Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Houses and getting old

Marking finished, hurray hurray.

Next urgent tasks: rescue the garden from the neglect of the past few weeks and find a care home for my confused aunt. Currently she’s in her own home with 24-hour, privately-funded care, but this has to be fairly short-term for financial reasons and I need to find a nice home which will have a room some time soon and which she will agree to go to.

She would much rather stay in her flat but her short-term memory is gone and she’s not safe. Since she doesn’t see the need for any of this, she hasn’t got her name on any waiting lists. I have to do something about this pronto and go round visiting homes to find somewhere that will take her and where she’ll be happy (I hope). She used to be a missionary / doctor so it has to be somewhere with a definite Christian ethos, which cuts the choice down considerably.

I’ve already visited a couple of homes. My mother came with me to give me the benefit of her advice. When we came back from the second one, she said to me – but in a jokey sort of way – “I suppose I ought to put my name down for some of these places!” And I didn’t like to say… and didn’t.... “Well, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.” She is 88, after all – the same age as my aunt (my dad’s sister). A care home wouldn’t be the first option for Mum – she would come and stay with us if possible – but still, it would do no harm to have one’s name on the waiting list, just in case.

I wonder if it would be too soon for me to put my name down…? A nice room looking out over a garden; meals made; housework done; laundry taken care of… . Would they let me bring thousands of books, my computer, Mr Life and the cats? (Perhaps I’ve put these items in the wrong order.)

I’m approaching a Big Birthday which my brother suggests that I should regard as 59a (and then proceed to 59b, c, d etc) and I do think from time to time about the next house. The last house, I suppose. Rachel of Slow Lane Life ( is boldly entering the next phase of her life and planning to move down near the south coast. We wouldn’t move far from Edinburgh, but I’m torn between thinking that we should buy a really practical house for our old age and thinking that we should buy one we really like. I want to move back to the other side of the city, near the sea, where I lived till I was nearly forty. Or a nearby seaside town?

What would you go for? Sensible or the dream?

I would like a bigger garden, but how practical is that? My parents moved twenty years ago to a big, elegant flat, the bottom of a very large divided house. It seemed suitable enough then but now my mum is rattling about in it, worrying about redecoration and dry rot and elderly pipework. Not to say the garden, which seemed manageable when they were in their sixties but which Mum can’t do now. My aunt, in contrast – my other, non-confused aunt – lives with friends in a wonderful big shared house with an enormous garden in Norfolk. It wasn’t a practical move but it was a fantastic one.

She did have a secret weapon, though: one of the friends had a husband who was – and still is – almost thirty years younger. So I just have to trade in Mr Life for a chap in his early thirties and I’ll be fine. It’s a thought….

No, it’s all right, Mr Life. I couldn’t face holding my stomach in for the rest of my life. And you’re a nice old chap. (Or maybe not old; just 59c.)

Now: off to haul up forget-me-not and plant begonias.


  1. Very funny, Isabelle. That makes me 59b.... But you get nice little ghettos for the over 55s, you know.... you don't have to go straight from independence to a care home; you can move along in stages!

    Good luck with the search for the ideal place for your aunt. Always a sad task....

  2. You're so funny Isabelle! You know my take on sensible vs. the dream -- I say, grab the dream for as long as you can.

    And just for my future cat-sitting opportunities, I'd prefer a lovely little place by the sea with a beautiful little Scottish garden and -- well, I'll just stop here and say -- your current home, but perhaps with a view of the sea!

  3. Go for the dream:-) But maybe a bit of a compromise and have a sensible dream!

    I like the idea of being 59a.

    Good luck finding the right home for your aunt, it will be hard to make the decision and move her, but I'm sure she will settle in well.

  4. Same dilemma here. Can't help - far too undecided but watching Rachel with great interest.

  5. Anonymous1:28 am

    Hi Isabelle.Great blog. You've been looking over my shoulder. I hope that you find a suitable home for your aunt. I love what your other aunt(?)did...moved in with a group of friends. Actually we have that option..moving in with friends...but we're all the same age. I have a 40 yr old single daughter who is a social worker. She says she'll move in, too and care for us all. Hmmm. Six yrs ago we made a sensible move which has turned out to be very sensible, but too small to have much life as in having people in, or helping people out, etc. Go for the dream as your friend stated in your comments. I enjoy your blog immensly. Vicky from East Texas

  6. Personally I am thirty-teenaged. I hope you find somewhere nice for your aunt.

  7. My mother who is 87 moved 10 years ago from where she'd lived for 50years, to a sensible place so she could be close to me and the family. It's too sensible though, and she misses her garden and not being able to have a pet. I can't visit more than once a week anyway so maybe she'd have been happier going with her dream of being by the sea.

    Decisions, decisions. I like the thought of 59 a,b,c - for when I turn 59 later this year. :)

  8. Oh, I like this game! It makes me 59c which sounds a lot better than the real thing, which makes me sound elderly, which isn't fair because in my head I'm about 28-ish.

    Go for the dream, by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea, with as many conveniences as you can manage!

    When you find a place for your bewildered aunt, maybe they'd have room too for my f-i-l? Or is it only for the bewildered, not the cantankerous?

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  10. Go for the dream, Isabelle - you can always throw in a pinch of commonsense! The dream and the sea sounds a wonderful combination. As Molly implied, there are plenty of lovely conveniences you can add!

    Hard having to make a choice for your aunt - hope it goes well.

  11. Try not to be sensible..grab the dream. Over the years my husband has refused to move house and now I feel that I'll never live anywhere else..still yearn for the little place by the sea.

  12. I just read somewhere that women who marry younger husbands don't live as long. This is really unfair as men who marry youger women live longer. But then life's not fair.

    Frankly I'd rather have a puppy than a younger man. Or anything. (I mean I'd rather have anything than a younger man, not a puppy than anything.)

    Everyone wants to go to the sea when they get old don't they? Like Tolkien's elves. Trouble is the sea is expensive, so you might have to give up the bigger garden in exchange. I think I'd prefer the sea to a big garden, as I've got one of those and it's a nuisance sometimes. Animals and husbands, and books of course, are important. Travel's nice but that makes animals difficult. Dreams preclude other dreams. Like I said, life's not fair.

    Hope Auntie gets sorted as painlessly as possible.

  13. Go for the dream, Isabelle - there are always gardeners and stairlifts and other ways around the practicalities. Perhaps when you get to 59z you may need to reconsider but that's a while off. As other people have said, you can be too sensible.
    Hope you find an ideal spot for your aunt. A friend of ours, whose wife had Alzheimers, was very much helped in his search by the Alzheimer's Society. The home where his wife went even allowed her beloved cats, so there are good places out there. (pity I can't send my M-in-law to keep her company - like Molly, I'd need a home for the cantankerous, I fear!).

  14. I wish you the best in your search for a place for your aunt - a nice place where she will feel welcome.

    Happy Big Birthday!!!

    How's your brother doing? Ouch!

  15. I think you are still so young that you can take your time, but it never hurts to look around. Except that you seem so busy running around looking after your mother and aunt, and the finding of a suitable place sounds far from easy. A bigger garden - that sounds tempting! I'd love one.
    I can see the sea from our house, and get to it in five minutes, but it is not really sea, it is harbour, and you could not swim in it, as it is not very clean.

  16. Go for the dream. We always tend to regret 'sensible'. And you've finished your marking? I am SO jealous. I have 350 scripts to go (and there's the 100 extra I have volunteered for but which I am trying not to remember ...)

  17. I imagine you as constantly on the move, rushing about markingcaringvisitinggardeningsmilingcatstroking etc etc.

    I hope all goes well with the 'home' search.

  18. Hey Isabelle.... simply love your blog... it took me 2 weeks to read your blog from beginning to end but I loved it....
    Also you are writing so much nicer with each passing day and the first write up is excellent tooo...
    As for ages.... I think you are lovely from what I see....
    Tell me.. as a fellow cancerian and bday sharer, can I do 36a, 36b, 36c till I get married ? :)
    I am so glad I "met" you on blog-land...

  19. Great post here Isabelle! It got me thinking, but instead of posting paragraphs of comments here, I did a whole post on my blog in response to yours. Hope you don't mind that I've 'lifted' some of your remarks so I could reply to them, but I wanted to acknowledge you in doing so.
    Feel free to reply!

  20. Isabelle, Count me in the 59f catagory....I vote for the house that you like as opposed to the sensible choice. Plenty of time to be in the sensible house, ask any elderly person which they would rather have if give the choice..Near the sea too.

  21. I don't know the answer to these questions, perhaps because all of them are greyish. I can only observe that most of us need satisfying work, some level of activity, and a sense of being useful in order to maintain a good quality of life. We do have to be practical, but perhaps it doesn't do to be too practical too early.

    I have fond memories of my grandfather gardening well into his old age, blind as a bat. I have no idea how he did it, but it mattered to him. If he hadn't had his garden, all he would have done was sit in his easy chair and chew tobacco.

    Similarly, I have a geriatric parakeet. She can barely fly now, but every day she tries to make a pass around the house. Sometimes she makes it and sometimes she doesn't. When she doesn't, I'm glad to give her a lift back to her cage. I figure the longer she tries to stay active, the better. I would hope that there are services around which can begin to fill in when a garden and such get to be too big for one person to maintain.