By Natalie Ahern
Owner, All the Right Moves
My father is 84 years old and still lives in the house he bought with my mother 32 years ago. It’s a beautiful setting with lovely views of the ocean. To my father, the son of a railroad worker and homemaker, this house is the symbol of all he worked for and it is his pride and joy. He resides there alone, having outlived two wives. His home requires endless hours of upkeep, is outdated for his needs, with laundry in the basement, and a steep, icy driveway to maneuver in winter.
But still he stays in his beach community home, isolated for the six or seven coldest months of the year as neighbors travel to warm climates or back to the towns where they raised their families. He no longer walks to the beach, nor sits on his deck to watch the ocean roll in as his health has declined. He is lonely. I’ve asked him many times why he refuses to leave his home and move to a simpler, safer life and his reply is always the same; “This house is my dream.”
My father’s answer makes me wonder, when is the right time to trade in your old dreams for new ones? Is there a point when your old dreams become impractical or unsafe? For my Dad, does living in his high maintenance beach home remind him of the things he can no longer do? Has living in so much isolation eroded his ability to share his funny stories and to make new friends—two qualities that I have always admired in him.
Sometimes the “dreams” of my clients are smaller, but no less important. The man who has abandoned his home woodworking shop because of failing eyesight, or the woman who has bags of yarn untouched for ten years, for whatever the reason might be. As I often discuss with my clients, sometimes letting go of those old dreams and focusing on new ones makes more sense and celebrates a sense of accomplishment, rather than serving as a reminder of things that are harder to do. In the case of the woodworker, we hung one of his beautiful handmade birdhouses in a tree outside his window where he can watch birds for hours. My knitting client has donated her bags of yarn and enjoys her jigsaw puzzles and walking with friends. New dreams, new pleasures.
For my Dad, I would like to help him find a new home where he has people around him and mental and physical activities to enjoy. I wish for him to be in a place where he can build a new life for himself and have pride in being the funny, interesting man I know. Until then, I will be patient until he is ready to take that new path.
Natalie Ahern, founder and principal of All the Right Moves Boston, has extensive experience in project management, home decorating, and floor planning in homes on and around Boston’s South Shore. Whether a client is downsizing, relocating, or aging in place, Natalie manages it all. She is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers. You can reach her at 781- 724-1681 or visit alltherightmovesboston.com for more information.