A few things you need to know about ageing up & scaling down

Planning well ahead is the best way to make the most of your retirement.

By Hilary Henderson  

Are you trying to avoid all talk of downscaling your home as you grow older? I did too, until I sat down and thought it through. I realised that in my 60s, I am not ready to downscale. But I do need to plan ahead so I don’t narrow my options.

My parents sat it out in a large house with a big garden until they turned 80, but in those days, it was relatively easy to find suitable accommodation for the elderly.

Anyway, my siblings and I were so relieved when they decided to move, as the thought of my father cleaning gutters from a ladder at 80 was giving us nightmares. But these days it is far more difficult to find suitable accommodation at 80 if you are not needing frail care.

I hear many of my friends say, “I am going to grow old in my own home and if needs be employing a carer when I need help.” Do you know what it will cost to employ carers, particularly if you need them day and night?

I had a ringside seat when the mother of a close friend employed carers for her husband, who had severe Alzheimers. I assisted with the contracts, schedules, leave and of course wages.

My eyes were on stalks – double pay on Sunday and public holidays, and 1,5 on Saturdays. It soon mounts. This option is only for the mega-wealthy.

Then there is the question of space. As we grow older, many of us tend to hoard souvenirs and memorabilia. I’m sure it has something to do with wanting to hold onto the past.

When I moved to the country, I moved sideways. I had a small cottage in the city, but overwhelming relief came from decluttering and giving away the things I had been hoarding.

Books, ornaments, photos, clothes, travel souvenirs, paintings, and more. A colleague mentioned that we take hundreds of photos of a good holiday, but we only need five or seven to remind us of the trip. I enjoyed halving my pile of photo albums and re-organizing the photos.

But to get back to my first point, I believe we need to plan ahead. I am afraid that if I do something drastic like falling and breaking a wrist at 79, I will not be able to find somewhere that I like at the last minute.

That’s why I did the research and made my choice in my 50s. I put my name on a waiting list for a retirement village. It’s there as a safety net when I need it.

Some of my friends gave up their large houses and gardens at 65 and moved into lock-up and go apartments or townhouses. They are thrilled at the freedom it brings.

I, on the other hand, have chosen to downscale marginally for now, and stay put until I need something smaller, perhaps with assistance. I don’t have children to help me at a later date, but do you want to be a burden to your children? Most important, I have a plan. Do you?

  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

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