It has been nearly three weeks since we moved into Malcolm’s mom’s home, and almost every waking hour of that time has been spent creating a new normal. We are making progress but adjustments, like the three of us are making, require compromise, patience and time.
When we considered a ‘shared residence’ with Malcolm’s mom we were prepared for the physical adjustment of living in a smaller space and the changes that would follow. We strongly considered the disruption to her life but felt that the eventual upside would make it worthwhile. What we underestimated was the level of anxiety that the initial upheaval would create.
At ninety-one, she is a highly functioning, mostly independent individual who has created a comfortable space for herself within very small boundaries. We have interacted frequently in the past and have noticed normal signs of aging , but nothing alarming. What has surprised us lately is how much of her confidence and sense of security is tied to her environment. Our challenge has been to mitigate her confusion and allay her fears by tuning in to her tolerance levels and communicating changes carefully.
We have accomplished a lot in a short time and consider our initial growing pains a valuable learning experience as well as a foreshadowing of things to come. Without a doubt, becoming 65 year old boomerang kids will be an interesting experiment.
Glimpsing into our future these past few weeks has taught me much about how I want to live my next few decades. While the choices may not always be mine, I think it is possible to develop the framework now.
Do The Work Now
I have written much about creating a life that fits; not too big, not too small, and certainly not defined by anyone other than you. You can read more of my thoughts on living a satisfying life here and here. What I have realized lately is that at some point, defining the terms of my life will likely be beyond my control.
At sixty-five, it might seem premature to plan for life at eighty and beyond, but that time is quickly approaching. While it is impossible to know our physical and mental condition ten years from now, we can presume that it will most certainly deteriorate, even if we come from a lineage that supports longevity and manage to avoid serious illness.
I am of the mind that rolling the dice is not an option regarding my ‘elder care years’ and I want to be proactive regarding the issue. Considering that I already have a financial plan and Will & Testament in place, I came up with a few practical actions that I’d like to share. If you have read my blog for long, you already know that these thoughts mirror my philosophy of balanced living within the framework of mind, body, spirit.
I know I am ‘preaching to the choir’ since my readers generally share this philosophy, so just consider my words a gentle reminder that there are genuine pitfalls to aging gracefully and being proactive now might help to avoid future angst.
Suzanne’s Tenants for Aging Gracefully
- Be kind to yourself and others – if you see a downside to this one, stop reading now
- Move it or Loose it – maintaining muscle mass is essential to good health
- We are never to old to learn – don’t let your mind starve to death, feed it with healthy information
- Go full-on Marie Kondo and purge sooner rather than later – your heirs will thank you
- Positive energy is contagious – be a carrier and don’t wear a mask (joke people, not a political statement)
- Life will change, with or without our permission, cooperation or acceptance – that’s a fact Jack
- Forgiveness is the antidote to bitterness – don’t invite bad juju by being stubborn
- Pay attention to the signals your body sends – there is a fine line between being aware and being a fanatic
- Slow down, eliminate busyness from your life – quality is better than quantity (cliché but true)
- The past is in the past – learn from it and let it go
- Plug in to local senior resources now – seek advice before you need services
- Technology is your friend – stay as current as possible (or ask a 5 year old for help)
- Plan your remaining years – if you don’t, someone else may do it for you
Our track to fulfillment includes staying physically active, mentally engaged and curious about life. While we may have lost our relevancy in the workplace long ago, we still have influence in small circles. Continuing to choose projects, explore hobbies and volunteer opportunities, surround ourselves with good people, positive energy and family give our days structure and purpose. Having an adventure on the horizon is always a motivator. Less is more has taken on a whole new meaning and as always, our motto is balance in all things.
Having a trusted advisor, whether it be a professional or family member is essential. While we might think we have all the answers now, it is nice to know that someone who cares will be there when we need them most. That person for us is our daughter. We trust her to offer advice that will be in our best interest at all times. Even when it isn’t necessarily what we want to hear.
What we don’t want to do with our remaining time on this earth is to dwell on the past, lament about missed opportunities, become bitter with regret or simply exist from day to day. I can’t imagine a fate worse than becoming the neighborhood curmudgeon and Debbie Downer. Life is meant to be lived fully and abundantly and there is a big difference between getting old and living to an old age.
“Begin With the End In Mind”Stephen Covey
This famous Stephen Covey quote seems fitting for the first action that Malcolm and I have taken regarding our future. Our first step toward aging on our terms was to eliminate a lot of excess from our lives and sell our home. At nearly 5,000 sf, it had become the equivalent of velvet handcuffs. Every closet, cabinet, drawer, cubby and three garages were filled to capacity with ‘stuff.’ Some things were easier to part with than others, but in the end, it is just all stuff. We kept things that we might take into the next chapter (when that day comes) but mostly, we purged.
We are now in a good place in which to consider options and will continue to sort through them until we are ready to embrace the next step. Until then, we are grateful to have choices and a place to drop our flipflops.
How about you? What tenants would you add to my list? Are you being proactive about old age?
I am sharing with Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share, so please pop over there, read about her week and take a look at her amazing photo gallery. While you are there consider visiting some of the other bloggers who have linked up this week.
48 thoughts on “Boomerang Kids”
Hi Suzanne – I can’t imagine living with my mother or MIL (they’re polar opposites but they’d both drive me crazy) so I admire your willingness to boomerang. I definitely agree about planning and thinking about how you want to age and making decisions before someone else has to make them for you (something my in-laws refused to do, and it caused quite a lot of family stress when they left things too late). I also heartily agree with not being so busy running around that you miss the lovely moments – my goal is to enjoy every single day I’ve been blessed with and to be grateful that I can now do it on my own terms, and with the person I love. So many don’t get that privilege. 🙂
Leanne, Malcolm’s mom has been a widow for 28 years and has lived alone for that time. She is pretty set in her ways, but bright enough to ultimately see the logic in our suggestions. I’ve found that the best way to get along is to limit my challenges to those that really matter.
Living life with someone you love, for as long as you can is indeed a privilege. Many blessings.
This reminds me so much of the thoughts in my head these days. When my parents suddenly got old, it scared me to think about my own future. We definitely need to think about it but I also want to live in the present. Some days I struggle with that. Having a plan is probably a good way to feel confident about the future and still enjoy today. Good luck with your new living arrangement!!
It is definitely a wake-up call to see your parent’s age and know that you are not that far from similar circumstances. While it isn’t possible to control our future, I do feel more ‘confident’ as you say about taking steps toward simplifying and having productive conversations now. We’ve accomplished a lot of home improvement projects this week and are settling in nicely. I think this just might work!
Oh golly. I’m going through all of the photos and genealogies my grandparents on both sides collected and rolling them into one ebook for the grandkids. That’s the only way that family history will be saved (I know my kids!) And I’m dividing heirlooms and giving them to the kids now – if they want to toss them, fine! We’re planning to move in four years and so giving yourself a deadline is a good idea.
Having a deadline will certainly compel you to reduce the clutter now. It’s nice that you have created a genealogy ebook for your kids. I’m sure they will appreciate that as well as the heirlooms you are sharing now. I’ve always wondered why people hold onto things that others might want or find useful. Good for you for doing that for your kids.
Im newer to following your blog so I don’t have all the back ground posts to go by. However Im loving your approach to be intentional on the future and be in the present.
Kudos to you both to move with your Mother. My 91 year old mother passed away recently and honestly it was an honour to be able to love her and care for her in her final days.
Thanks for sharing.
I look forward to following your journey.
Hi SimplyLive, thanks for your lovely comment. The previous two posts cover what lead to this post if you want to catch up. Otherwise, in a nutshell; we sold our home of 20 years, gave away, sold and stored some of our things, and moved in with my husband’s mom. We are 65, she is 91. We are still in the adjustment phase and learning every day. Thankfully, we have always had an attitude of living with intention and purpose and welcome the changes we are experiencing. I don’t have a ‘regular schedule’ for posting, but please drop by anytime and browse. We’d love to get to know you.
At 73, your list has now become my “Rules for Daily Living.” I printed it off and gave Helen a copy. From another room, I could hear her saying things like “Yep,” “Right on,” “Agree totally” as she read each one. My mother, age 93, lives in a wonderful retirement community because she knew early on that she couldn’t exist in the same house with another woman, no matter how much she loved them.
We are now spending about six months in our RV because we still can, and because we shed “the stuff” eight years ago. Nevertheless, we talk quite often about life after the road. You just helped us focus on that subject a little more intently. Life WILL change with or without our permission–so true! Joe
Hi Joe, it’s a tough conversation to have, even with a loving spouse. None of us want to admit that there will come a day when we just ‘can’t’ anymore. I admire your mom for recognizing that truth about herself and being proactive. RVing definitely has a shelf life, but I think you will know when you’ve had enough. I’m glad Helen gave a nod to my list. I could have easily added another twenty items but left that to my readers. Thanks for contributing your thoughts to the conversation.
Suzanne, Your list is spot on. I’d add “Keep making friends”, “Laugh or keep a sense of humour” and “Celebrate well and often”. I applaud you and Malcolm for rightsizing at you current age. I think your timing is excellent. Aside from doing what’s right for you, it’s also a true act of love that you’re doing for your daughter. Thank you for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.
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Hi Natalie, thanks for adding three excellent suggestions to the list. I couldn’t agree more.
This truly is food for thought – and I adore your aging gracefully intentions. I look at my parents now and while Mum is active, Dad’s confidence is very much tied to his environment. It happens so gradually it would be easy to land there without being aware.
Jo, sometimes in our quest for ‘less is more’ we forget the more part and eliminate until we have very little left of our former selves. Mindful living is the only way I have found to combat complete surrender. That is of course predicated on the fact that the ‘mind’ cooperates. Thanks for adding to the conversation.
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Ha! I guess we don’t have to feel too bad about living with our parents at 50 and 46 then. 🙂 Yes, such an adjustment. When people are in their upper eighties and lower nineties, they are very set on their schedules, routines, and familiar surroundings. Disruptions of any kind majorly impact their comfort zone and happy place. We notice this every single day here in Massachusetts. And we tiptoe around in awareness.
I really enjoyed your positive post and outlook, Suzanne. You are aging graciously and I wish I can have your mindset by the time I’m 65. I have a long way to go (too much bitterness on a daily basis). If I keep reading your blog and following your advice, I might reach that point sooner than later. 🙂
Liesbet, you are so right about set routines and schedules. I have found it best to not question some of the little things (shutting the curtains at exactly the same time every night); writing about it definitely helps me to try harder to be more patient. Bike rides are good too…
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You know, I’m tempted to add something about write short one pagers of things that were significant to your life and collect them for your family. We’ve lost so much verbal history in our family because all we had were stories that were retold by those who knew our family members. But when they both pass, it’s as if they never existed because it’s so easy for there to be no accounts of what their lives were like or what they did.
It just seems like there should be a way to capture the highlights of our lives beyond the basic statistics that come with most family trees.
Hi Gary, my apologies for the late reply. Your comment got shuffled off to my spam folder…. Anyway, you make a sobering point, but one that is grounded in reality for most families. I like your idea of writing down things that were significant to your life. My journals and Shutterfly albums capture a lot, but a synopsis makes more sense. I wish I had that from my grandmothers and grandfathers – in the end, it truly is dust to dust.
Hi, Suzanne – This is a very timely post for me. Much of this has been front and central in my mind lately. You have offered some true gems here that have been very helpful to me. Thank you!
Donna, gems might be an overreach, but I’m glad you had a take-a-way from the post! Have fun with the gals today.
You have offered some great advice to those of us who are facing similar challenges. My husband and I – although currently in good heath, mentally and physically, often wonder about our future as we age. We are child-free so we don’t have trusted family members to rely on if/when we can no longer do it all ourselves.
Janis, you are an intelligent woman and seem to live your life with purpose and awareness, so I have no doubt you will determine your own destiny to the extent possible.
I have an 87-year-old friend who has no living relatives and has lived alone for the past ten years. She has downsized twice in those years and is currently looking to make one last move that will take her closer to long-time friends. About three years ago a health condition required her to seek assistance, and now she has a full-time caregiver in her home. She is still sharp as a tack and somewhat mobile, but there are limitations to her abilities to care for herself. I admire her greatly and the plans she put into place many years ago (including a great insurance policy) that enable her to live life on her own terms. She has become my role model for aging gracefully and I borrowed many of my tenants from her example.
Have fun with the BC gals and post about it, please!!
An excellent post and I know that the three of you are all going through an adjustment phase but will do just fine. We not only downsized but moved to another state and city where we had visited before and liked but didn’t know a soul. In the past six years we have made lots of friends. Not only are they of similar ages, most all of us have made the decision to simplify our lives. It is nice to have a close group of friends that have all gone through the same experiences. What is important is to remember that life is not a given and to make the most of each and every day.
Karen, it was wise to surround yourself with folks who were going through a similar experience. Most of our friends are either thinking about downsizing or have already done so. At our age, we couldn’t imagine putting it off any longer. Our days have not been our own lately as there have been lots of little maintenance and repair issues to deal with. It’s all coming together though and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Anxious to get back to the fun part of life…
It sounds like you have all the moving parts identified while you move on down the road to your next chapter. Hope your extended stay with your MIL is a positive experience for all of you, and you find the perfect home.
Thanks Judy, we feel good about the decision and think it will be positive for everyone. Who knows when we will be able to buy the next place – good thing we are not in a hurry.
Your list gave me a one thing to add to my to-do. We are in a new environment and I am not yet familiar with the local senior resources! Being without close family, that’s going to be something I will need to learn about. I also know the full-on Marie-Kondo is just not going to happen with my hubby.
I think, in hindsight, you will also really appreciate this time with your MIL. We had always talked about spending more time with my in-laws and then they were gone. My mom has significant cognitive decline now, so that relationship has changed significantly. I do know that we could not do a boomerang with her, more so because of hubby’s Aspergers, so I’m glad we don’t have to think about that option in our lives. Best wishes for a calm time there!
Pat, Malcolm’s mom has always been a big part of our lives (he is an only child) but I think you are right. We will look back on this time and smile. Sorry for adding to your ‘to do’ list, but glad it was a helpful reminder. If you don’t mind me asking, does your mom live alone or with assistance? I’m just thinking ahead regarding our own situation.
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My mom lives in an “in-law suite” in my brother’s house. The space is a completely separate 2 bedroom with garage. Unfortunately, he lives in the a rural area (no sidewalk/car dependent), so when she is not feeling comfortable to drive, she is house-bound. (And my SIL is not one to visit with her.) She is not one to ask others for help/assistance either. The isolation of this past year has been really hard on her.
My husband & I have already agreed to explore an independent/assisted living community when we get to a certain age/lack of capability.
Pat, thanks for answering my question. Sounds like an ideal situation minus the isolation of being in a rural area. Our friends just helped his parents into an assisted living facility and although they initially resisted, they now love it. It is a social place, with all the comforts of home, plus, plus. Not a bad plan.
So good. I love those tips. I just lost my dad 3 weeks ago, and I feel like it didn’t need to happen but he just didn’t/wouldn’t take care of himself and it is sad at all he missed out on. Thank you for sharing, I’m saving those and sharing it.
Kirstin, first of all, my condolences regarding the loss of your dad. I know it must be especially painful knowing he could have taken better care of himself. My goal, beyond physical health, is to be happy and live with no regret. We only get one chance. I’m sure you will make the best of yours. Thanks for stopping by.
Suzanne, thank you for this. I’m late reading this but I wanted to wait until I had time to read it carefully and digest it all. I agree 100% with all of your tenants for aging gracefully. I would also add this one: if there is one thing you have always wanted to do, but keep putting off, don’t wait! Do it as soon as you can!
We have no plans of leaving our home any time soon. We are still getting rid of stuff and are making renovations to help us get around in it if we ever have trouble navigating two flights of stairs to our bedroom. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. Every day is a gift!
Beth, I love your addition to the list. Maybe I need to get that scuba certification I’ve always wanted! How smart you are to retrofit your home now in anticipation of your needs later on. Purging is always a good idea. We are still recovering from our ‘forced purge’ and will hopefully never be in that position again.
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We’re proactive with our plans to age in place. We made that decision a few years ago after we owned, then sold, our condo in FL where we had thought we’d retire to. We decided that we’d rather stay north, in our house, for as long as we could. As a result when we do remodeling projects on the house, we always keep in mind who we’ll be in 20 years. If there’s one thing I learned caring for my aging mother it was sooner is better than later. Planning is key.
Hi Ally, I hear you. If your current home works, with a few tweaks for accommodating aging, then why not. Taking care of, or just being around older folks does open your eyes to what is to come. I know it has for us. The steps we’ve taken will serve us well, but there is still more to do.
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My heart is beating a little faster and I can feel the stress and uncertainty in your opening paragraph. Despite being diplomatic and positive, Suzanne, a challenge. Yes, ‘level of anxiety.’ I also feel the genuine caring and love in your post. A great reminder on being proactive. I LOVE your tenants for ageing gracefully! I believe #4 is my constant challenge. We also have more and more people storing things at our house. I extra love #5! I have always been a fan of Stephen Covey. My husband and I often share his quotes. I love your dance photo. Thank you for the gems and my smile.❤️
Hi Erica, you are very perceptive to have picked up on my ‘diplomatic’ approach to this post. I wanted to stress certain points without it sounding like a rant. Finding the positive in any situation is more my style. Thank you for ‘hearing’ what I had to say.
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Hey Suzanne! Good for you and Malcom for your willingness to honestly face your future and the realities of aging. At our age (I’m a year older than you) there are so many others who either refuse to talk about it or act as though if they just exercise enough or eat the right things that they will somehow escape getting older. I DO BELIEVE those things help, but they don’t give us a free pass. And while it is easy to sometimes just ignore some of those possibilities I’m not (and it sounds like you aren’t either) the kind of person who wants to just leave all that to chance. Far better to make plans and set intentions and then be willing to alter them if an when the needs arise.
Of course with that said I’m not sure I could have lived with my own mother let alone my MIL! Fortunately my parents made their own arrangements and Thom’s sister helped with his side of the family. We were more than willing to “help” but that live-in thing is tough IMHO. Good for you for being willing to adjust to be of assistance.
And so, in case you couldn’t tell already, I completely agree with every one of your points. VERY important to not only acknowledge but also to review over and over again. My favorite is #13. “Plan your remaining years – if you don’t, someone else may do it for you”. I think that one is so important to consider AND equally important to write about because I think we can all use the reminders and suggestions.
Looking forward to seeing what happens next! ~Kathy
Hi Kathy, I entered this arrangement with the understanding that it would be fluid and would not have been agreeable to the plan as a permanent solution. Two women in one house ..yikes..even the best relationships would likely not survive that long-term. We are looking at this as a sort of ‘gap year’ to explore options – that mindset makes all the little inconveniences tolerable.
This post was my way of getting a subject out there that is on my mind and very much a part of my daily life right now. Dealing with aging parents when you are also aging is a special challenge. I have written a lot about our evolving retirement, but, like others, I have not addressed much beyond staying fit, eating well and expressing gratitude. What happens at 70, 80, and beyond has to be considered at some point. I am genuinely curious about how others have approached this stage of life and appreciate everyone who has joined the conversation. I’d especially love to see you and Thom take on this subject and expand it for your readers as a part of SmartLiving. You two have both a practical and academic approach to life and the wherewithal to express what many of us are thinking, but few know how to put into words. Thanks for joining the conversation.
Hi Suzanne, I commented several days ago but somehow my comment got lost in the internet vortex.
Anyway, this post really resonated with me after the challenges Eric and I faced with my aging (and loveably stubborn) parents. It was HARD and it didn’t have to be as hard as it was, but they did not accept the reality of growing older and their increasing need for help.
I think all of the points you made are valuable. Your last point is critical—we need to accept that for most of us, there will come a time when we will need help. And it’s so much better to plan for that than to have someone plan for us! Meanwhile, we can keep on taking care of ourselves as best we can and enjoy life to the fullest, but not pretend that we will go on forever with our minds and bodies intact. Of course, we can always hope for the best!
One more thing—as you said, everyone seriously needs to get on board with getting rid of their excess belongings. I’m still traumatized by the months it took to get rid of all of the crap my parents left behind. I’m looking forward to reading more about your journey as it unfolds.
Hi Laurel, after a more thorough second search I found your comment buried in a sea of SPAM. I really should empty that more often. Thanks for backing it up with the email. Your recent experience with your parents makes you somewhat of an expert on this subject and I appreciate your contribution. “Loveably stubborn’ fits my MIL also. 🙂
Lately, with the stuff that’s happening around me to family, it’s become something that weighs on my mind. Life seems to have moved by in a flash and all of a sudden 57, which used to look and sound so old to me feels like a baby. With the state of the world, everybody needs to put their life in order, be it downsizing, doing what they love, etc. I have always lived by the first 12 rules, the 13th l definitely need to work on. Scary, yes… but it needs to be done. I certainly don’t want anyone doing it for me. Thanks for this, and so glad l finally remembered my password so l could leave a comment. My stubbornness would not let me do another forgotten password thing…haha!. Boomerang kids… never too old or too young to be one. It will all come together at some point after the “adjustment period”.
Kem, at 57 you are just a baby, but it’s good to see that you are paying attention to the future. You don’t strike me as the type of person to collect things or have excess clutter in your life so that puts you well ahead of the game. Hope all is well with you. We are all back to canceling travel plans and wearing masks again. Will it never end?
I know I’ve been a bit MIA recently, but love reading your sage posts. I learned from my parents’ downsizing as well as our own that the stuff is just a burden and nobody wants it, lol! So we have embraced living small, albeit in 2 small homes and the RV which we spend at least 2 months a year in. I heartily agree with your list!
Enjoy your new adventures and flexi-life…love the idea of many temporary homes. I guess that is similar to our RV travels. We do have some travel plans, too, to Europe fall 2023 for several months to get a full taste.
So, I am still here, more reading than writing and posting, I’ve left the blog active so I can add and write more as the spirit moves.
Hi Nancy, it is so nice to hear from you. I’ve wondered what you might be up to. Several months in Europe sounds like heaven! Two weeks in the south of France would be my first stop.
As far as the blog goes, I’m glad you have kept it online and do hope you will get back to it one day. I would love to hear about your time in Europe. Seems like more and more are drifting away from blogging. I get it. COVID made us all think twice about what is truly important.
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