By Marianne Delorey
One of the great adjustments many people face as they age is that they have less control over their lives. Nowhere is that more evident than in their living situation. After a traumatic move, elders face a new dilemma. How can they adjust to living under somebody else’s roof?
I’m sure we all have either heard as children or said to our own children “You can do that when you own your own place. While you are under my roof …” But now, in senior housing, elders find the tables turned and they are less in control of their setting.
Perhaps you want to paint your walls, smoke like a chimney or listen to your TV at 2 a.m. Being told “no” by your new authority figure se
ems harsh. Often, elder care workers and property managers are younger. The mere fact that you are being told what to do by someone much younger can be difficult. And sometimes, the rules don’t make any sense. Maybe you can smoke in one place but not another. The arbitrariness of some rules makes them harder to swallow. Sometimes, you even find that you’ve previously been an expert on something like cooking or pool care but the housing manager won’t listen to you.
And then, to make matters worse, housing professionals often use less than pleasant language to convey the rules.
Understand that rights follow responsibilities. Understanding and remembering this balance will help people accept their own role and understand that of the housing provider.
Smoking provides a good example. When you own your own home, nobody can tell you where to smoke, how much or when to stop. When you move to an apartment building, that smoke may bother some people, including neighbors and maintenance staff. Although you may have to give up your right to smoke where you please, bear in mind that you also don’t have the responsibility associated with that right. You do not have to test the smoke detector to make sure it still works or paint over the nicotine covered walls. Better yet, you know that because you are responsible for your neighbor’s comfort, he or she is responsible for yours.
If the housing organization tries to maintain a home that promotes the comfort and well being of all, you should rest assured knowing that your neighbors are not going to be allowed to bother you. In turn, of course, you will need to make sure you don’t bother them. But this is a small price to pay.
If you truly don’t understand a rule, most housing providers will be glad to go over your lease with you and explain where in the lease it says what you can and cannot do. It should also be clear why the rule exists. Sometimes there is flexibility, but most often, housing providers have a very good reason for the rules they have.
Good communication makes it easier, although not always perfectly easy, to live under someone else’s roof and rules. A sense of humor picks up where good communication ends. It never hurts to laugh off some rules, as long as you follow them, too.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or firstname.lastname@example.org and www.colonyretirementhomes.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.