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Harry's Gang: Effort needed to stay in home

They’re called “homes” for a reason. It’s where we live. Eat. Sleep. It’s where we keep our most precious possessions; it’s where we raise our kids.

No one wants to leave their homes. Even after a wonderful, relaxing vacation, what do people always say? “It was a great vacation, but it’s good to be home.” I know I do.

When I meet with older clients about estate planning, one of their biggest concerns is how they can stay at home as long as possible.

It’s not just old people. Other seniors feel this way, too — high school seniors, for example. Your teen probably says, “I can’t wait to get out of here” sometimes, but how many do you know who actually pack up all their possessions and leave the house once they graduate? No, kids may be eager to explore the world, but deep down they’re scared to leave the rooms they grew up in and plan to come back to. Even if they never actually do come back, the security of knowing their room is still at the end of the hallway in their parents’ house is reassuring.

Senior citizens are my main concern, though. There’s been a huge industry created in the past few decades that caters to seniors who want to live in a new home where someone else shovels the sidewalks, takes out the trash, and maintains the exterior. They’re called “assisted living” or “senior living” or “retirement communities” and they wouldn’t be flourishing if there wasn’t such a big demand for them. We have several excellent choices right here in Carlton County. I’ve been inside many, and they’re generally clean, well-designed, and expensive. But very popular — many have waiting lists, or sell quickly, if it’s that kind of place.

But even those people often miss their old homes, full of memories. You forget the squeaky floors and leaky roof, and remember the Christmas mornings with your family and the smell of fresh coffee brewing in the kitchen and the birds chirping at the birdfeeder. You miss your home.

But there are just as many who would like to stay in their own homes. Wouldn’t it be great if that were more readily possible?

Most seniors who live at home rely on some younger people, often relatives, for help with tasks such as paying the bills, doing laundry, and stocking the pantry. Maybe a good cottage business would be to start a company that performs such services for those who need it? I can imagine this would be ideal for someone who has recently retired but still wants some part-time work; or a parent with school-age children who want to work while the kids are at school but want to be home when they’re not. In that case, I bet many seniors would love to have some little kids around occasionally, so maybe it’s the kind of job where you can bring your child. Your clients might love it. Babies are especially cute, I’m told.

I know of several people who routinely shovel sidewalks and mow lawns for elderly folks who just can’t do it anymore. Maybe some young entrepreneur could couple all those services, and more, for a modest fee? They could expand to things like grocery shopping or medical appointments. Maybe it’s a job for someone with good organizational skills — you could coordinate transportation for your senior clients with the AEOA bus, and groceries with DoorDash or other delivery services. At tax time, you could help them find a volunteer accountant or bookkeeper.

One big obstacle in staying in your home when you get older is mobility. Stairs can be impossible for some people, and a fall, especially during the nighttime when no one is around, can be very dangerous. So we’d need to address those concerns, and more.

If you want to stay in your home as long as possible, I’d start by calling the Volunteer Services of Carlton County. Once you wade through their complicated voice mail system (be patient!), they have some programs to help seniors to “age in place” and are very helpful. And, they’re countywide.

There’s no place like home, as Dorothy once said. Staying home is possible, if that’s what you want.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News community newspaper and an attorney in Esko who hosts the cable access talk show Harry’s Gang on CAT-7. His opinions are his own. Contact him at [email protected].