone who can otherwise generally care for themselves.
What's the solution in that case?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Unbelievable, But True