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Aging Matters: Couples, the time to plan for senior living is now

  • Published Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, at 11:24 p.m.

If you are a widow or widower, might as well not bother reading further. But if you are one of a couple who has celebrated more than a few anniversaries, this is for you.

And it’s the straight stuff. I’ve been there, but I was prepared.

Sad but true: Aging doesn’t keep step at a single tempo. Life-spanned dance routines are rarely synchronized. Inevitably, one of a couple will be left alone, immediately followed by overwhelming legalities involving dozens of official notifications, each demanding a certified death certificate that won’t be issued for several days. That brief delay might be a blessing – time for the left-behind’s fresh, raw mourning while friends and family hover close. But once that initial tide of support ebbs, a tsunami of reality will engulf the newly spouseless spouse.

What do I do now? Can I live alone in this empty house? What if I need help? Get sick? Few men or women are prepared for the ensuing life change without some trauma. Debilitating aloneness could have, should have, been avoided while both were still able to make a monumental decision together.

During our working years, we’d moved several times. For me, our final relocation was the wisest. We moved to a senior living facility while both of us were still functional, rational, alive. Comfortably settled in the same independent living apartment that is still my home, we enjoyed many months together with few responsibilities. Others cooked and cleaned, mowed grass, shoveled snow. Abundant activities kept us busy – or not. Our choice. I’ve never regretted living among others who’ve also gone through the trauma of loss.

I ache for old, left-alone folks who could have, should have, moved into senior living as a couple, and I’m called to preach the gospel of Do-It-Now. Two heads, hearts and hands make better decisions than any one of us.

Please think ahead, research, tour senior living facilities. Do it as a team. But do it now.

Phyllis Spade, 87, has made Sedgwick Plaza her home for the past six years. She welcomes your comments at phylace@yahoo.com.

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