In 2006 my parents were in their 80s living in the heart of Flatbush. Post 9/11 the difficult trek to visit them from Teaneck had become even harder. They had been living in Brooklyn for almost 60 years and, from their perspective, the thought of moving to New Jersey was inconceivable. Yet every day my mother complained that going down to do the laundry in the basement was becoming too difficult and getting up to the master bedroom, even with a chair lift, was complicated.
At that time in Bergen County and Teaneck, in particular, one floor living options, especially in an apartment setting, were quite limited. My youngest son who was working with me commented that we should find a smaller house close to a synagogue and transform it into a generous one floor living experience.
I ran an MLS search and sure enough a home that was in walking distance to me as well as Bnai Yeshurun where I felt my father would happily attend (Sefard Minyan) had just come onto the market. This opened my eyes to a process that has become broadly known as “Aging in Place.” My son and I hired an architect we felt would be sensitive to the needs of the elderly and she recommended following ADA-compliant standards when thinking about how to design this home.
And so it began: Widening of all hallways and doorways to 36” to accommodate the potential for wheelchairs, lowering of all kitchen cabinets and storage units to allow for easier and safer access for day to day stored items. Seated showering capabilities with all the right grab bars and anti slipping devices to ensure a safe experience. I was amazed at how well thought out many of these codes are and while it was a long process the results were priceless.
A few years ago I commented to my husband that I learned more about my parents in this last stage of their lives living in Teaneck, than all the many decades since I was married and left home. Instead of weekly trips across the bridges and tunnels of the city my three minute drive to my parents had allowed for an incredibly close relationship.
And over the years this priceless experience allowed me to help others in the community move their parents into similar living arrangements and make them aware of the potential for one floor living, even in a place like Teaneck where most of the homes have bedrooms on the second floor.
My amazing father, z”l passed away a little more than two weeks ago after 16 years of living in Teaneck next to his children and grandchildren. We are thankful for every moment we shared together.
Nechama Polak is the broker of record and owner of V and N Group located at 1401 Paisade Ave in Teaneck, 201 692 3700. Feel free to email [email protected], or call 201 826 8809.