Baby Boomers have some unique opportunities today when it comes to living in a safe environment. Since we never know how much time we have to prepare for an unanticipated event, it would be good to learn from others. The key for us all is to be willing to take life’s lessons and apply them to decisions that should be made sooner rather than later.
Here’s the story of one couple who saw the signs and instead of buying a time share in the land of denial, decided to act. Jim and Sue Hudson, originally from the St. Paul, MN and Milwaukee, WI, came to the west coast to pursue Jim’s acting career. Jim’s talent led him to performances in Die Hard 2 (1990), Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) and Bachelor Party (1984), as well as in sitcoms and commercials. But he took on one of his most challenging roles when he and Sue decided to bring his mother into their home because of her health concerns.
Mom had been through several strokes and cancer treatment that left her feeling frail. As care givers for mom in their two-story home, Sue and Jim quickly discovered there was a lot to learn and some hurdles to overcome. They had to make sure mom had the equipment she needed to make her new life in their home safe and comfortable. Even with their precautions, Jim’s mom once took a spill that required their 13-year-old son to call 911 to help her back into bed.
While Sue’s career as a technical writer kept her busy, social life with a fun dinner group was an activity both she and Jim enjoyed. As time went by, older friends in that group started to experience illnesses and injuries, and two of the men died suddenly in a single summer. Those events would immediately change life as they knew it for those involved. They realized that staying functional was a key component that many people just don’t give much thought to until someone falls, gets sick or has surgery.
If people are unprepared, there can come a time, when the house becomes the enemy! The steps we used to take with ease, we can no longer navigate. When people are aging, it’s a good idea to pay attention to those signals that say, “time to make some changes.”
Sue narrowly escaped a life-changing moment herself when she fell down a step into a “sunken living room” at a friend’s house but wasn’t hurt. Then one day when she was home alone, she fell down several steps, hit her head on a table and lost consciousness for a few moments. She wasn’t seriously hurt, but later reflected that she fell simply because she was trying to do too many things at once. Thinking about what she was going to do next, she lost her footing on stairs she had always maneuvered with ease.
These experiences made Sue and Jim realize they needed to make some changes while they still could. They decided to sell their beloved home of 40 years and look for a single-story house in the same community. With the help of an amazing realtor, they went from the initial decision to moving day in only four months. Their now-adult son applauded their decision and helped them with the move.
The house they chose was a single level (with no sunken living room!) with an open layout and a small back yard. The Hudsons decided they would immediately remodel the master bathroom to make it accessible for any physical challenges that the future might present. They began a long search for a contractor who combined an understanding of accessible design with the hands on construction expertise required to deliver a functional, beautiful result. The magic started when they saw a Gamburd truck on the freeway and checked into Gamburd’s licensing and reviews.
The Hudsons decided to visit the Gamburd showroom and were impressed before they ever got inside the door! They remember seeing a Gamburd employee having his lunch outside; when he saw the Hudsons arrive, he jumped up, leaving his lunch – to walk them into the showroom, introduce them to the team and make sure they were all set for a wonderful tour! They were able to ride, try, and experience firsthand the quality products and the staff dedicated to helping families make their homes more accessible. The visit to the showroom helped them to understand all the possibilities that were available to them.
The next step they took was to schedule a consultant to come to their home, take measurements and offer ideas for solutions. The Hudsons appreciated the fact that there was no pitch and no pressure. They would be going on a trip to Patagonia soon, so they knew the start date for their home modifications would be delayed. The Gamburd staff advised the Hudsons to call whenever they were ready.
After they returned home, Sue and Jim had the Gamburd team come in and begin the planning process. The Hudsons were impressed with not only the knowledge and experience of the staff but the way they worked together, respectful of one another and of the Hudson’s home.
One big plus in Sue’s eyes was that all the construction workers were Gamburd employees and not individual contractors to whom work was outsourced. Sue and Jim chose tile, cabinets, countertops, and fixtures for the remodel, with Gamburd advice regarding design, materials and construction considerations. The master bathroom was opened up; a tub that was too small was removed to give the Hudsons a lot more room. The crew installed a barrier-free shower, with grab bars at the toilet and in the shower area.
To create a maintenance-free, watertight shower, Gamburd used several Schluter products. Jim had read about Schluter systems in Fine Homebuilding magazine and he was thrilled to know that Gamburd was Schluter’s biggest customer in California! The new shower also has a beautiful wall-mounted folding teak bench.
BATHROOM BEFORE REMODEL
BATHROOM AFTER REMODEL
The Hudsons also asked Gamburd to update their kitchen as part of the overall project. Kitchen elements included a quartzite island and countertops and new kitchen floor tile. Gamburd also retiled the small front entryway and laundry room floors to match the kitchen.
Jim and Sue felt that everything was done professionally from the beginning. They raved about the care the team took in determining the placement of walls, lights, cabinets, grab bars and the shower bench to be certain that all modifications were well located and at the best height for their comfort and safety.
The Hudsons offered to share these words of advice:
- We may all have been multitaskers in our younger years, but as we age – make a concerted effort to only do one thing at a time – that in itself can prevent home accidents!
- Look critically at your house and start to explore how it can be made safer and more accessible.
- Don’t wait to make changes. Act while you still have the ability to plan carefully and decide for yourself! If you wait for an emergency to thrust change upon you, you may be forced to choose quickly from limited options. Decide for yourself while you have the opportunity to be in control of the choices you have.
- Figure out what you want and what you can do within your financial limitations. Functional, attractive modifications can be modest or elaborate, with prices to match. Moving is hard work and costs money but a smaller home with lower utility and maintenance costs may be a good decision in the long run if you have to move.
- Educate yourself on state and local tax laws and see if it could benefit you to purchase a home that is less expensive than the one you may be selling.
- The sooner you take control of your situation, the better. The fact that the Hudsons could make all of their own decisions and were not forced to make choices on someone else’s timetable was extremely valuable!
A home is supposed to be a place of refuge, providing an atmosphere of rest and rejuvenation. But if your house has become your enemy, perhaps it’s the season to re-evaluate your priorities and make some home modifications that would suit your needs.
T.S. Eliot put it this way in his poem The Wasteland: “Hurry up please, it’s Time!”