Too Soon Old, too Late Smart

Bill Neinast

Each fleeting day of the years that are flying by adds a little more proof to an old saying.  The days and years have to pass, however, before the truth sets in.

On the cusp of the ninth decade of life, I am looking back frequently and thinking, “I wish I had known this earlier.”  So there is truth in the saying, “Too soon old, too late smart.”

Maybe some of those “late smarts” will help the youngsters out there.  So here are a few.

For married couples, resign yourselves to the fact that the only time a sedan is practical for the family vehicle is between the time you become empty nesters and reaching the age of about 60 or 65.  While the kids are still home, you will need SUVs to haul them and their friends with all their equipment to camping, Little League games, or whatever.

After the last child is hauled off to college with half of his or her room stuffed into the back compartment of the SUV, thoughts might turn to owning a SUV.  There may even be time for the man of the house to swing back into his second childhood and run around in a sporty convertible.

As the dreaded senior citizen years around 60 loom on the horizon, thoughts and planning have to switch back to SUVs.  In those so called golden years, the chances are high that one of the couple will need a wheelchair or walker.  It is much easier to get one of those devices into a van or SUV than into the small trunk of a sedan.

About the time that thoughts are turning back to SUVs, another concern appears.  When and where are we going to retire and what type of home do we want for our final years?

The “when” might be the easiest of the concerns.  The where and what are more difficult.

Where might depend on where the children are settled and how close you may want to be to them, the special location you’ve been dreaming about for years, or any number of other considerations.  Just remember, once you have settled in for a few years, it becomes harder and harder each year to move to another dream location.

What to buy or build is normally decided on the current health and activity situation.  Rarely is the future consulted or considered.

So here are a few facts about that “last” home to consider.  

Small is better than big.  Every room, nook, and cranny has to be maintained and cleaned.  Sweeping down a five bedroom house takes a few minutes for a 50 year old but hours are needed for a 70 year old to do the same job.

But what about the kids who want to visit?  Shouldn’t each one have a separate room when they all gather?  That is ideal, but renting five or six motel rooms for a week is a lot cheaper and easier than maintaining three or four bedrooms around the clock for those periodic visits.

Limit that dream retirement home to two bedrooms and necessary facilities.  When all the children show up for Thanksgiving or some other occasion, rotate which child’s family gets the spare room.  The others might actually enjoy commuting from the privacy of a nearby motel.

Never, never, ever buy or build a two story home.  Those stairs get longer and steeper with each passing year.  

If there has to be a second floor for esthetic or other reasons, be sure an elevator is included in the plans.  It is easier to build one in than it is to add on later.

Finally, here are a few tips learned from living in Europe for a number of years.

Forget about wall plugs in the baseboard.  Install them about three feet up.  This may create some minor decorating or esthetic problems, but those inconveniences are minor compared to having to get down on aged knees to connect an electric cord in a plug in the baseboard behind a piece of furniture.

Install light switches at the doors and beside the beds in bedrooms.  Turning the lights off from bed is much safer and more convenient than stumbling in the dark from the light switch at the door to the bed.

Finally, door handles are much more convenient than door knobs.  Knobs are prevalent locally because they are harder for youngsters to open and wander out.  There is no need for empty nesters to worry about that, so handles that can be operated by an elbow, a knee, or just a simple nudge makes life a bit easier.

So here’s the perspective.

Some things can be learned by experience only.  Unfortunately,  the learning experience comes too late in some instances to avoid  mistakes.  

Listening to those who have made mistakes through the ages might obviate waiting to get smart.


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