By Kimberley Fowler
After a long winter, the signs of spring bring an unmistakable sense of energy and excitement. Neighborhoods become a flurry of activity and almost everyone is out doing yard work.
Changing seasons mean spring maintenance, and when it comes to this time of year, many adults worry about their aging loved ones. Concerns include:
- Is the work involved too strenuous?
- How can family members, who care for their own homes, find the time to help?
- What if they are unable to do it — will their home fall into disrepair?
- What if they trip or fall?
Spring Maintenance: Good for the Body and Soul
Tending to gardens, clearing eaves and gutters, and cleaning windows are but a few of the strenuous tasks that are required for spring maintenance. These chores are especially worrisome for adults with senior parents living on their own. But, if your parent(s) can take these tasks on, they should — performing them has a positive effect on the body and mind.
Gardening, for example, is an excellent form of physical activity and, according to a study of almost 4,000 60-year-olds in Stockholm, can drastically improve cardiovascular health. The study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, determined that regular gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke and prolong life by as much as 30% among the 60+ age group.
The study also showed that gardening activities and DIY projects are as beneficial as exercise for seniors because they increase overall energy expenditure.
Another benefit of digging in the dirt is that it also has a positive impact on one’s mental health. The Journal of Health Psychology determined that gardening leads to decreased cortisol levels and positive moods which can promote relief from acute stress.
Although not all spring maintenance duties are as enjoyable and therapeutic as gardening, performing regular activities can contribute to the overall health and well-being of your parent.
When It Becomes Too Much for Seniors
In many cases, you may find that your parents can safely take on some of their spring maintenance tasks, but not all of them. Start off by preparing a checklist of all the tasks to be completed each spring and then review the list to see what your parent(s) can and can’t do safely.
This could include:
- Cleaning out gutters of leaves and grime that have collected during the winter.
- Cleaning up garden beds, trimming bushes and shrubs.
- Cleaning windows.
- Ensuring the lawn mower and other maintenance equipment is in good working order.
- Inspecting the air conditioning unit or scheduling a service visit.
- Inspecting the home’s exterior for any damage or areas in need of repair.
For many seniors, tending to spring maintenance tasks is not feasible. Family members and neighbors are often incredibly helpful in assisting these seniors with the more difficult chores that require strenuous physical activity or ones that can be dangerous, such as climbing a ladder to clean out gutters.
Hiring a home maintenance service or handyman is also a great, worry-free option to ensure important maintenance is tended to. Landscaping materials – such as bricks and flagstone – run the risk of being damaged or dislodged during the winter months, so having a professional inspect and repair possible hazards can help maintain the safety and accessibility of the property, as well as provide peace of mind for seniors and their families.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always an option for an adult child to help their senior parent with spring maintenance. Living in a different city, for example, can be a real source of stress and worry.
How do you know if your parent’s property is well maintained when you’re not there to see it? Listen for cues that they may no longer have the interest or fitness to keep up with the demands of home maintenance and ask questions about their ability to perform tasks, including:
- Are some important tasks being left undone?
- Are they willing to allow outside help from a neighbor or service company when needed?
- Can they move around and negotiate the property safely?
- Is the responsibility of spring maintenance overwhelming?
- Is the work they are doing to keep the home up to date too exhausting?
Being candid about your concerns for your parent’s safety and the state of their property can allow for an open discussion to develop a plan together to decide what steps to take next.
When the responsibilities of maintaining a home get to be too much for your parent, it may be time to consider downsizing to an apartment or moving to a retirement or senior living community where home maintenance would no longer be a concern.
Spring doesn’t have to be a point of worry for children of senior parents. Rest assured that services are available to assist seniors with tasks; and with the support of family, friends and neighbors, spring maintenance can be a pleasurable experience for all.