Gratitude fills the air this time of year. Many of the stories I’ve received give thanks for homes and communities that are sustaining and supporting us as we age. Jean has given me permission to tell her story. When I interviewed Jean for The Perfect Home For a Long Life she was 70 years old and living in a second-floor suite of rooms in a rambling 1910 heritage home owned by a childhood friend. Several years earlier her marriage had fallen apart and she was happy to retreat to the welcoming sanctuary of this home-like environment. That was four years ago. A couple of months ago Jean broke her ankle in one of those classic accidents, stepping the wrong way on a curb outside the store while her arms were laden with groceries. The break was bad enough that surgery was required to insert metal supports to shore up the bones. She’s still in recovery with probably six more weeks to go. You know it’s serious when the doctor says you aren’t allowed to put any weight on your leg - for months.
At this point, you’re probably trying to envision Jean struggling on one leg up the precarious narrow stairway of the hundred-year-old home - but your imagination is failing. There are 15 stairs by the way, and the same number to get into the house from the street. Knowing these old homes you would have guessed accurately that there are few bathroom facilities on the ground floor – in this case, only a toilet and tiny sink, with no bath or shower, but the room is too narrow for a wheel chair or walker, anyway. Regardless, there is no room on the ground floor available for Jean to stay – even temporarily.
But Jean’s timing was impeccable. About a year and a half before her accident she realized it was time to move and her one criteria was that the building should have an elevator. One of Jean’s friends noticed a well-priced condo was available in an ideal location, and another friend with interior design skills helped ease Jean's apprehension about downsizing to a 600 sq. ft. home after being used to a large house. “I was so worried about the size and shouldn’t have been,” Jean says. “This darling apartment is perfect for me. It’s cozy, has a great view, and is really bright. There’s a balcony that’s just right for sitting on and growing a few things. And I’m on the top floor so I can hear the rain on the roof. I’m grateful that when the universe gave me a thump and broke my ankle I was living here. I'm in the perfect place for my three-month recovery. First I hopped around with a two-wheeled walker and now I’ve graduated to a knee scooter and I scoot around happily. I hope I don’t have to move again until I’m carried off.”