Below are some thoughts from Veronica, owner of the dwelling featured in a previous article. My sincere thanks to Veronica for taking the time to share her perspective so that others may see a path forward for themselves.
What inspired you to act?
My work at Melville Council required me to respond to our communities request for information about downsizing. This request was the result of engagement we had undertaken with the community to find out how we could improve our status as an Age-Friendly City (AFC) within the WHO AFC global framework.
When I began the research I came across The Henry Project. At the same time I was working with our Urban Planning team who were also interested in collaborating to provide information to the community to educate residents about downsizing options. The urban planners were also interested in the innovative approach The Henry Project was taking to these issues.
Once I began the research I started thinking about my own personal circumstances. Kev’s diagnosis resulted in him not being able to work from age 56 and I had to curtail my career and take a significant cut in salary to be able to adjust to the caring needs of Kev’s diagnosis. Within a few months our joint salary had dropped by $120k a year. We still had a sizeable mortgage and I knew I would not be able to service that in the long term on our reduced income. I decided to check out alternative solutions by talking to Meriam Salama of The Henry Project, regarding options within our current home.
While Meriam was able to suggest modifications to our home that could accommodate our needs and another couple or small family, none of our children were interested in the options. I wasn’t prepared to go looking outside our immediate family for potential co-living partners.
Our oldest daughter Joh gave me some very realistic advice as well at this time in regards to the amount of maintenance our home required in the short term as well as the longer term that would have added to my financial burden.
She and her husband began to look for properties that could accommodate an ancillary dwelling (granny flat). The idea was hard for me to accept at first because of the thought of not owning my own property. I talked the idea over with numerous people including our other children as well as a lawyer and finally accepted it was the best option. When our daughter & SIL found the ideal property with an established home that would suit them, as well as the ideal size to accommodate our cottage, as well as being only 300m to the beach, both Kev & I were on board.
What impact has the completed project had on your lives?
Profound... in so many ways.
Our family home had become a financial burden, a weight on my shoulders, this has been lifted completely. I’ve paid for a solar system for both houses on the understanding I wouldn’t pay for power usage as our cottage would use minimal power, so I have no power bills. The water bill has gone up so very slightly, that the kids have said there is no need to contribute to that bill. The kid’s internet is unlimited and the cottage is wired into their internet to that’s no cost. My only annual home running costs now are:
$176 annually for bins;
$500 a year for house & contents insurance.
I’m saving at least $5,000 a year in home running costs.
And I no longer have the headache of trying to maintain a large two storey older home by the ocean.
I am mortgage free for the first time in 40 years.
We can now afford to go away on small holidays which is wonderful for Kev (we are on a farm stay in Margaret River as I write this).
I have daily support from my daughter, which is mutual, as I can also give her support with young children as my SIL is FIFO.
We have the joy of daily visits with our grandkids, which is a delight to us both. If it gets too hectic for Kev it’s only a few steps to home.
The other wonderful outcome, albeit unplanned, is that our other three children, partners and 8 grandchildren all live within 4 kms of us. We can walk some of them to school only 1 km away and have many family fun times at the local beach on our doorstop.
The design elements in the bathroom have allowed Kev to shower independently for the first time in a year!
Cleaning my little cottage is a breeze.
I have zero regrets.