Start small with your age-friendly decisions

It all started in a nail salon. There I am getting my second coat of clear polish when the door opens and two women my age walk in. One sits down and readies herself for a little self-indulgence, while the other woman wanders about the shop considering her polish options.

She glances over at me. "Do I know you?" she asks, followed by, "Do you know me?"

I smile and shake my head. I think I said something like, "I'm sure you would be nice to know."

She's quite persistent, and I say, "Perhaps you recognize me because my photograph is next to the newspaper column I write in the Sunday paper every week.

She responds enthusiastically, "I love that column!" (This is, of course, nice to hear.) She follows with, "You recently wrote about 'right-sizing' your home at the point of retirement, and then you didn't keep at it. I looked for more. I want more."

OK, just for you, chatty nail salon patron. Let's do this.

My husband and I are partnering to write a twice-weekly blog called "Age- Friendly Living" on the Mail Tribune's website (

We'll blog about the big and little things that come into play when you're looking at pre- and post-retirement living. Actually, we'll probably talk about "friendly living" at any age. We intend to tell our stories and listen to yours — if you're willing to share them. In the process, we'll all benefit — and let's have fun in the process. My husband keeps telling me he has 300 words on comfort-height toilets ready to go.

Educating via a community blog fits in with the mission behind Age-Friendly Innovators Inc., a not-for-profit organization we recently launched that's dedicated to helping generate creative solutions that encourage independent living to the end of our days ( In our blog, we intend to talk about the thinking and planning necessary to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

This was brought home quite resoundingly to me recently through a tough-minded comment from a usually mild-mannered, 50-something daughter/caregiver of a mom newly diagnosed with Parkinson's. On the topic of aging-in-place, the daughter said, "Your health situation does not wait around for you to make decisions about your living situation. Take too long and you no longer get to be the decider."

My husband and I are both certified aging-in-place specialists (National Home Builder's Association designation), and we talk about the decisions needed — "the stuff" involved in getting older — all the time. For example, recently we were talking about safety in the bathroom.

We learned that an age-friendly bathroom could have a seat or bench in the shower. You could place a chair in your shower, but aging-in-place experts say shower chairs should not be white; they need to be in a bright color that makes them easier to see when you're in your shower without your glasses and soap in your eyes and you need to sit down.

Lots of decisions to make — start small and see where it takes you. Be a decider.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at

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