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Aging in place with permaculture

Posts: 68
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thanks to Karen Donnachaidh for her "daily-ish" reminder on aging. As I approach 60! my parents are on their journey to the end of this life as we know it. What I'm experiencing/learning from a dad that has fallen multiple times, attached to an oxygen tether because of heart issues, with my mom in full-swing alzheimers, is that the biggest need/expense is in full-time care. You can attest as strongly as you wish that "NO ONE IS GOING TO CHANGE MY DIAPERS" or help bathe you - but it might really happen. Which family member is going to step up to this challenge? Everyone must put front and center what it will be like to clean a soiled parent. SO: how to connect this to permiculture? I continue to push for communities that are M-A-G-I-C which stands for Multi Ability  -  multi-  Generational  -  Inclusive  -  Communities.  The vision I have is for a community that is farm-centric, with all walks of life living/producing/selling/storing/processing farm products. The difficult element is that this elderly population has high medical needs, which means a close medical center is needed. But where COMMUNITY comes into play, is that a full awareness that each one of us face the threat of needing full-time care. So include this into any intentional community. Some folks are made to plant/pull weeds/harvest; some folks have the ability to change adult diapers - and everything in between is needed. But how better to go through these years of adult diaper neediness than to be surrounded by a productive farm  -  at least you know where your food is coming from. I'm talking about dying with dignity. And if one's productive life helped support others' end-of-life days!   ...that's what it's all about. Our productive lives need to help support those that need full-time support.
Posts: 3
Location: Sweet Home, United States
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Wow a lot of posts.  I am 66 years and perhaps I can share a bit of deep top soil I have gained over the years.
- Arthritis - boil a dozen free range organic eggs.  Make deviled eggs or angel's eggs. take the shells with the membrane left on them and put them on a cookie sheet and put in oven on lowest setting for about 10-15 minutes until totally dried.  Put in coffee grinder and turn to powder.  If you have "00" capsules then encapsulate them and take one per day for a couple weeks then one every other day for two weeks then twice a week for as long as you need.  My arthritis went away in about 3 days.  
-  most disease comes from flour, sugar and bad oils and fats.  Read the book "Wheat belly" by Dr William Davis.  He says that the new white which is a genetically altered hybrid is worse than if it were a plain GMO.  After 40 years of breeding which included breeding in opioids to make you addicted. it has changed.  When I was a kid we ate red wheat.  No had alergies, gluten issues or any problems.  Going gluten free is a poster child. Don't eat the rest of the grain because is is altered.  If you can find someone that grows the old hard red winter wheat get some and make your own.  Even still we almost never eat anything with flour of any kind and got rid of the leaky gut.  
- There alot of research going on into anti aging.  you can try fulvic acid, humic acid, or C60 fullerines which are getting great results.  
- So much of modern farming takes from the earth and never gives back.  I save all scraps and everything that is compostable.  I add good sand to my soil, green sand and other things like peat moss.  Every year I add something new and my garden each year is easier to grow and the plants look better ea yr.  
- NO sprays of any kind.  I do spray with oregano essential oil and thyme essential oil as a dormant oil late in the winter or early spring before any buds start to form and this works well to get rid of overwintered eggs.  I have several honeybee hives and mason bee hives that do a great job of pollinating everything.
- Plant now while you can lots of fruit trees, berry bushes, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, currants, blueberries, strawberries, honeyberries, aronias, and the list goes on and on.  They are easy to pick as you get older.  We go out and pick and eat some days and eat nothing else during the day.
- Filtered water is a must.  I even filter the water for the garden.  I have a 400 gallon tank, I fill it up with the top lid off and let it sit for a couple weeks so the chlorine can disipate (we live in a city) then use it to water the garden.  Rain water is usually used up pretty fast.  I have created water reservoir containers that are remarkable for plant growth and saving water. Love it.
- Walk on the ground barefoot and stay grounded.  Sometimes we feel bad because of the things we cannot see like all the electromagnetic smog or pollution.  Throw the smart phones away.  Do not bite into the smart grid smart appliance poison apple.  There will not be a prince to come by any time soon to give you that proverbial kiss.
- Enjoy life, laugh, dance, sing, read, pray, visit the high mountains, breath in deeply (the more things you plant around you the more oxygen there is).  Cancer cannot live in an oxygen rich environment, oh and sugar feeds cancer.  Have pets and love them.  (watch the series "The Truth about Pet Cancer") it is an eye opener worth the time.
- I love to spend time in the garden and watch Mother Nature do magic and miracles every day.  
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Great topic. Glad I found it even though it's been here for awhile.
I'm 60ish and want to be prepared for not being able to do as much as I can now.
Lots of good ideas here I'm planning to investigate.
Hope to share more again soon.
Posts: 6274
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I thought I would put in an update of my post last year.
Now I am 66 and we are shifting from having hogs to going with chickens, ducks, geese for our main meat protein sources, goats are probable if we can get the dwarfs locally.
The breeding hogs are up for sale because wolf is not able to help much these days. We are also down to 5 acres because the 15 was going to be to much for me to handle alone.
Getting away from hogs means I will have plenty of space for more gardens, fruit trees and one or two green houses.

Two of the kids are wanting us to move to BC Canada so they can take care of us, for now this is out of the question (our decision).

Hopefully this summer will see everything finally start coming together infrastructure wise so the big building projects are done, time will tell.

Posts: 105
Location: Ontario zone 4b
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Green houses attached to the house keeps heat locked in the winter and can be easily accessible for growing great food...also establishing perennials through out the area perennials are easy low maintenance food. Also growing fruiting trees that are disease resistant and crop through out the year. Also superfoods grow the foods that keep you young forever grow goji grow food high in antioxidants. Permaculture doesn't have to be labour intensive its all about observing what is there and interacting. If you have to intervene to make it the way you want it then that obviously will need some work but if you can put something in place that  can be left alone and grow and utilize then you can sit back and reap the rewards.  just know that it takes time to design and there is no better time then now
Posts: 110
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Thank you everyone so much for your posts.  62 years old here and my partner is 59.  13 years into this venture.  Some parts get easier and some get more difficult, but the information in this forum has been incredible.  We farm to pay the bills and we still do it with nothing larger than a BSC walk behind, and we rarely use it.  Please keep your thoughts coming.  I notice the comment about building a greenhouse next to the house.  We have two living spaces, one off grid, and one on, both have greenhouses attached.  Wonderful to have all that goodness just outside your door.

All the best
Posts: 1278
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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We have had to redesign for disability.

If you can skip past the legal / commercial requirements, the actual building standards from ADA are quite useful.  (Skip down until you see diagrams)
Turns out that the turn-around for wheelchairs is also very useful for crutches, and for extra space for stashing mobility aids.  
Pocket doors are very useful - less hampering to a wheelchair or crutches user than a swing door, and can be handier for carrying things too.
All of these things are easier to build from the get-go, or to add while you're still up for a remodeling project rather than after the big nasty.


There are a whole lot of other aspects involving the local neighborhood / community.  If you need doctor care, are you close enough for someone else to drive you if needed?  Do you live on/near a main road, reducing snow plow or other access issues?

There is a lot of healthy aspects to living closer to nature, and just staying fit and active.  But in my limited experience, age is attrition (your statistical chances of disabling injuries or other conditions) as much as anything else.

Helping my grandma age in place included improving stair rails to ADA compliance (easier to grip than Grandpa's 2x6 rails) and a few other things for basement access/fall safety.  
Her activities shifted, with less driving at night, and then less driving overall; more check-ins with neighbors; a more frequent rotation of family visitors and paid housekeepers; then eventually nursing help.  All of these are easier to access if you're near a town or thriving community of some kind, but some rural areas are better than others and there are many services available. In-home care is an honorable rural occupation; if you have the savings to pay for help, or you don't and you qualify for state aid, either way it can be a big help.  Skill levels may vary, but even the state lets you pick/interview your own helpers.  

The other thing my grandma did was stay active with a writing class at the local senior center.  
If you don't have family nearby, there's a good chance you can 'borrow' someone else's.  Especially if you have the energy to get involved in local activities, and/or to train someone else's kids up to an acceptable standard of usefulness.  

I would caution against expecting renters to also be reliable helpers; or expecting any helper to be a long-term solution.  It's lovely when it works out that way, but it's rare, and the potential for abuse and/or hurt feelings is high.
It can be a lot easier for everyone to have a neighbor's kid come over as often as you need them, and live your own lives at other times.
Easier to switch to a different neighbors' kid, or add an adult helper from a qualified agency, if the kid is less than optimal for tasks needed.
The Salatins have quite a system of training young farmers; if you have a back 40 you're not using anymore, and are interested in some younger energy on the place, you could do worse than approach them about offering space or a deal on a land-lease to like-minded young folks.  Again, keep this separate and clean; if it works out, they become neighbors you can ask for help; but if it doesn't, let them go without hurt feelings or unrealistic hopes and expectations.

We are revisiting this now that Ernie's folks are reaching the point where gardening, and plowing snow, are no longer fun.  The mountain homestead that was their retirement dream is now feeling like a money trap, and they are ready for an easier life.
It's not the orchard (doing fine) or even the food production; just the sheer wear and tear on equipment, to keep the roads maintained and open year-round.  And a longer distance to doctors, now that they closed the local VA clinic.
Moving closer to services, especially county-plowed roads, or for that matter a climate like their native shores where water stays liquid year-round, is looking mighty attractive at this point.

Posts: 104
Location: Australia, Now zone 10a, costal, sandy, windy and temperate.
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I must say I’m enjoying this thread. Thanks
master pollinator
Posts: 11367
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Here is the ADA-compliant ramp and new stairs we just had built on the front of the house.  I was afraid of plummeting down our slippery steep old stairs and breaking my body, so I asked my dad, who is generously disbursing his estate while he can enjoy seeing his family benefit from it, to pay for this construction.  Ordinarily we do our own construction but I knew I would not be able to build this in a timely manner.

Now I can bring my dad out here to visit and he will be able to get up into the house!
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Posts: 166
Location: Athens, GA Zone 8a
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alex Keenan wrote:In some cases what needs to be done, really did not need to be done, so you stop doing it.

Words for the wise....
Posts: 93
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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I just found this thread, and love it! I am 54, the husband is 80, when we married five years ago, we used some of the money from the sale of his home to replace the decrepit double wide that was my home, with a new, double wide we had "customized".

All doors are 36" wide, all handles are lever style instead of round knobs; the hallway is 4 feet wide, and we had the entire home done in wood look lino (fools everyone, but super easy to clean with 12 dogs). We raised the outlets, added many extra ones (eliminates extension cords) and opted for paddle light switches with dimmers, instead of tiny knob switches, or round or tiny sliding dimmers. Light bulbs have all been replaced with LED (energy conservation, but also much longer lasting).

Both bathrooms were redesigned to be large enough for a wheelchair, AND the extra large oval "garden tub" (tub AND shower was cheaper than just a shower!?!?) will easily allow for a walk in shower retrofit, if needed. We also put a door from the side deck into the masterbath (hey, older bladders DO NOT like to walk halfway around the house). There is also plywood behind the "drywall" in the shower/tub combo and by toilet for (later) easy installation of grab bars.

The washer/dryer are in the bathroom, facing each other. The space between them now has a two level platform: topload washer on floor, first platform is a "step" to make it easier to get stuff OUT of washer; dryer is on SECOND, higher, platform so it is easier to get stuff out of top load washer and into the now, elevated, front facing dryer door, making it much easier to load or unload. Above washer AND dryer are shelves for storage (soap, toilet paper, household cleaning supplies etc.) the extra height of the platform makes higher shelves easier to access.

The kitchen peninsula is chair (wheelchair) height, cabinet handles are mounted lengthwise, instead of up and down (easier to grab) and we are retrofitting all lower cabinets with drawers.

Yes, the modifications to the new double wide initially raised many eyebrows (you want SMALLER rooms and BIGGER doors and hallway???), and added about 10% to the base cost, but we could not be happier, five years later, and no one has ever realized WHY, but everyone "loves" the wide hallways, doors, "hardwood" floors and roomy bathrooms!

We added a large porches front and back with a huge side deck (all done in fabulous "plastic wood") with minimal step downs, and covered (some kit gazebo, some home built). The outside stairs are the minimum (building code here) 6 inches, instead of standard 7 or 7.5 inches...

The 52 foot length of the home is the exact length needed for a wheelchair accessible ramp (or a swichback at the front), at the height our mobile is at.

I just "plumbed" the yard from our only two hose bibs with splitters and shut off valves everywhere, installed grit tape that glows in the dark on the five stair treads that access the house back and front, and are in the process of fencing our half acre with 8ft metal poles to which we are screwing metal roofing panels so it will be maintenance free.

We also are setting up rainwater collection, ponds and improving outdoor lighting with battery operated (no electrician cost or worries about wiring) motion flood/spot lights (Mr Beams, love 'em, 3 d-cell batteries last 4-6mths) in the yard and installing under step lighting on outside stairs.

The new side garden will be raised beds (backed by metal roof panel fence) all around with a single row of metal roofing holding the earth and buried soaker hose.  

Even the last vehicle we purchased (used Toyota Tacoma) was chosen based on it being lower than current models, easy to access, and came with a sliding bed (hubby LOVES), a $1,500 option (we found the bill in the glovebox) for free - no more climbing into the truck bed/canopy to retrieve items.

Recently scored a great collapsible metal/fabric cart for hauling stuff, and a collapsible ladder. We just discovered wheelbarrows with TWO front wheels and a cool gadget (four claw, bendable/flexible grabber with light and magnet) to limit bending.

Everything we do, we look at how we can ensure it will work for us 20 years (or more!) from now, with the assumption (hope for the best, prepare for the worst) wheelchair accessibility will be required - and yet nothing we have done "looks" like we created an "age in place, accessible" home.
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