Letters. We get letters. This one from a reader (let's call her A) who has been thinking about how she will live – or might like to live – if she winds up single in her late years after the “very long relationship” she is still enjoying now.
”Would I stay in the big house?” she writes. “Would I downsize? Would I move nearer my children? Would I stay in my city? I waver daily and at times each option seems to be the obvious one.
“My sister is certain she will make no change. My sister-in-law is certain she will downsize...
“I know decisions will be made for us in the event of our own decline in health but [my] question supposes we are still hale and hearty. “
The only thing I know about this question is that no one can answer it for anyone else. And that, obviously, is not much help.
Plus, although “hale and hearty” is a requisite in A's consideration of staying put or changing housing, I think any of us would be negligent not to give at least a nod to the fact that health becomes an iffier proposition in late life than when we were younger.
Among the unknowables of old age, the certainty I keep in mind is that healthy as I am right now at age 74, at any moment of any day, something can happen that will require changes to my living arrangement if not entirely disable me.
Not that I have take steps to incorporate that possibility into my decision making. Yet. It's on my agenda.
But there is nothing wrong, too, with pondering possible changes while assuming good health. Of course, one's financial position will affect what choices are available.
If you have little idea of how you want to live when single and old, there are a lot of basic questions: Do you like your community? Do you have friends there you are comfortable with? Do you like the climate or are you looking for a change? Are you happy in the house you have or is it too big for you now?
If change is on the agenda, the questions multiply. Will a single-family house or apartment in a new place work? Do you like urban or suburban or rural? How will you choose a new location? What are your criteria?
In addition, there are many kinds of housing options only – or mostly – for old people. Age restricted communities; NORCs, that is Naturally Occuring Retirement Communities; retirement communities defined by interests, activities and income; Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) that can take you from independent living to assisted living and finally, nursing care.
Co-housing is another option and don't forget the Golden Girls option – a group of three or four or five friends sharing a big house together.
Not to mention that if after all the homework you decide to stay where you are, there are many kinds of remodels, renovations and adjustments that can be done, especially in the area of universal design, to make a home comfortable and convenient for growing old.
This is a bare overview of possibilities. One reason is that as the baby boomers inch further and further into old age, the 65-plus generation is becoming larger in proportion to the entire population than it has ever been and there is a lot of experimenting going on.
This is a good thing and also confusing. So to get to A's specific question:
”What do your readers plan to do? Do any of them, like me, change their minds regularly?”
Although A doesn't mention it, obviously it would be useful if those of you who have already weathered this life passage told us something of how you made decisions and how they have held up over time.
I know there is a deep and rich body of knowledge on this subject among TGB readers.