Lately, my wife and I find ourselves in uncharted waters. Almost overnight, we’ve gone from being young and carefree to being . . . well . . . there’s no easy way to say it . . . old. I turned 70 two years ago, and Becky will reach that milestone in the not too distant future. I say “uncharted,” because when my dad died at age 55, it seemed inevitable to me that I would probably depart this planet at or around the same age. It never entered my mind that I’d still be occupying space on this orb at such an “advanced” age. Nevertheless, here I still am, and here I plan to stay . . . for the foreseeable future.
A common dilemma facing folks our age is when to abandon their oversized single-family house for either a smaller house, or a condominium. In our case, we love our house here in Western North Carolina, but are finding it more and more difficult to maintain the grounds. The property is large, and most of it is covered with grasss or shrubbery. The terrain is sloped, which makes mowing the lawn difficult—especially for someone like me with balance issues. Our driveway is at least 150 feet long, and when it snows, it must be shoveled. Finding teenagers to do the chore is nearly impossible, so it’s up to me or my wife to shovel it. What used to take an hour or two can sometimes take the better part of an entire day.
We could (a) sell our house and purchase a smaller one—preferably all on one floor—located on a flat piece of property, or (b) sell our house and purchase a condominium. The condominium would eliminate any exterior maintenance, and would be ideal, except for one thing. Generally, there is an association fee associated with that kind of dwelling. An open-ended expense like that can be a real problem for folks on a fixed income. However, not having a lawn to mow or a driveway to shovel is very tempting.
Buying a smaller house is another good alternative, but finding one that meets all our requirements would be difficult. Most houses being built these days are too large and too expensive. More likely than not, one that would be right for us would be located in an even more rural part of the county. That presents another obstacle, however, since neither of us is particularly comfortable driving at night, and for me, highway driving is becoming more and more problematic. That means we probably need to be somewhere where there are mass transit options available, which means leaving the mountains for a more densely populated area like Charlotte or Greenville, South Carolina. Ugh!
Recently, some good friends of ours made the move from a house to a condominium, and seeing them successfully negotiate their move has given us a more realistic picture of what the future might hold. We know we’ll have to make a decision at some point—probably sooner rather than later. Most likely, circumstances beyond our control (read: health related) will make a move of some kind inevitable. But until then, we intend to make the best of our circumstances, and remain in the house that we love for a while longer.
Now, if we can only find someone to shovel our driveway . . .