A large house with a path shaped like the number five leading to a smaller house

Lessons from the Dance Floor: A 5-Year Plan

The first time I heard about a 5-year plan was when I was a single mother with 2 very young toddlers. That was a long time ago, but these plans seem to be back in fashion now. I didn’t give a great deal of thought to 5-year plans back then – it was more a matter of surviving day-to-day with little kids.

Now that Macular Degeneration is in my life, and has been for about 7 years, I know I need another 5-year plan.

Creating my first 5-year plan

The first plan, all those years ago, was quite inspirational. I had a rare weekend off while my parents cared for the kids, so I went to watch a baseball game with a girlfriend. Her partner was on the team and we all went back for a drink at a local pub. The jukebox played and someone asked me to dance. I said “yes” and noticed that the young man had severe difficulty walking.

We made it to the middle of the dancefloor. He could just manage to dance, having severe problems coordinating his arms and legs. His joke about having 2 left feet made me laugh. I think he had cerebral palsy. I realized that whatever disability he had, he also had a sense of humor.

He asked me about my life and I told him about my children. Then he asked what else I did with my time. I told him I was studying part-time at university as a mature-age student. Next came the question “Wendy, what is your 5-year plan?”

Finding unexpected inspiration on the dance floor

I said I was thinking of dropping out of university because, at the rate I was going, it would take about 6 years to finish my undergraduate degree and I would be 35 by the time I finished.

Obviously, he didn’t approve of my strategy because he said, “The time will go by no matter what you do. In 6 years, you will be 35.” You can choose to be 35 with a degree or 35 without a degree.”

I was quite taken aback! I’m sure he told me his own 5-year plan. He knew where he was going with his life (despite his challenges) but I had no idea.

Planning for the future with macular degeneration

Now, many decades later (and degree-qualified), I face uncertainty again with macular degeneration in my life.

I need another 5-year plan, and this is why:

No one knows how quickly their sight will deteriorate with AMD, or if it will turn to wet. Maybe it won’t progress too much, and perhaps better treatments or a cure will be found. One thing that is definite is uncertainty!

Housing is my main consideration

The main factor my plan needs to cover is how long I should stay in my current house. I’m just over a kilometer from the local shopping village where I can access food, pharmacy, doctors, cafes and restaurants, and the main train line. But it’s a tough uphill walk, and would be difficult to manage with vision loss.

The house isn’t big, but there are steep internal steps. I wouldn’t want to navigate these steps with impaired vision. My mother was legally blind and she fell on the steps the last time she was in my house.

There are so many choices to make: over-55 living, independent living in retirement villages, or supported living. Or I could just move to an apartment. A lot of research has to be done and I should get started. The years will go by no matter what I do, and I can’t help but think back to my dancing partner and his wise words.

Lessons learned from my parents

My parents stayed in their large 2-story, 4-bedroom house until their 90s (despite a fire and a flood). But then, my father broke his hip for the second time and the hospital wouldn’t allow him to return home with a legally blind wife to care for.

They weren’t up to the task of selling their house and finding somewhere else more suitable. With AMD neither of them could see well enough to use a cell phone, and using the internet was out of the question.

I moved in with them for a while, found suitable residential care, and arranged the sale of their house. They were consulted at every step, but a lot of choices were taken out of their hands. I admire them for being independent for so long. They never complained and they managed so well - but they had no plan!

I need a plan. My dancing partner would be pleased to know I was prepared, at least this time around.

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