• Virginia Tolles

“Old Age Ain’t for Wimps”

Elise Sheppard / Unsplash

There’s a saying about growing old, “Old age ain’t for wimps.” My brief research reveals that it has been said in various forms on stage and in books for many years. I was unable to find the originator, unless it was Bette Davis, who said, “Old age ain’t for sissies.” In any case, the thought behind the expression is very true.

No one can tell us exactly when old age begins. Some people push it all the way back to the age when the workplace begins nudging employees out to pasture. Others mark it when women enter the change of life and men begin having mid-life crises. Still others mark it when the doctors get their grips on you. Again, all bear some degree of truth.

I’m entering that last definition: The family doctor / nurse practitioner pushed me on to the internist, until, now, I’m being pushed on to other specialists. The problem is that I do not like doctors. I do not like their self-righteousness, and I do not like their being more anxious to please the big businesses that own their practices than to take the time to answer my questions, especially not when they push me off, onto their staff, to answer technical questions. And, for all this, I’m supposed to help them pay for their McMansions and Escalades – or four-door Jeep Wranglers; well, you get the idea. I’ll have them know I live in an apartment and drive a nine-year-old car that is starting to show signs that it wants to be replaced. Aargh!!!

The most pressing problem, however, is finding affordable housing. My husband is still working, but he needs to retire. He cannot retire, however, as long as we are paying what the market considers to be mid-level rent. We consider it to be ridiculously high rent, but who asked what we think. Right? Certainly, the housing market didn’t ask.

As goes the rent, so go housing prices. We’ve been looking for three years for a nice, simple place to call home. Until last September, we lived in South Louisiana, where affordable houses invariably were located in flood zones. No, thank you! The homes of a number of my old schoolmates flooded in August of 2016; I hurt for them, and I do not want to experience that, myself. Last year, we moved closer to our children and grandchildren. In years past, the housing market here has been quite affordable. Not any longer. Anything in our price range is between fifty and seventy years old and needs between $20,000 and $35,000 of work to bring it up to code and make it livable. We would have to pay a good $50,000 more to even begin to see houses that are move-in ready.

We’re scared! What are we to do? We thought about buying land and building a small house, by definition less than a thousand square feet. I even designed a very livable Joseph Eichler-inspired small house. But, no go. Affordable lots are either too far from town, too large for retirees to maintain, or restricted to many more square feet – or all of the above. And that’s only the beginning. Construction prices are also higher than the proverbial cat’s back. When we look online for suggestions, we find ourselves being directed to old folks homes (No way!) and videos about people who have converted dilapidated travel trailers to use as their homes.

Now, another problem arises: Where are we supposed to put that restored travel trailer? Again, land costs, outlying locations, and restrictive covenants kick in, and we find the only possibility being mobile home and RV parks. There are some nice parks out there, but they are few and far between, and, of course, the nice ones are pricey.

I know. I know. I need a nice closing paragraph. The problem is, I’ve already said all I have to say. Maybe, one day, we’ll have found an acceptable solution, and I’ll be able to say “The End.” In the meantime, I'll just say, this country treats its senior citizens abominably!

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