Aging in Place: An OT’s Testimonial

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Last year I did something I never imagined I’d do. I bought a condo and sold my house. In 1978 with a newborn and a two year old, we bought a three-story home near the heart of downtown in our college town that had been built in 1907. I had so many wonderful memories of raising children there, the garden, the wood-burning stove, and the chance to use my creativity to problem-solve each time I wanted to repair or renovate, such as gutting the pantry to add a powder room in 2012.

So what prompted this move? About six years ago my neighbor fell at work and injured his, requiring surgeries and a long convalescence camped out mainly in his living room.  This got my occupational therapy brain in gear; if I were to be injured or disabled in some way, there would be no way I could function independently in that house. The gravel driveway and detached garage would have been difficult. All of the three entrances to the house were narrow and had four steps to get in. And though I did add the half bath downstairs, it was a tight fit to get into that tiny room.

At the start of 2016, I became serious about the idea that our family home of nearly 38 years was clearly not a good place to grow old in. I began searching online for homes for sale and started simply driving down different streets while doing errands to become familiar with different neighborhoods. In March I contacted a realtor and told her my age and motivation for wanting to make a move, and that I wanted a place in a relatively quiet neighborhood – all on a first floor with no upstairs or basement, 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, an attached two-car garage, in an area where there were places to walk, parks, restaurants, shopping and a bus line.

The first three houses that the realtor told me about didn’t sound like what I wanted, but when she emailed me about the condo in a subdivision called Ponds of Windsor, I took a look and 20 minutes later I made an offer. I moved on June 7, and never once have I doubted that this decision was the right one.

As I sit in the smallest bedroom which I use as an office, looking out at one of our two snow-covered ponds, I reflect on the days since I fractured my wrist. I have had nearly a month now testing out this place with my new and presumably temporary disability and it seems to be the best case scenario. I especially appreciate that I can kick the laundry basket from the bedroom to the laundry room just off the kitchen and wash my clothes without help.

When the cast is off and I can write and drive again, I am thinking of providing consultation to other baby boomers who want to age in place.

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About Author

Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L
Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L

Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L has been a licensed occupational therapist since 1974 as a consultant, instructor, public speaker and clinician. She has worked in numerous settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, and schools, and has performed wheelchair evaluations, and done home visits for children ages birth to three as well as older adults. Debra has been an instructor in the Parkland College occupational therapy assistant program and has supervised therapy students. She has presented occupational therapy seminars around the country. She has been an item writer for NBCOT for several years.

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