Real Senior Moments: Making Hard Choices

6 years ago

I'm trying not to think about it. Right now, the poverty I experience as an individual with chronic illness on Social Security is pretty rough, but at least it's a burden that's split 3 ways with my teen daughters. Next year, it all falls apart. Next year, they reach 18.

At that point some of their benefits will end. And that means I'll be trying to support all of us on a whole lot less. Right now their presence in the household means I am not eligible for all the medical benefits I would be once they leave. It means I'm not eligible for other aide as well. But that's a choice, I believe, I made when I gave birth to them. I can deal with that.

But in some 310 days, it'll all be different.

Between the time they reach 18 and the time they start college, things will be extremely tight. During that time, we don't have choices. Once the girls start college, the choice seems clear. We've done the math every way, and we know that the only way we can make it is if I rent my own place and they live on the college campus, where student aid will help pay their room and board. They know that they'll be in debt for most of the rest of their lives for student loans. But they also know if they finish their degrees in their fields, that there's employment out there for them.

I'll be getting by on less, and by taking a one bedroom, I can keep certain housing subsidies. And that's where the problem comes in. Because the kids aren't the only members of my family I have to consider in the housing issue. There's Kali.

Now Kali is my little hurricane cat. She's been with me through hurricanes, evacuations, cross country moves, and my cancer scare. Yeah, she wakes me up at 4 am every morning, but she also wakes me up if my blood sugar drops in the middle of the night. Yeah, I'm allergic to her and she sheds like crazy, but I also love her. She's going to play a major role in what happens next.

And the issue is this: There are two apartment complexes in this area that take subsidies. One is the one I'm in. The other is a brand new green community.

The one I'm in is on the edge of downtown. It's about half way between the zoo and the bus station. Both can be a pretty rough walk in winter sometimes, not because of the length of the walk, but because of the cold wind. It's SMALL. There's no room for more than the couch and TV in the living room, there's no dining room, and the "breakfast bar" is far too high to eat at comfortably, even with a high stool. The utilities here are horrendous, in part because of the older, lower efficiency appliances and water heaters. There are no elevators for the upper story units. There are private (outdoor) entrances to each unit. There are ants. Lots and lots of ants. On the other hand, there's good storage inside the apartment. I also have my own washer and dryer. There is a pool. There is a fitness center (although no treadmill) And the community is pet friendly.

The other place is in the heart of downtown, literally kitty-corner to the bus stop. The apartments are larger. There is outdoor space for every apartment. The utilities are cheaper because of the new, energy efficient appliances, insulation, and other green housing features. The entrances to the building are all secure with electronic keys. While entrances are on shared halls, each floor and the elevator requires the electronic key to access. There is a laundry room on every floor. Next spring there will be a community garden, where residents can rent "boxes" to plant food or flowers. Because of the green subsidies and my own subsidies, the total cost will be much less than I'd pay here. The "breakfast bar" is low enough to eat at. There's better kitchen storage. The living room is big enough for a couch, TV, a couple chairs, and even a small dining table. There is no in-unit washer and dryer. It's further from the zoo, but will make shopping easier because once I get off the bus, I won't be walking my cart all through the city. It has safety areas where you can summon fire/ ambulance/ etc with the touch of a button.

It seems like "the other place" is the hands down winner, except: it is NOT a pet friendly community. And that means I'd have to give up my cat.

I have medical expenses coming up. I don't think that in the long run, that's going to diminish. And I know I can live safely and comfortably in the other place. Here, it's a little different. On days I'm sick, it's going to be tougher to get to the bus stop to get food or medicine. And since I'm restricted to apartments I can afford (and get my housing subsidy for) if I stay in this area (the most convenient) I just have the two choices.

I can give up my cat and live in an apartment that will provide more safety, cheaper, larger, and closer to transportation, or I can keep Kali and live in an apartment that's more expensive, has no security, is smaller, and requires me to walk farther to get to buses to go shopping or to doctors.

If you have a pet, you know how tough a decision that is.

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