I’ve heard lots of older people say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” While I understand the feeling of wanting things to go back to the way they were when you were younger, I encourage people to view things from a different perspective, to ask themselves, “I’m here now. How can I make my life more enjoyable?” 

This month, I thought I’d take a look at some “new tricks” that can help those transitioning to old age live more independently. 

 

Transportation

This is a biggy! The United States is made for cars. So what happens when you can no longer drive? Believe it or not, there are other options. 

For example, in many parts of the country, the taxicab is popular. Check the phone directory or the Web to see what’s available in your area, then go for a ride. In the Seattle area, you will need to call the company and request a cab. Be sure to let the cab company know in advance if you are disabled or have a wheelchair. 

Traveling by cab may seem expensive, but when compared to the cost of owning, maintaining and parking a car, you may be surprised! Do the math before you say no.

How about public transit? King County Metro has an easy-to-use “trip planner” on its website: tripplanner.kingcounty.gov. Again, take a ride and try it out. Many buses have spaces reserved for wheelchairs and lifts to assist wheelchair users onboard. 

For disabled riders in King County, the Access Mobility Systems offers door-to-door service. Initially, set up an account and then make advance reservations for your trips. The website, www.FindARide.org, helps you work through many of the area’s transportation options — ones that even include having a package delivered to your home.

Can you walk? Just because you are old, doesn’t always mean you can’t walk. Walking is the oldest form of transportation, and it has many health benefits. Check with your doctor before you start and be realistic about safety issues and distances. 

 

Health care

A new trend in health care is the boutique medicine. Also known as “concierge medicine,” it harkens back to a time when physicians carried smaller caseloads and knew their patients as people, not just “the stomachache in room three.”These doctors are available by phone and e-mail and may even make house calls. 

Generally, this type of care requires a yearly premium paid directly to the doctor, in addition to your regular insurance. 

While this may not seem to fit into the idea of downsizing, life is simpler when an elder person deals exclusively with one doctor who has a limited patient load. 

Another growing movement is mobile primary care through geriatric nurse practitioners. These practitioners save their patient’s the stress of having to travel to the doctor’s office by making house calls — an ideal solution for those with chronic conditions that require frequent monitoring. Such services are covered by Medicare and health insurance. 

In-home health support can also make things more manageable. Whether you require companionship, help with personal care or skilled nursing, home health-care workers can provide a good short- or long-term solution.

 

Home maintenance

For many, the decision to downsize comes because the home becomes “too much” to handle. Before jumping into relocation, consider alternatives, like hiring out the yard work, cleaning and home repair. 

If you’ve bought and paid for your home, it may be more economical to stay put and hire help. 

Even if you’ve decided to move, this option allows time to find the perfect, new place and will keep your current home in good, saleable condition.

 

Food

If you are no longer able to go grocery shopping, you need to move to assisted living, right? Wrong! Many of the major chain grocers now offer on-line ordering and home delivery. 

If you have a smaller, local grocer, give them a chance to offer a solution. Perhaps they can take your order by phone and have it delivered by taxi. You never know, until you ask.

When the tasks of daily living become more challenging due to age, illness or disability, it can be downright depressing to think about selling well-loved items and leaving your home. I’ve covered only a few ways you can give yourself transition time. Expect more options as businesses step in to fill this market niche. 

 

MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to marla@andelcare.com.