If you’ve lived in a house for 30 or 40 years, raising a family there, it’s often where you want to age in place. But your grown sons and daughters can make it complicated by treating you like a child when you’re still independent. When they call or visit, they hint about whether you can still get around by yourself. When you walk to the mailbox, they want to hold your elbow. Heading to the garden or the shed, they say, “There’s a step up in about two feet.” And you grit your teeth because this step’s been in place as long as the house and you’ve stepped up thousands of times.
Aging can cause us to think, “I need to keep doing things the way I have always done them. This demonstrates to my kids that I’m still capable.”
But, this stubborn mindset can backfire. You know you’re not quite as strong or able as you used to be and you can’t easily perform some jobs in the yard any more. What can you do to demonstrate you are still able to be independent?
It’s a myth that older adults are married to our habits and won’t change. To remind those caring children about your competence, make small adaptations that deliberately add comfort for you.
Here are two areas to start, one of them right outside the house.
First, check the around the front and back doors.
- Is the light bright enough to see and use the locks at night?
- If you have a concrete or brick pad at the door, is the edge clearly marked?
- Would adding a few stick-in-the-ground solar lights define the edge more clearly?
- Is the hard surface area big enough for movement if someone uses a cane or a walker?
- If there’s a step, would paint or a bit of reconstruction distinguish each tread more easily?
- Would a short handrail make maneuvering easier here?
Hint: Try squinting a bit when you look at these areas. You’ll get clues for what could be improved.
Next, take a close look at all of the paths and walkways around the house and yard.
- Are there protruding tree roots that could cause a trip or fall?
- Is the surface easy to maintain and keep clean?
- Are adjacent flowerbeds encroaching, reducing the walkway width?
- Is mud or snow overflowing onto any areas?
- Are low spots staying wet and becoming hazardous
- If your knees or back hurt and you don't lie your feet very high when walking, where are the rough spots or places what limit forward movement?
- Is it time to re-surface paths, such as changing from mulch to a hard surface like concrete or flagstone?
Hint: Re-evaluate gravel. Pea gravel has rounded edges that can roll underfoot. To change a gravel walkway but still use gravel, think of crushed stone instead. It packs down and is easier to walk on.
Making improvements that smooth and streamline the time and effort spent in the yard shows you are deliberately taking charge. Not only will you enjoy going outside more, you’ll remind your sons and daughters that you’re a realistic adult in control of the tasks and chores around the yard.
Want more ideas? Subscribe to this blog and get a free copy of the Elderyarding Checklist. This list includes many simple adjustments that can make a big difference.