Copyright © 2004 Henrietta W. Hay
January 23, 2004
Recently the mother of my friend the philosopher moved from a middle
size house into a large single room apartment in an Assisted Living
facility. Realizing its necessity, she made the decision herself. But
watching her work with her daughter and seeing their emotions as they
sorted the accumulation of a lifetime was a painful experience for me,
to say nothing of the trauma of sorting and tossing out they were
doing. It started a pretty strong train of thought in my aging
I am thankful that I did not reach my somewhat advanced age 25 years
ago. Then a man or woman needing more physical care than the families
could provide, or a person without a family, had to go to a Nursing
Home or the Hospital, even though he/she didn't need it that much
care. Today as the population grows older and healthier, with most of
the baby boomers still to come, a whole new concept of retirement living
We now have here in Grand Junction several excellent retirement
facilities, offering different levels of care. I feel sure that my
friend will be happy in her new home and her family knows that she is
safe and cared for.
There is Retirement living, which offers private apartments or cottages,
and is designed for people who simply want to retire from routine tasks
and hit the golf course or whatever. No more housekeeping or yard
work, friendly people around, social activities and an emergency call
system. Let's enjoy our retirement.
Then there is Assisted Living with private apartments for people who
need some physical help, but still want freedom to enjoy life up to the
limit of their physical ability.
Then, of course, we have Nursing Homes which have been around much
longer and which serve the seriously ill.
But as senior citizens, wt all our new choices, we still have a very
hard job to do. We need to go through our possessions, as my friend's
mother had to do, and decide what to keep, what to hold back for our
kids to decide on, and what to throw away. And this is equally true if
we decide to stay in our original homes for the rest of our lives.
I found myself looking at my age and my fairly small but very full
house. Sooner or later I know that I am going to have to face these
problems . Depression babies have trouble throwing things out. In
the Depression days there was no such thing as clutter. The saying of
the day was, "Use it up, make it do, or do without." Just don't throw
it out! Most of us didn't outgrow that, so most people over 70 have a
lot of stuff lying around that we don't really need, but which has
meaning for us. Then when the time comes that we have to downsize for
whatever reason, we have to start sorting -- unless we have had the
courage to do it ahead.
My friend the philosopher has been trying to convince me for years that
I would be a happier person if I would just de-clutter my life. After
watching her go through the move with her mother, I know I'd better
listen. I, or somebody else, am going to have to sort my stuff. The
best way is to do it with our children . My friend says no one should
do it alone.
The real obstacle to downsizing is sentiment. But we have to get
tough. Do I keep it, do my kids want it, would one of my friends want
it? Do I want to sell it? If not, there are many charities which might
welcome it. And then there is the dumpster.
But as we sort, the memories flow and we think about our lives, what we
have done, the people we have known, where we have been, how wonderful
most of it was.