My first task in the boot camp challenge was to upgrade my apartment for old age. Most people (I suspect) want to stay in their own homes until the day they die. We want to live independently, and if independence eventually becomes impossible, then we hope for a good deal of autonomy. Whether we succeed depends largely on ourselves, but it also depends on the type of home we have.
So, time to look at my apartment realistically. Is this a home suitable for a very old person?
With age, a home needs to be safe, shareable and shipshape.
Safety is what other people worry about most
They worry that their elderly relatives or patients might slip, trip, fall, brawl, burn, have a turn, shake or break.
Now it's not my top priority to live safely for the next 25 years: when safety is the focus of life, the fun is over.
My home renovations began after I (finally) noticed the horrible dangers I was inflicting on my visitors. My guest bedroom was upstairs. The only bathroom was downstairs. To get there, my guests had to walk 40 steps, half of them on a narrow staircase without a handrail. Even to get out of bed, unlucky Guest A had to clamber over Guest B. As I get older, so do my guests. If you've got a sore hip or prostate trouble, this night-time scenario could ruin your stay.
What a nightmare apartment for old people! Finally I got the message. So it was for other old people, not myself, good heavens no, that I installed a second bathroom in a tiny storeroom upstairs. It was for other old people that I provided the mandatory handrail — a mere 17 years late. It was ridiculously easy. One visit to a workshop around the corner, one call to my trusty handyman, a few coats of varnish and it was done.
At my 75th birthday, the renovations for these other old people (not me, I'm not old!) went on show. They liked the bathroom. But they liked the handrail more.
And you know what? Every single time I go up or down the stairs, I grip the handrail. Of course I don't need to, oh no, not yet. But hey, it feels so smooth and solid. And safe.