I was recently commissioned by Premier Care in Bathing to give my thoughts on future proofing your home for retirement by interviewing my mum who is getting a little older, but no less wiser! Premier Care in Bathing is one of the first ever companies to specialise in the installation of bathrooms specifically designed for customers with mobility needs. They are on a mission to encourage families to talk more openly about getting older and future-proofing their home.
Living away from home means that this is often something that plays on my mind, with my mum now on her own after my dad died unexpectedly eight years ago, I worry about her on her own. Much as she worries about me living so far away from her!
Seems worrying is in the genes.
I sat down and asked her a few questions… over Zoom naturally – crossing time zones and socially distancing to boot – about getting older and future proofing her home and life.
Have you ever talked to someone about where you will be living when you get older?
Mum: Not really, though you always did tell your dad and I we’d be off to a home when you were a teenager. And Switzerland was mentioned a time or two.
Me: Sorry about that Mum!
Would you prefer to stay home or move where you can get support as you get older (e.g. sheltered housing, assisted living, living with family)? Why?
Mum: I would rather stay home, it’s where we’ve lived for the last 30 years and has all our memories within those four walls.
Me: I remember moving in! It’s been the longest house and home I’ve known. I get that you’d want to stay.
Mum: Definitely, and I’d look at care options within the home should the need arise.
What do you think would be the most challenging aspect about staying home as you get older?
Mum: The stairs!
Have you ever considered making home improvements, such as safety measures or home adaptations to enable you to stay home for longer?
Mum: Not really. As the house is a converted bungalow should the stairs become too problematic it wouldn’t be too much of an issue for me to move my life downstairs. Like when I broke my ankle and couldn’t get up the stairs!
I’d convert the study into a bedroom, have the bathroom downstairs and make sure I could still get a good cup of tea rather than struggle up and down the stairs.
Me: Definitely a good idea, the downstairs is big enough. I’d be worried about the stairs in and out the house as well.
What would motivate you to make improvements to your home?
Mum: if something should happen. A fall on the stairs or a loss of confidence. Right now I’m happy as I am.
Are there areas in your home that don’t feel safe / might not be safe if you had limited mobility?
Mum: I’d be nervous of being upstairs and not being able to go up or down.
Me: And the bottom of the stairs is very close to the wall.
Would you consider moving from your place and what are your main criteria?
Mum: if I absolutely had to, with the main criteria moving closer to family. Either back to the North West…
Me: or when we get home permanently we’ll only be down the road!
Mum: with a spare bedroom?
Me: next question…
How do you feel about having this discussion?
While my mum felt old having the discussion, when she’s only in her early 60’s, it wasn’t an uncomfortable discussion for me to have. It’s one where I needed to know how she felt. What it has highlighted for me is the difficulty I would face in helping, or being there as part of the decision making process, living abroad.
It’s not an easy discussion to have, one made even more difficult by the distance between us and the fact my mum is on her own. But one that’s important to have – we all need to know our loved ones wishes so we can act for them and help them.