This past week was one of those interesting intersections between personal life and work. While preparing to teach the Aging in Place course next fall, I also purchased a home from a 92-year old – I’ll call her Esther – who had lived in the neighborhood for 67 years. Not that long ago, 67 was the average life span!
In other states where I have lived, I never saw the owner from whom I purchased a home. Here in Indiana, it was a different story. Esther, her daughter, the two realtors and even the loan company representative were all seated at the table. It was clearly a difficult time for the elderly homeowner. While her daughter described the benefits of moving Esther closer to her, to a beautiful multi-level care facility with great reputation for senior living, Esther emphasized the move was needed, not wanted.
She had recently had a bad fall and waited almost two hours for her daughter to arrive to help. A long-time next door neighbor and friend had recently died in her home. The signs were clear. Ester had aged in place, but now it was time for something different.
On signing the last form required of her, she said, “There goes my good home.”
When I asked what was good about the move, she and her daughter acknowledged that it had happened while Esther could still drive and get to know the new smaller town, make new friends while she is still somewhat active, feel more secure knowing she can get help if needed, and that she had control over where the things she couldn’t take along would go. Esther shared that she had given her piano to the family next door with four children; she felt good about that.
As a teacher, it is important for me to give students access to the broad range of academic literature on the topic of aging in place. Esther had many of the supports the research indicates helps elders to age in their own homes -- good neighbors and friends, income enough to pay for services such as lawn care and other maintenance, family who help when needed, active roles in church and/or other community organizations and good health.
But, it’s important to know when aging in place is no longer the best choice. It’s also great when the elder makes the decision to move, even if “needed not wanted.” It’s this reality of aging in place – Esther’s story -I also want my students to know.
UIndy Center for Aging & Community