Scarcely a week goes by without someone inquiring about my evolving thoughts on downsizing. Most go something like this:
“Well, are you moving towards a simpler lifestyle or have you decided to stay in your lakeside home as long as possible?”
After a year spent exploring and researching different options, I decided to remain in my mortgage-free home, cuddle up with my little dog Scottee, enjoy magnificent sunsets and embrace the comfort, help and companionship of my friends and neighbors.
However, that decision was made before attending last week’s thought-provoking “Conversation on Housing” forum sponsored by the town in partnership with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
From an octogenarian’s viewpoint, this program served up an overview of housing demographics that was interesting and, in some cases, startling — especially in relation to the needs of elderly residents. I also enjoyed the opportunity to break down into small groups to discuss housing-related issues and brainstorm prospective solutions with other participants, both young and old.
My group, facilitated by Assistant Town Manager Mike Johns, was lively and engaging, with younger voices expressing gratitude to senior citizens for fostering a strong sense of community and providing the amenities for making Foxboro a nice place to live.
As it turned out, both younger and older participants voiced similar frustrations and concerns about housing. Although in the minority, a small group of seniors (I being one of them) blessed with good health are determined to age in place, but struggle with rising taxes and utility costs. Meanwhile, younger folks lament their inability to afford suitable starter homes.
One young person in my group voiced concern that, as economic conditions change, Foxboro would start to impose user fees for school sports or other town services currently funded through our taxes.
There is no shortage of ideas. Movable “tiny houses,” some not much bigger than glorified backyard storage sheds, are gaining traction across the country. So is “co-housing,” higher-density communities of private homes clustered around shared space. Closer to home, Foxboro is invested in increasing the number of rental units in and around the town center.
Needless to say, the conversation left me second-guessing my own logic, and on the short drive home I contemplated whether my desire to age in place was selfish. Why not sell the house to someone who could better keep up with maintenance and thoroughly enjoy lakefront living, sunsets and all? After all, life has changed for me; I’ve no siblings or blood relations nearby.
Even though my neighbors are a great help, many are nearing retirement themselves. While two young confidants have agreed to run a yard sale, order a dumpster and get rid of everything left behind, it would be a huge undertaking and is really very unfair.
The more I thought about last week’s forum, the more I viewed myself going full circle. I loved the house I grew up in — a two-bedroom bungalow on Lincoln Street in Dedham that would probably fit in my family room.
So the answer to the opening question becomes a little different this week. I’ve set a goal to really push on downsizing front over the next two years. I can learn a lot from the minimalists of the millennial world and be able to let go of material things.
If all goes to plan — and plans don’t change — I hopefully will be ready to move into a small home, preferably a bungalow, by May 2022. Maybe I’ll even give up my car and catch the new train at Patriot Place or hail a GATRA bus. With luck there might even be an ice cream shop within walking distance.
But in the meantime, I fully intend to spend every opportunity enjoying my sunsets and neighbors while looking forward to the next chapter in my life.