Transitions With Jean Blog

Defining Independence

Jul 3, 2022

One of the pleasures of my job is being able to speak at different gatherings about making the transition from the big family home. I enjoy it when folks share their ideas, hesitations, challenges, and solutions. I love hearing their stories.

This is the time of the year that we celebrate our freedom and independence. Coincidently, that is a common thread in the audiences who attend my presentations. Folks repeatedly tell me they want to stay in their house as long as possible because they want to stay independent. Yet, when they describe their current world, I am surprised by their idea of freedom. They often share how they count on their adult children to make that happen.

Maintaining a house is a big responsibility. The to-do list is long. There are furnace filters to replace, plumbing to maintain, lightbulbs to change, dusting, painting, fuses, carpets and floors to clean, and things that just wear out.

Outside, there are eaves-troughs that need cleaning out, storm doors, broken steps, windows to wash, trim that always needs painting, grass to cut, bushes to clip, and then there is snow! There are so many things that you have to do if you own a house.

I sat down with Julie Wetzel, Residency Coordinator at Evergreen Retirement Community, in Oshkosh. I asked her what her response is to folks who say they don’t want to lose their independence.

Wetzel put it simply, “Being truly free is enjoying life doing the things you ‘wanna-do’, instead of being tied-down to doing things you ‘gotta-do’.  Wetzel continued, “You need to figure out how to keep the house up when you can’t get on your knees anymore. You may be so overwhelmed with taking care of the house that you don’t get out to do other things that you enjoy doing.”

“Two-thirds of Evergreen is independent living. At a retirement community, we make it easier for people to stay safe and independent longer.”

“Isolation is part of the issue that gives us depression and dementia and creates accidents. Sitting in your chair watching Judge Judy every day, that is depressing. Then, when you are depressed, you don’t exercise, you don’t eat, you have no reason to get out of your pajamas in the morning.”

“We all need a purpose. In a community, we strive to find that purpose for everyone. It may be serving on a committee, helping in the sewing room, or managing the wine-tasting club. Since you will be free from burdensome responsibilities with your house, you will have more time to enjoy yourself.”

Perhaps your children are in their 50’s or 60’s. Maybe they have moved to a condo themselves to enjoy freedom from home maintenance. Are you independent if you depend on your children to keep you in your house?

Wetzel shared that she has moved to a condo. She smiled and said, “I get to do what I ‘wanna-do’! And the older we get; the less time we have. When you no longer have the “gotta-do’s” on your list, that is freedom!”