Retired 70-year-old homemaker, Judy, isn’t one to sit at home watching tv, crocheting baby booties and waiting for the phone to ring. Oh, wait – she does crochet booties but only when she’s riding in the car or waiting.
Judy and her husband, Roy, have been married 32 years and are both retired. They live in a small three bedroom, one bath, one garage home. Sharing the home with them is Judy’s granddaughter, her granddaughter’s fiancé and their 6 month old baby. They live in the finished partial basement. In and out of the house is Judy’s 16-year-old grandson who claims one of the bedrooms as his. They also have three cats and a dog. It’s a full house with lots of activity.
Judy describes her philosophy of life this way: “I don’t expect my kids or anyone else to entertain me. I find my own entertainment. I don’t want them to feel guilty. While we have our health, we’re going to go while we can. We don’t take trips – we just do things around town. There are lots of free activities for seniors.”
She goes on to say that there’s no reason for seniors to sit home bored. “If you don’t use it, you lose it. We keep our minds active and our bodies as active as we can. If at some point we can’t get out and we have to sit at home, we’ll figure something out. It’s not my children’s responsibility to entertain me. They have a life, too, and they’re growing older, too.”
Judy and Roy have found many of their activities through the local community center and Humana (Judy says you don’t have to be a member to participate). Roy and Judy’s current activities include bowling, bingo, attending programs at the library, participating in church activities, volunteering in the church office one afternoon a week, attending activities put on by Humana, walking, and volunteering at the local hospital, just to name a few. Judy stresses that there are lots and lots of activities and volunteer opportunities for seniors and they’re not hard to find!
With all those activities going on, you might wonder how Judy keeps track of everything. She developed a simple system that works well for her. She uses a month-at-a-glance wall calendar and an 8-1/2 x 11 spiral notebook. Appointments go on the calendar which stays at home. Anything she has to do goes in the notebook. You can read more about her system here.
Another challenge, since they’re gone all the time, is keeping up with the chores. It’s hard to clean house if you’re not home! So her system is really all about keeping up with the basics. She “cleans on the run”. She keeps the laundry current and the dishes washed (no dishwasher) and put away. She runs the sweeper once a week and uses a push broom for touch-ups between weekly vacuums. She also tries to keep the living room picked up. Judy does not deep clean. It’s not something that’s important to her.
Judy admits she has a lot of clutter. She hates clutter but she knows if she puts things away, she’ll forget about them. You know, “out of sight, out of mind”. So she ends up keeping more things visible than she would like. You might say she has a love/hate relationship with clutter. And dust. No, dust is all hate. She hates dust but she also hates dusting. She recently purchased a feather duster and is trying to use that to keep up with the dusting. But it’s hard to make herself dust because it seems like such a useless pursuit since as soon as she’s finished, it’s already dusty again!!!
Since the living room does stay a bit cluttered, when company comes, she just swoops up the clutter and temporarily puts it away.
Judy describes herself as a “bag lady”. She has a different bag for each of her different responsibilities. She has a bag for her crocheting (which she takes everywhere); a bag for bowling; a bag for church; a bag for Wednesday when she works at church. You get the idea – a bag for everything. For her, it keeps everything organized and orderly.
She uses totes (plastic storage containers) a lot, too. Because she is short on storage space, she stores things in totes. She uses totes for her crochet thread, her yarn, extra blankets, and extra clothes. And she stores the totes in the extra bedroom.
Mail is another frustration – processing it and getting it all filed. “If I have to do anything with it, I keep it out until I handle it. If I put it away, I forget about it.” She piles the mail in a tub, and then when she has a chance, she goes through it all at once.
Grocery Shopping/Menu Planning/Cooking
Judy does not make a menu plan. She cooks based on how much time she has, how many are eating and what sounds good. Since she doesn’t shop from a menu plan, she tries to keep her pantry well-stocked. Fortunately, she’s a very adventurous cook so if she’s missing an ingredient, she’ll just substitute something else.
When it’s just she and Roy, she likes to make a casserole or soup that will last three or four days – something that gets better as it gets older. Or she makes simple dishes like baked potatoes with veggies, salads, veggie burgers, eggs. Roy has diabetes so they try to eat as healthy as they can. She doesn’t make much dessert and they eat out once a week after bowling if others are going. If no one is going out, they eat at home.
Judy says without hesitation that her biggest challenges are clutter and dust.
“Life is what you make it. If you’re sitting home feeling sorry for yourself and feeling bored, then get off your duff and do something. It doesn’t have to be that way for older people. But you have to make the first move.”