Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Friday, August 1, 2014

Senior Friendly Condos and The Bachelorette



 
I apologize in advance to anyone who is a fan of The Bachelorette “reality” TV series for what I am about to write. This week I watched the two hour finale in my effort to break away from dawn-to-bedtime news coverage. Really, people, why is this program so popular? I don’t get it. If you’ve never seen the show, it started the season with one bachelorette and a group of 25 guys all vying to stay in the game and win the girl, Andi, who came with a wedding package worth mega bucks. Each week Andi eliminated guys who didn’t suit her fancy as a potential husband. By the finale she was down to two guys (Josh and Nick) who she brought home to mom and dad so the guys could get permission from the dad to ask for the bachelorette’s hand in marriage. Then Andi went on one last, spectacular date with each guy to help her decide. She ended up sleeping with Nick but gave the final rose of acceptance to Josh. Queue the violins, he got down on one knee and the rest is Nielsen’s rating history.

But that was not the end of the melodrama. Nick, was heartbroken not to be The One and wanted to know why she slept with him on that last date if she wasn’t in love with him. Ya, why? People on Fox News are calling her a slut and Twitter is calling him out for kissing and telling. Me? I just want to know how anyone can think it’s possible to pick a life partner on a “reality” TV show. I have a couple of in-laws who love this show. They are nice, normal people which baffles me all the more regarding the appeal of fake falling in love in front of a TV camera while pawning it---their love---off as the real deal. I hear tell at least one of the coupes who found love this way in past seasons are still together so maybe my cynicism is misplaced?

Changing topics: I was at the senior hall three times this week and after one of the events a woman I know causally asked me if I’d like to follow her home to see her new condo. Since spring I’ve been keeping up with its building progress each time I’d see her so I was happy about the invitation. She was widowed a year before me and, like me, she had been a long-time caregiver to her husband. Her son, when he first saw the condo said, “Mom, I thought you were downsizing!” and to that she told him it was the yard she wanted to downsize. It had become the symbol of her caregiver life. Every square inch had been turned into a flower garden---beautiful beyond belief! She showed me photos of it. Working out there had been her place of solace, near-by yet a place where she could get away from her needy husband. Now that he was gone, her love for her garden disappeared. The new condo was quality built and her choices of colors, fixtures, flooring, etc. were modern and magazine perfect. I would have hate living there---too big and beige for my tastes and I dislike walking in a front door and being in a kitchen, it's not my favorite room in a house----but I am happy for her. Her old house, she said, was weighing her down and she positively glowed showing me the condo and her treasures in it.

I think about getting a condo from time to time and I have even looked at several since Don died. But if I’m going to move, I need to gain something like a condo community that has a pool and/or a social life for seniors like fellow blogger, The Awkward Widow, writes about and it must be a universal design (meaning wheelchair accessible). My friend whose condo I just toured is 10 years old than me and the minute she needs a walker she’ll be in trouble. She won’t be able to get inside without going up steps and the garage isn’t big enough or configured right to add a ramp and still have room for a car. The front door has a ramp---if you want to call it that---but it’s not regulation ADA specs and, trust me, no wheelchair will be able to get up it without tipping over. After spending 12 years pushing a wheelchair around, I could tell you horror stories about trying to get into buildings and houses without the proper sidewalk or ramp incline and/or 36 inch door frames. (ADA recommends a 3:12 slope which translates to needing one foot of ramp for every 3″ of vertical rise to get the proper incline. My friends "ramp" was easily a 9:12. And it will be a sheet of ice all winter long.) I guess I know too much about building universal design and it baffles me as much as the popularity of The Bachelorette why people over 50 don’t build houses or condos where they can age in place. I need to get off that soap box because this is a topic I’m passionate about and I could go on and on until the cows come home. Breathe, Jean breathe!

An impromptu trip to a farmers and craft market I usually don’t go to took up another afternoon this week. A Red Hat sister of mine sells jewelry at this one and I knew her best friend’s funeral was this week. She invited me to sit awhile, so I grabbed a hot dog and we chatted in between shoppers. It reminded of the days when Don and I were vendors at gas and oil memorabilia collector conventions and swap meets. I felt at  home and I was glad I went out of my way to touch bases with her. She’s one of my favorite Red Hatters and losing a life-long best friend can be as hard as losing a spouse.  Some here in widowhood land would debate that but that my story for the moment and I’m sticking to it. ©

14 comments:

  1. I'm with you on downsizing SMALLER. This condo is 1,200 sq ft with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. And you walk into the "great" room with dining room immediately right (with open kitchen behind it) and teeny living room on the right. It was important for me (us) to choose ground floor one level ... planning ahead.

    The pool is the big social draw in the summer, as well as the covered patio. The Clubhouse rooms are busy in the rainy season. We have a tiny library (donations by residents) with a big table for jigsaw puzzles. It has a gas fireplace so if I want to have more than four people over, I reserve the Fireside Room AND THE KITCHEN. We hosted a huge Thanksgiving Dinner there one year and my kitchen remained spotless!

    The best thing is the walkability. My old neighborhood was NOT walkable at all. Curvy streets, no sidewalks and very hilly. From here it is a slight incline for a few blocks then flat and filled with restaurants (14 I think!), shops and four coffee houses.

    Let's see how much I get out when the rains begin ....

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    1. Oh my gosh, that all sounds so absolutely perfect! I may have to move to Oregon. I'd love all the restaurants and shops within walking distance, too.

      The condo I toured this week is twice the size of my 1,600 sq. foot house. One person does not need that much space.

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    2. Even this condo is too big. But there are also two bedroom/two bathroom units that are 970 sq ft. Our complex did not start out to be a "senior" living area but over the years it has developed into a "NORC", Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. Originally built as apartments in early 80's the developer decided to sell the units.

      The family who bought our home moved here from Minnesota and LOVE IT ... when they want snow, they drive 90 minutes to Mt. Hood!

      The 2 br units are selling for about $185,000 and need a bit of updating.

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    3. Wow, what a difference location makes. The condo I saw this week had a base price of $160,000 but with her upgrades it came up to close to $200,000. (Three bedroom/3 baths/3living rooms/2 dinning areas) I would be happy with a two bedroom/two bath place. I saw the perfect condo for me last year but it was on the other end of town. Tthat would require me moving out of the township where my senior hall is in so I could 't go there anymore. I followed the newsletter on line for 3 months for the hall on the other end of town and they don't even have 1/10 of the activities available up here. So many things go into a big decision like moving!

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  2. Jean, I admit that I have occasionally gotten hooked into The Bachelorette or The Bachelor -- mostly with a kind of horrified fascination. The first time, I happened onto it at the last episode when the bachelor (I no longer remember his name) was in tears because he couldn't choose between two women, he loved them both, but he could only marry one of them (who would also become the stepmother to his 5-year-old son), and he had to make a decision today. I thought, "Really?? You are going to choose a mother for your son when you're not sure because a television producer said you had to decide today? Are you out of your mind?!?" I still can't imagine why anyone would want to choose a partner this way (as opposed to getting TV exposure to launch a media career). I guess that's way so few of these marriages actually ever happen. -Jean

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    1. Thanks you so much for weighing in on this show. "Horrified fascination" is definitely why I kept watching the finale. That makes sense. I guess some women could also be fantasized what she'd do if she had all those handsome guys to choose from. In my opinion I think most of them are really in it launch a media career and maybe hoping not to make it to the last two standing.

      I recently saw a trailer for a documentary on speed dating for people over 70. I can't wait to see that one. I could see that idea becoming a reality show. LOL

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  3. my condo is 1400 sq ft and plenty big for me, i made the second bedroom my den and it's where i hang out. there is a country club next door and a great pool and a gym where i have a trainer twice a week. i have card games and lots of friends. i could not be happier if i have to be alone. but i know south florida is not for everyone. i understand your friend not wanting to garden now. i did jewelry making when my charlie was sick and i took care of him. now i can barely look at it. i must have a million beautiful beads too, pearls, lots of stuff. maybe someday again... who knows?

    smiles, bee
    xoxo

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    1. I guess I had my escape, too, back when my husband was alive. I was an avid reader and just never got back into it again with the same intensity. Condo communities for people over 50 that have club houses and.or pools are the exception rather than the rule around here. From what I know of Florida they really cater to the over 50 set. That would be nice!

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  4. Preparation for aging independently is a great life lesson to learn. So difficult to get my own head around possible physical or mental or financial or social handicaps and plan for all that. Ever think of becoming a life coach for us aging folks?

    Last weekend I was a vendor at a craft show, my brother's work. Goodness! It is so different sitting on the other side of the booth, courting buyers. Was this something you were good at?



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    1. A lot of people I've talked to about incorporating some universal design features into their building plans are in denial that they will ever need them. One good example was a couple I knew through speech therapy support. They were in the early process of building when the guy had a stroke that left him using a walker after weeks of rehab. They only had the footprint of the house done at the time and I tried to talk them into tweaking the plan to incorporate a bedroom down---their plan have put them all upstairs. It would have been an easy tweak at the point. She told me that they thought changing the plan to have a bedroom down would be "giving into the stroke" and they were determined not to do that. Guess what, a month after they moved in he fell down the stairs and was never able to leave a nursing home after that and he was only in his 50s at the time.

      The major problem with waiting until you actually need some of the universal design features is that many hospitals won't let you go home without the basics approved and proven by a home evaluation if you've had a serious health issue or a surgery like a hip or knee replacement---especially if you live alone. So people end up in nursing homes because they or their families can't/won 't make that happen fast enough and once they get into a nursing home it's hard to get them back out.

      When we did shows, my husband was the salesman and I was the worker bee who marked, displayed and keep the records but I knew drill to sell. It was a lot of work to set up and take down but it was fun at the same time because the guys who bought and sold the kind of stuff all liked to talk about their finds and collections.

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  5. I don't care for those kinds of reality shows, but I do like Survivor and the Amazing Race. Apparently what's his name didn't perform in bed like she wanted so she booted him? As for downsizing--I love my manufactured home. All on one level, two BR's, one bath. The lawn is mowed, the streets are kept pretty much snow free, the garbage and yard waste pick-up is free as is the water. NO--a wheel chair wouldn't be too comfy in this place, but when I had to use a walker, it worked well. That lady is going to be in for a big surprise, the first time you get a western Michigan snow-fall, ice storm. Oh BTW--yes--having a best friend die can be AS devastating as losing a husband. I knew my best friend way longer than anyone else in my life--except my parents. We met first day of Kindergarten--I knew her 70 years!

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    1. My favorite in-laws love those two shows too. I've never seen either one except for snippets shown on talk shows.

      I wouldn't mind a manufactured home. We actually looked at a couple after my husband's stroke and they do make them with universal design...with a full aray of options no less. But we couldn't find a building lot that would allow it and mt husband didn't like the park idea. It would have worked for me, an d still would.

      Not only the winter is going to surprise my friend but she is going to get a real work out cleaning something that big!

      Thanks for weighing in on the best friend thing.

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  6. Jean,
    As you know, we are looking for same setup - one story - wheelchair accessible, etc., but we've had no luck. We also want the yard maintenance option. There are only two developments in our desired location that could possibly work. Blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. I'm losing hope of remaining in this area.

    I've never watched The Bachelorette, but I don't live in a cave, so I did hear about the guy outing her about sleeping with him. Good golly.

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    1. You might try calling the builder's association (or what ever it might be called in your area) and ask if they know of any plans to build a condo community for seniors in your area. I found out plans are being developed for one in an area I like near by that is 2-3 years away from breaking ground. I can wait that long to get what I want. Right now, the availability is not keeping up with the demand but developers all over see it coming with the aging baby boomers,

      Have you thought about having an architect come look at your house to see what it would cost to make it better for aging in place? Yard work is easy to farm out when you don't want to do it anymore. There are tons of services and when you compare condo fees to the cost of keeping up a single family you don't really save much to go to a condo.

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