How to stay safe as you age without moving to the city
Spending weekends or vacationing in a cottage is a wonderful way to get out into the great outdoors with family and friends and to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Now, more than ever, those who own or have access to a cottage have found a renewed appreciation for country life and, as they age, may feel the pull of the country growing stronger.
However, to continue making the most of the fresh air and serene life, especially if considering aging in place in a remote country cottage, you may need to start thinking about any changes that need to be made to the property to make your home safe for seniors – both now and in the foreseeable future.
Is your Cottage Accessible?
Cottages, by definition, tend to be rather isolated. Built in forests, by lakes or nestled into hillsides, far from the chaos of the city, they flow with the landscape, enabling residents and guests to enjoy the natural surroundings.
Being isolated certainly has its pros; peace, serenity, tranquillity, but it also comes with some downsides. Private and township roads to get to the property might make it difficult to access, particularly for large emergency vehicles or in adverse weather conditions. The road may not be in top condition and need maintenance. In winter, snowploughs may clear parts of the way but not right up to your door.
Although many local jurisdictions are well served by their townships, it’s worth reviewing any access issues with your neighbours, ensuring you know who to call for certain tasks such as downed trees blocking roads. Check if local first responders have ever been on your road and if they had any problems reaching properties.
Apart from the road, the land around the cottage itself may need some consideration. Chances are there will be uneven terrain as a result of possible years of retrofitted solutions if the cottage is older. Getting from the car to the cottage or down to the lake might be tricky for older family members. For many, altering the terrain will be far too costly and just not feasible, but there are small things you can do. Improvements like adding handrails or landings, improving outdoor lighting, grading drives or reducing any steep hills can all help to ensure the space outside the cottage is accessible as we age.
Who carries out Maintenance on your Cottage?
Many cottagers enjoy puttering around and carrying out maintenance on their property, especially in the transitional seasons of spring and fall. Each cottage is different and depending on its surroundings, and how old the building is, there could be several annual chores that need completing.
Roof cleaning or re-shingling and pruning 100-foot Maples might be doable in our younger years, but as we get older, we need to consider if we need help with some of these larger chores. Asking younger family members or contracting local professionals might be the wisest option. Having access to the lake is one of the things that makes many cottages so special and unique and is a major attraction for many families. Going out on the lake or just sitting on the waterfront in the evening watching the sun go down is a great way to spend time outdoors. That means that the dock will be another point to take into consideration, especially if it needs to come out of the water to be stored in winter. This might be another job for those younger bodies or local professionals.
Having seen the effects of COVID-19, we know that local town health systems can quickly become overwhelmed, meaning fast access to medical attention can be challenging at times. This has brought into focus changes that need to happen to the entire healthcare system to make sure it can support the needs of the entire population. This focus will certainly benefit cottage country as rural health centers improve their services in the future. However, relying solely on the current system may not be wise, and it’s best to be as prepared as possible. When heading out to your cottage, make sure you have enough of any prescribed medications and plan visits to the doctor, therapists or clinics around safe travel conditions.
Discussing specific needs for your neighbourhood with Local Private Road and Property Owner Associations is a good idea. For instance, setting up a neighbourhood watch, not just for any criminal activity, but also to check on your neighbours’ health and general well-being, is a great way to keep an eye on each other.
Spending more time at a cottage is something many of us want to do and keeping in mind these points can certainly help family members of all ages stay safe and enjoy country life. So, if you want to find out more about ways to make your home safe for seniors, then why not have a scroll through Aging in Place in the Country Part 2?