I didn’t have an epiphany, per se, this week. Instead, I did some thinking about how my grandparents have aged. My maternal grandmother, Charlotte, turned 80 last week, and my paternal grandfather, Lynn, turned 77 last week as well. My grandma Charlotte has had the arch of her foot fall twice in the last seven years, so she struggles with walking some days. My great-grandpa Tom, who lived with her for 10 years, struggled with walking at all after his hip replaced when he was 83. She struggled to bathe him in the shower/tub, and so she had the bathroom renovated with a walk-in shower big enough for a wheelchair. It has helped her immensely with her foot problems. My grandpa Lynn’s sister, Norma, is 85, and she has arthritis. Five years ago, my grandparents put a taller toilet in the bathroom with a handrail so she wouldn’t struggle as much. They also remodeled the shower so that it’s only two inches tall to step into. It has helped my grandma Norma Jean get into the shower easier since she has sciatic nerve pain, and it’s also helped because my grandpa Lynn is developing Alzheimer’s. I don’t particularly enjoy thinking about aging. It makes me sad to lose those I love, and it’s very difficult for me to talk about because my family is extremely close.
This past week in class, I read the readings Pleasurable Products: Public Space Furniture with Userfitness and Consumer Choices: Selecting Clothes for Older People in Your Care. I was very fortunate growing up. I knew a great-grandmother on my father’s side and both great-grandfathers on my mother’s side. My great-grandma Zona spent the last 12 years of her life in the nursing home, and my great-grandpa Tom was in and out of the nursing home during the last year of his life. I always knew elastic was a friend to those in nursing homes and that older people want what they want. I did not know that there are clothes that open from the front and that people can be literally rolled onto them. One of my classmates was absolutely horrified that her grandma and her mom want to wear the same clothes she does. I think if they want to wear it, then so be it. Who are we to tell our elders what they can and can’t wear, especially when they are the ones paying for it? I do think we should let them know if an article of clothing is a hazard to their health, but we cannot dictate what they do. I also found the furniture article interesting because I never thought about older people going outside to socialize instead of reflecting on life. I think that when we design outdoor spaces for older individuals, we should actually talk to those individuals to find out what they want instead of assuming we know what they want.