Cottage Tips For Older People
One of our readers recently suggested that it might be useful for me to post some tips to make things easier for older guys around the camp or cottage. Not being an old guy, (ha ha) I felt this was a little out of my league, but I know lot’s of old guys, like Lonesome Larry and Alleghany Al…..so with them in mind I thought I might come up with some helpful tips for old guys at the camp……
As we get older, some of the things we used to do at the camp without blinking can become a little more difficult, or at least, a little more tiring.
We Are All Getting Older
The first thing I would think is important to say is this….we are all getting older, so no matter if you are 25, 40 or 55 is to figure that you are not always going to be 25, 40 or 55 and therefore, plan for when you are older, or not in good health.
That’s not something that comes natural to you young men and women, they feel that they will always be young, strong and “good to go.” But as we all learn, eventually things get heavier, distances get further, steps get longer and higher.
Most of this post will be about planning for the future at your camp and ways to make things a little easier, regardless of your age. So my first suggestion is plan for the future.
Reconsider that camp building plan with the upstairs loft bedroom and bathroom, particularly if you plan to retire to the cottage. One level is really nice in some circumstances. I’ve seen several camp plans that have the bedrooms upstairs and the bathroom down….c’mon….that just isn’t good.
Stairs Get Higher As We Get Older
I have also noticed as I get older that the 4 or 5 steps we have into our camp get higher every year when I am lugging in the cooler boxes full of food, suitcases, supplies, beer, etc on Friday night. It is one of the things I have considered about putting a foundation under the place.
I do not want to raise it up too high for a foundation and end up with 10 stairs into the house. Too tiring. Just think about how many times you go from the camp to the lake, from the lake to the camp, from the camp to the firepit, from the firepit to the house for more beer….you get the picture.
Our house in the city has a lot of steps to the front door and I curse it everytime we come home from the camp and have to carry things inside.
Plan Your Packing
On the same note, lately we’ve been a little more careful about packing for the weekend. Instead of a big cooler, we use two smaller coolers and take a lot of groceries in grocery bags. More trips in and out, but lighter loads in each trip.
Wood Heat Requires Work
I think another good thing to consider is how you will heat your cottage. Most of us, or a lot of us, rely on wood stoves, which are good as long as you have firewood, can get wood, and are in good enough shape and health to cut wood, lug wood, split and stack wood and kindling. Otherwise, that can be another chore for older folks.
I know my Dad in his later years at the camp had trouble bending over to pick up firewood to carry inside. That’s when having a source of heat, like electric or oil is really nice. There will come a time when cutting and lugging wood just won’t be fun, even if it’s still possible.
Cut Your Wood Short
However, if you are cutting and splitting your own firewood, take my advice, cut it short. It makes it much easier to carry, and definitely easier to split by hand with an axe. It is especially easy to split if you can convince your wife to do it…..
Cottage Maintenance Considerations
Maintenance is another basic to consider. Things like exterior siding on your camp. Is it going to need to be painted every five or 10 years? That’s work, especially if you are older.
Climbing up and down ladders is tiring on the legs, where most of us middle aged guys start to feel it when as we age. It can also be downright dangerous if you have blood pressure issues. No maintenance vinyl siding or something similar is nice.
If you do have to paint, some staging is great to have, makes the job safer and easier in the long run. Fewer trips up and down the ladder.
Water pumps….wow…either no trouble or nothing but trouble, has been my experience. Crawling around under a camp in the spring and fall to connect and disconnect the water supply, that’s work.
Location of Your Water Plumbing
I think a good idea is to have the cottage plumbing located as close together as possible. In other words, the bathroom should be behind the kitchen, etc, so all the water lines are close together.
In our camp, our bathroom is at the opposite corner from the kitchen. It means we have water lines that run the length of the cottage. I have to crawl on my belly the full length to turn things on and off, drain them etc.
I keep telling myself that someday I am going to change that. I have considered moving them all outside to the back of the camp, and boxing them in, so I could work on it standing up….
I have a health condition that for some reason makes me feel nauseous when I lay on my back and look up, like laying under a car or under the camp. It’s not pleasant, but I force myself to do it, so the idea of standing to hook things up is very enticing to me. When I change it, if I do, I will let you know.
Of course if we put in a foundation, this should become less of an issue. Speaking of cottage plumbing, I would strongly suggest your septic tank have a pipe that comes up through the ground to give access to the tank for pumping it out.
There is nothing worse than digging it up by hand to remove the cover, and as you get older, and cannot do it yourself, consider who you would ask to do it….? Not a lot of volunteers on that job, trust me.
If you have the “pumping pipe,” you just unscrew the top, the pumper guy, who drives the “honey truck” puts his vacumn hose down the pipe and cleans it out. Lot’s easier than digging the thing up.
Lawns and Landscaping
I am a poor one to talk about landscaping, because I just increased my lawn at the camp substantially. However, I will say that the less lawn you have, the better because it’s less to mow.
If you have a lot of grass, consider doing it in shifts, do half on Saturday and half on Sunday. A ride-on lawnmower can be nice to have as well. And don’t rake it, let the grass clippings stay on the ground, they are good for the grass and who needs the bother of raking? Natural ground cover can be just as nice, if not better, particularly around the lakeshore. It’s good for the environment, and reduces the amount of grass to cut.
Speaking of ride-on tractors, a four wheeler is nice to have, as well for pulling things, and with a little trailer, great for getting stuff up and down from the lake, like the boat motor etc.
Something I take for granted, but many cottagers, those with boat access or remote camps, because of the location of their camp, cannot take for granted, is power. We have electricity. It’s great.
If you have a camp where you could have power, but choose not too, reconsider it, it will make your life easier as you get older. If you cannot get electricity, well, it sucks to be you….just kidding, consider all the alternatives, like propane for example, and go with the one that works best for you.
Speaking of boat access/ 4 wheeler access cottages, cabins and camps. As we age, those types of places become more challenging, depending on your health etc. For some, there is no comfort being miles back in the woods, especially if you or your wife have health issues, like heart conditions etc. Help can be a long time coming.
I think that boat access and remote camps are great for the young, not so great as we age. In my Dad’s case, he would have stopped coming to the cottage at least 10 or more years earlier had it been difficult to get there, or in a remote location. So what seems like a pristine, private get-away may not seem so inviting when you are older.
Wharves and docks are nothing but work in my humble opinion. They are wonderful to have, don’t get me wrong, but they are heart attacks waiting to happen if you are not careful. My Dad had his first heart attack the day after he put in a new wharf at the cottage many years ago.
But with the above in mind, I still love to have a dock in front of the camp, but I believe it should be built from the lightest materials available, and easy to assemble. I can say that because ours is very heavy and not very easy to assemble.
Pipe docks seem to work quite well in that regard, easy to put in and out, and only as heavy as you make the sections. They are also adjustable to the water level, but I prefer a floater, as I mentioned in an earlier post. However, they are really only good if you have a four wheel drive to pull them up at the end of the boating season, and some help to put them in the water in the Spring.
A winch can be a great thing to have at the camp, either electric or even a strong manual boat winch that is mounted somewhere solid to allow you to pull things up from the lakeshore, like wharf sections and boats. As I age, I suspect the floater wharf will either become campfire wood, or my kids will have to deal with it.
Some folks leave their floaters in the water year round, which is dicey, as the ice can wreak havoc with them. I have had pretty good luck pulling mine into shallow water and tying it securely, but it’s better pulled up on shore. However, if you have no choice, just get it in as close to shore as possible, preferably in a sheltered cove, and tie it. Provided they are built strong, they will withstand a good deal of ice.
In hindsight, I think we built our current walkways too heavy. They are certainly strong, and will likely last longer, but they are too heavy for one person to pull up and typically with all that kind of stuff, through no fault of anyone, it seems like they always need to be pulled up when you are alone.
Roller Logs Are Handy
Another helpful tool for old guys around the camp are some rollers. I have some sections of tree trunks about 5 feet long, 6 or 7 inches in diameter, they are lifesavers for rolling heavy stuff around. Like boats. Like wharf sections. They will come in handy over and over again, you need to have about three or four on hand all the time. Two other items that I have found useful lately are our Utility Cart identical to the one in the photo, and a two wheeler dolly. I find the utility cart great for carrying the 15 horsepower motor up and down from the lake to the shed, it’s really better than the two wheeler dolly.
The cart also comes in handy for lugging firewood, we used to use a wheelbarrow, but the cart is much easier, no lifting, just pulling. Wheelbarrows can be very hard on you, they strain your back and your heart and everyone has a tendency to overload them. I think the best use of a wheelbarrow is to fill it with ground and wild flower seeds and use it as a planter near the garden.
There seems to be no end to the uses I have for this little cart. I even use it to carry tools around the camp if I am working on something away from the garage shed.
A two wheel dolly is also useful for somethings like moving an outboard, or moving heavy items. Since I got the utility cart, I find I use the two wheel dolly less often. Two wheel dollies are much like wheelbarrows, hard on your back and heart, lifting, pulling, pushing.
Gas Powered Wheelbarrow
If I had lots of money, I’d run right out and buy a gas-powered wheelbarrow for around the camp. I think one of them would be very useful for all kinds of reasons. I wrote a post dedicated to them, you can read it here: Gas Powered Wheelbarrow
I’ve recently discovered something that I don’t tell a lot of people, so keep it under your hat, but I find that when it comes to shovels, one with a smaller blade, spoon area, is much better than one with a big blade. You can’t dig as much in one shovelful, but it’s much easier, so the philosophy is smaller, lighter shovelfuls, just more of them.
Boats…I have always had a love affair with boats, but particularly aluminum boats. I have an aversion to fibreglass speedboats, not because I don’t like them, quite the contrary I do, but I have owned two in my life, and they were both an expensive bother to own.
When you have speedboats, you need a wharf, a suitable vehicle for towing them on a trailer, and depending on facilities, like boat ramps, water levels, they are not always easy to get in and out of the water. I am pretty fond of boats that I can take the outboard motor off, and pull it up myself if necessary.
I don’t need to say much more about that, frequent readers know my feelings on aluminum boats as the perfect camp boats.
One thing that I have found makes life easier for me is leaving my 15 horsepower outboard motor locked on the boat all the time. You can get a Boat Lock here! for around $20 They slide over the motor clamps and a padlock fastens it securely in place. Makes life tougher for a thief looking for an easy outboard motor.
I double the effort a thief would need to expend by also fastening my outboard to the boat with a chain and padlock. It sure is nice not to have to take the motor off the boat when we go home for a few days.
Something else for you to consider as you age, is the availabilty of tradespeople in cottage country. In some places, it’s not hard to get someone to do maintenance, repairs, etc, while in others, the cottager has to be pretty independent and self sufficient in terms of working around the cottage.
This is Ok if you are healthy enough for physical work, and handy, otherwise, it is an issue as you age. A good local handyman can be a lifesaver. Imagine that it’s May and you are recovering, (God Forbid) from a triple bypass heart operation. Chances are, the doctors aren’t going to let you hook up the cottage water. You’re going to need a buddy or a local handyman to take care of that for you.
I think it’s important to remember that just because you only have two days on the weekend, you can’t do everything. Some stuff has to get put off for another day, another weekend. If you are retired, well that’s a little different, but even then, the cottage has to be some fun and some rest and relaxation, not all work.
Pace yourself and remember although your mind is still 21, (particularly men) your body is now 52 or more and not always in sync with your mind.
Landscaping, something that is not overly important when you are younger, becomes important as you age. I have noticed my Dad and Mom both find walking around the cottage property pretty good where it is level, either gravel or grass, but in the places where there are bushes, or unlevel ground, they get pretty nervous and somewhat unsteady. So when you are landscaping, keep that in mind, and try to make things as level as possible for your later years.
To sum it up, I think it’s important to plan for the future as you build, renovate, remodel your camp or cottage. Consider the things you will be doing, what you will want to be doing, and what you think you will be able to do as you get older. A little planning now will make it a lot easier in the future. I know it’s hard to believe, but as I said at the beginning of this post, YOU are getting older….
Ok, there are my ideas, so now how about you? Any tips on how to make life easier around the camp or cottage?
Coming up tomorrow on Cottager Online Wendy Hates These Shoes!!