Aging in place | Featured Columnists | postguam.com – The Guam Daily Post

If your newsfeed is populated with content similar to mine, then you might regularly scan articles about gardening, duck keeping, dogs, fashion and interviews with serial killers, which I assume is not the case. Despite its dubious genesis, my newsfeed sometimes yields an interesting bit of information, one of which I must expound upon. The matter is this: Aging in place.

The idea is that middle-aged Americans, who traditionally farm themselves off to retirement communities with assistance from their progeny, now outfit their homes to accommodate them in their later years so they can stay put until the very end.

You see, this idea is not as groundbreaking to the rest of the world as it is to U.S. reporters. In this country, it is shameful to live with your parents after a certain age and quite frankly, many parents are keen to kick their kids out of the home upon high school graduation. Often, when a parent becomes sick or in need of care and attention, it becomes a highly disruptive and emotionally draining chore for their children. In this era of aging baby boomers, it has scaled to pandemic proportions, so much so that countless numbers of “Care for the Caregiver,” bylines and “you know how on the airplane you put on your oxygen mask first?” soundbites echo in response.

But across the rest of the world, it is, in fact, an absolute honor to remain living with your parents so that you can care for them in their older years, the same way they cared for you when you came into their lives without so much as a mortgage-free home or retirement and pension to offer them for their troubles. In fact, my native CHamoru language appropriates the same term, “nene,” for infants and the elderly – meaning that in the same way you drop everything to care for the infant, you drop everything to care for those exiting the world. It only seems right. I myself left my life in the states as an adult to fly to Guam in my mother’s later years. Was it a sacrifice? Not in my mind, it was my duty. Did I lose out from opportunities in the states? I suppose, but local ones presented themselves. Was I scared? Of course! But so what? I was in my 40s. Hashtag bigboypants.

Back to this groundbreaking aging-in-place thing. Presently, middle-aged couples are realizing that they don’t need to abandon the home they’ve made and loved in order to grow old gracefully. Instead, they are installing appliances and devices that are commonly found in cold, featureless, retirement homes, items such as easy access showers, emergency call buttons, raised garden borders and gentle ramps. They’ve realized that you can actually convert front steps into spectacular soft sloping ramps, and completely avoid the curbside look that screams, “MOBILITY CHALLENGED OLD PEOPLE LIVE HERE!”

Standard beds can easily be replaced with those that lift automatically so you can get in and up with ease. Chairs and sofas in the living room have the same lift feature, too. Honestly, a walk-in tub with jacuzzi features are appropriate at any age, thank you very much. So are automatic beds and landscaped ramps. Why wait? The Ho household certainly isn’t – the aforementioned tub is on the immediate acquisition list.

Aging is a gradual process, of course, but something will happen that makes you say, “God, I’m old,” and then it seems all so sudden. It is, therefore, always a good idea to be prepared. After the age of 50, you really should have a walker and cane tucked somewhere. A bum knee and gout never give advance notice, do they? Have some lengths of bandages in your sock drawer in case you need to wrap a knee or elbow. Get some athletic tape to lift a muscle that’s bothering your shoulder; heck, use it to contain your manboobs in your favorite age-inappropriate shirt.

Personally, I’ve seen some pretty fancy retirement residences and quite frankly, they all smell like disinfectant. The furniture is unremarkable and the “art” that’s hung on the walls is dismally pastel. If there’s a community kitchen, the refrigerator won’t be crowded with all the wonderful finds you undoubtedly have in your own fridges, random things that become ingredients for your next best omelet. No one in a retirement home bakes sourdough bread or fries fish. Think of leaving all this behind for so-called comfort and safety.

If I am to fall in the tub, hit my head and die naked, I’d rather do it at home surrounded by the pictures and paintings we have loved for years on the walls, and our dog licking my face to wake me up. God forbid my end occurs in a place where people in uniforms are ready 24/7 to wheel me to the morgue. No, thank you. May my last breath be filled with garlic from Jenny’s last saute, and highly inconvenient for the 911 responders.


Dan Ho, a native of Agat, is a writer and teacher and holds a Ph.D. in indigenous studies. Follow his garden adventures on Instagram @HoandGarden.