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thoughts about where to grow old

Instant summer, my friends — from normal spring temperatures to 28 feeling like 35 in seconds. To teach Tuesday, I had to scrabble in my closet for respectable hot weather teaching clothes, hadn’t even brought out my summer gear. Can’t complain, though – the roses are budding like crazy and everything is growing.

It’s been a frantic few days and I’m feeling, as I often am, overwhelmed. My upstairs tenant, a young man who was 22 when he moved in, is now 27 and has just moved out to take a good job in Ottawa. So getting him out and then taking a look at the place and all that needs to be done … yikes. My lovely handyman Doug and I went to Home Depot to buy a new toilet, which luckily Sam was here to cart upstairs – incredibly heavy. Doug installed it today, plus we dealt with other issues, including the busy carpenter bees that had drilled at least nine holes in a wood overhang upstairs. (I splashed vinegar around to tell them they were not welcome and today Doug filled the holes. It reminded me of the time we found a huge nest of flying carpenter ants, horrible things, and then the termite debacle that cost $30,000 to fix. Oh yes, it’s fun, this home ownership business.)

So this morning Doug turned to me as he worked and said, kindly, that he thought the house was perhaps too much for me, this nearly 140-year-old four-story house with two tenants and a big garden. He suggested moving to a condo building on Gerrard he’s worked on, not far, but – I’ve seen those places, and they felt tiny, with a postage stamp garden. So here’s the issue: I complain endlessly about my responsibilities here, but can’t imagine how I’d live without the amenities — the garden, space, light, bird feeder, location, neighbours. I love my neighbours and this ‘hood. I love this house, troubles and all. A difficult issue, particularly for a single woman.

I’m giving myself five years to figure something out and fix it. Assuming, of course, that I remain healthy. One idea: subdivide the house, put in a proper kitchen upstairs, and rent or sell it. A lot of work and money, but – possible. I have a line of credit. Hmmm.

But then I lose my beloved bedroom and my south-facing office with its tons of files and boxes of paper.

That’s life.

In the meantime, mundane work continues. Thomas came over yesterday to spend two hours scrubbing down the deck, which was dark brown when he started and so white this morning, I thought it had snowed.

I’m still putting away woollens and getting out cottons. Tonight I’m riding to the Danforth for a Bach event, part of Bach week. I definitely need some Bach to stop the chatter in my head.

Where will I live as I grow old? Perhaps you are having the same thoughts. What is your solution?

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5 Responses to “thoughts about where to grow old”

  1. As you know, I bought an apartment in Spain last year in a small city on the coast. Abundant sunshine, although far too hot in the summer! I’m having two A/C units installed.

    When you go to Mexico, you could perhaps envisage buying or renting a place there while keeping a small pied-à-terre in Toronto…?

  2. I downsized from a three-level townhouse to a condo 7.5 years ago. The yard and roof and windows and everything that goes along with a house were becoming too much for me. I don’t have a garden now, but I have a small balcony, enough for a couple of planters, lovely sunrise views, and it’s all so much simpler. It may not be for everyone, but it suits me. When I travel, I just turn the key and leave.

  3. Beth Kaplan says:

    Juliet, Pearl, my problem is that I have lived in this house for nearly 40 years; my son has the house number tattoed on his foot. As I wrote, I complain about the huge number of responsibilities, which are overwhelming. But at the same time, I cannot imagine living anywhere else, particularly as I know so many people in the neighbourhood and on my block. Your place in Spain and your condo both sound wonderful – “I just turn the key and leave”!! – but I cannot imagine living in Mexico or in a condo. At least, not yet.

  4. Pat Butler says:

    Beth, I haven’t figured out an answer about when to move, but I have adopted a guiding principle which I will share. Having observed lifestyle transitions eventually made by the elderly, I believe people should make the move while they still have a choice and are able to do it THEIR way.

    Nothing would be worse than breaking a hip or developing a terminal illness and being forced to accept a new environment thrust upon you by others – which you may not like at all. Crises happen when we least expect them.

  5. Beth Kaplan says:

    Pat, thanks for this. Yes, I remember visiting retirement places with my 86-year-old mother, who was reluctant to move, and them telling her, The time to move is when you still have a choice and are able. The problem is, we don’t know when the diagnosis or the broken hip will happen. I’m a mere 73 at the moment, 74 in August; I have friends in their mid to late eighties who are still fiercely independent and doing fine. Mind you, one lives in a small apartment and the other has a son just down the street who helps. So yes, I think that within ten years – assuming I stay relatively healthy until 83 – I will make a decision and a move of some kind, whether to adapt this house into another arrangement or move somewhere else. I do have a bit of time. But it’s at the back of my mind always.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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