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Paws for Thought: Lessons on Aging in Place

A cat in the shower
Sherbet, the culprit.

Once, my husband and I lived in a cozy, two-bedroom condo where the delightful aroma of our neighbors' Indian cuisine wafted through the walls, and the sounds of their television shows could easily be heard throughout our first floor. Our quaint 4-plex was a model of simplicity, enriched by an easily accessible shower that offered no challenge.

That chapter of our lives closed when we moved into our new home: a spacious, two-story family house in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. Gleaming with modernity, the thoughtful design elements are complemented by soft, muted wall colors. It is an almost perfect home, a sanctuary for us- with a lingering but unseen danger.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an alarming "27.5% of adults aged ≥65 years reported at least one fall in the past year (35.6 million falls)¹, and 71.6% [of these] resulted from falls that occurred indoors... the most common locations for a fall at home were the bedroom, bathroom, and stairs.²" Though I'm far from reaching the age of 65, the scars and bruises from my own misadventures have me contemplating my future.

Our bathroom, adorned with a luxurious jetted tub (used sparingly to conserve water), revealed its treachery on our very first night of living there. Attempting to climb over the 22-inch-high tub wall—nearly two feet—my leg collided with its hard surface. My cries of pain (followed by profanity) sent my husband rushing to my aid, and the resulting welt evolved into a colorful rainbow of colors over the next few weeks.

The challenge escalated with the arrival of Sherbet, our third feline companion. We found that Sherbet loved our shower, and his leaps and dashes became a daily obstacle. While my husband easily navigated what is now known as the “Sherbet Shuffle”, my less graceful movements left me with an ever-changing gallery of bruises.

This personal experience (the shower, not the cat) provides a vivid picture of a common concern: the necessity to plan for independence in our later years. Without planning, we might find ourselves considering assisted living choices before we're ready.

My husband, Oren, and I have already begun talking about our home's future modifications. We envision grab bars, raised toilets, pull-out kitchen shelves, and perhaps transitioning to the downstairs bedroom. As I survey my parents' home, I see future changes needed there too (yes Mom, eventually you might need a walker and that plush rug in the family room might be an issue).

Fortunately, our vision is guided by expertise, thanks to the presence of a qualified occupational therapist in our circle of friends. It's a reassuring feeling to know that we're taking strides toward a secure and independent future, recognizing the vibrant lives we lead while respecting time's inevitable dance.

1. Moreland, B., & C. (2023, May 4). Trends in Nonfatal Falls and Fall-Related Injuries Among Adults. Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2012–2018, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. A Descriptive Analysis of Location of Older Adult Falls That Resulted in Emergency Department Visits in the United States, 2015 - PubMed. (2020, August 7). PubMed.


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