In this episode, Candace Low, formerly the Executive Director of Independence Unlimited, and now an independent consultant that helps create communities of belonging, shares her story about downsizing her home. She talks openly about the challenges, support and comfort she experienced during this move. Find out how Candace is living her life to the fullest in the place she now calls home.
Roseanne Azarian: Welcome to Front Door, a My Place CT podcast. My Place CT.org is a free, web-based resource from the State of Connecticut. It brings together information to help people live life with optimal independence, health, and well-being. Learn more at MyPlaceCT.org.
Hi, I’m Roseanne Azarian, the host of Front Door, where older adults, people with disabilities, and the professionals who help support them come for information and inspiration. Subscribe to Front Door on i-Tunes or the Apple podcast app, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. Front Door is a production of the Connecticut Department of Social Services and Mintz + Hoke.
In today’s episode, we look at downsizing through the eyes of our guest, Candace Low. Candace served as Executive Director of Independence Unlimited, and is now an independent consultant, helping faith communities create communities of belonging. Also joining us today is Lydia Pantoja, sign language interpreter. I just want to let everybody know, there is a transcript available of this and all our podcasts at MyPlaceCT.org. Candace, welcome to Front Door.
Candace Low: Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Roseanne: I want to learn about downsizing, and I think you’re just the person to tell us about it. I understand you recently downsized.
Candace: I did. Are you sure you want to hear about this because…
Roseanne: Trust me, we want to hear about it.
Candace: Because it’s supposed to go really smooth, you know, but that’s really not the case. That’s not what happened. I lived in a 1,350 square foot home, and I loved that, and when I bought the home, I looked at accessibility for it. I thought that I would be able to stay in that home for the rest of my life. But I found that there were a lot of issues with health issues that cropped up that I wasn’t expecting to have happen, and I really don’t think that I was as informed as I should have been about the aging process and how that impacts my disabilities, especially my brain injury.
And so I found that the last year or two that I lived there, that I was not going to be able to take care of it, was not going to be able to get upstairs all the time. I was not safely able to get in and out of the bathtub or take a shower. I mean it became a safety issue for me.
And so I made the decision—it was a very, very difficult decision to make—but I think it’s important that people that are listening maybe understand this when you get older, or perceptions that people have of you and your ability to do things changes, and especially if you have disabilities.
And I had already experienced living in a nursing home when I was a teen, after my accident that caused my brain injury. So, I have this very strong, stubborn will about not going back into a nursing facility. And it’s always been difficult for me to admit that I need help with something, and I know that many people have a problem with, but for me to admit that I needed help was something, would change people’s perception of my ability to stay in the community.
And I, the first time I mentioned it to someone, they said, “Oh, you need to go into an assisted living.” Hello, I don’t want to go into an assisted living. You know, I want to live independently.
Roseanne: Well, when you decided, I need to, to change my living space, how long did it take you, from when you decided to when you started to put somewhat of a plan into place—or did you not have a plan?
Candace: I did have a plan. I had to step up my plan a little bit. I started looking for other housing immediately because my plan then was to put my house on the market and then move, you know, move into something smaller—something that was more manageable and more accessible for me. And I was looking for a fairly accessible space. It didn’t have to be perfectly wheelchair accessible, you know, but the bathroom, it was important that I was able to get into the shower—maybe a step up into the shower so that I could do that without falling. I mean you don’t want to be naked in the shower and have the fire department come and get you up—you know what I’m saying?
Roseanne: I do.
Candace: You want to be dressed and all pretty with your earrings when the hunky fire guys come in, you know, to help you. So that was something that was important to me, and I started immediately once I realized that I was going to have to make this change. It was, it was about a year before my retirement, and looking at trying to find affordable, fairly accessible space was the most hair-raising thing that’s ever happened to me.
I used every resource out there to try to find, to try to find housing. I went online, I talked to connections that I had, I talked to realtors that I had worked with that I knew—I mean everyone was helping me try to find housing.
Roseanne: So how did you end up finding the home that you have now, ultimately?
Candace: I think that was divine guidance. I do. I will be honest—I was scared that I was going to end up homeless because I was not working—I could not afford the mortgage on my home—the mortgage and the utilities and the snow shoveling and the mowing, and all of this. And I can be very honest about this because, like I say, a lot of people save and work all their lives, and they end up in the same place that I did, and nothing to do with personal decisions that I made—it just is a fact.
And the thing that happened there was the furnace went out on my, in my home, and it took my last bit of money to put in a new furnace. So, I’m sitting here with a brand-new furnace. I’m warm finally, but I’m sitting there going, I have no more resources for this.
So I had a friend that was helping me with the telephone calls, and I said, you know, something’s telling me to check with Avery Heights. And we did, and they had something that was available. And we went right down there and signed it right then. It was perfect for me. It’s 300 square feet. I looked at it, and I’m going, I can’t even get my bed in here. I mean really, you know. But I was not going to turn that down. Number one, it had an accessible shower, and it had what I needed, which was a workspace. I could make a workspace, I could have a little bit of living room space, I could have—there was a small kitchen, and I could make that work
And the thing that I think was, really sold me on it was the fact that I had nowhere else to go, but also it was in the woods, and there was lots of awesome animal friends out there.
Roseanne: Candace, we’ll continue our conversation in a moment. Just want to remind our audience to subscribe to Front Door on I-Tunes or the Apple podcast app, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. Tell us if you like what you hear and write a review—we’d really appreciate it. I’d like to remind all our listeners, we’re here with Candace Low, who is sharing her experiences about downsizing. Also, here at the studio is sign language interpreter Lydia Pantoja.
What I want to know is, when you were going through this turmoil, and even contemplating, I might be homeless, did you have some support from your friends, from your peers? How did you manage that, the emotional burden that you seem to have carried while you were looking?
Candace: Well, I didn’t handle it very well. I didn’t let my friends know I was that close to the edge. And for me, I have for many years—well since my brain injury—I’ve had anxiety and depression. And I was already in a downward spiral from stress of trying to keep my agency afloat, and so they knew something was not right.
No, and I, physically I was deteriorating. I could not pack up my stuff myself. I did not want anyone to come into my home because it was not as neat and clean as I like to keep it. So, I was like standing, barring the door—you know, “Hello, good to see you.” You know, “We’re gonna talk out here in the snow storm.” So, I had to really work on accepting help.
Roseanne: And you did.
Candace: And yeah. The first thing I had to do was I, hey, you cannot do this by yourself—and for me that was a huge step because I’ve always been incredibly independent and I was afraid to admit that I couldn’t do it by myself. So, for that, for me to put that fear aside, was a big step.
Roseanne: And that’s, it’s hard for, I think, people of any age—a disability or not. We don’t like to ask for help. We want to show everyone we can handle a situation, however difficult it may be. So, I’m sure that was really hard, but you knew you just couldn’t, so you did a smart thing—you went and got help. Was this friends, or was it professional help? Did you get a mover?
Candace: Well, I had friends that came in and packed. This was incredible. They were incredible.
Candace: I was able to, they would sit me down and they would bring stuff to me—do you want to take this, do you don’t want to take this? I had one friend that was really tough, which is a good thing, or I would have had to rent two or three apartments to get everything in there. But she would say, “Okay, do you like this or not?” There were some things that I was depending on whether, trying to decide whether or not to keep, and she said, “Well, was this person nice to you?” And I said, “Well, no,” and so she threw it away. I’m going, “Oh, well, okay, that made that decision,” you know.
And did I have trouble letting go of stuff? Yeah, I did. I really did. You accumulate, and you save all this stuff for your kids, and they come down to help you pack. “I don’t want this, Mom.” And we moved it nine times, you know? “Why didn’t you tell me nine times ago you didn’t want this?”
Candace: But all of those little things that you think your kids want—they don’t want that, you know? But I had, I had a team that packed for me, and then I had a team of friends—I call it, they’re my tribe—I call it Team Candace. They came in and they unpacked for me.
And it was, it was an amazing experience. We ate together, we talked. They, I have to laugh about my cupboard because one person would unpack and put things up there and then someone else would come along and say, “Oh that’s not how I would arrange it.” So, they would rearrange it, and then I would go and I wouldn’t be able to find anything, and I would chuckle because this was a labor of love, you know, for them, and it didn’t change their perception of me. You know, and they seemed incredibly happy to do this.
And I think that sometimes we think that we’re going to be a burden on someone, but if we really accept their help, it’s a joy and a gift of love on both sides. I’m healthier, I’m happier, I’ve kicked my depression for right now—I’m able to manage that much better. Those people that have seen me in a deep hole didn’t run. You know, they stayed there. They held space for me.
And I think that when people wonder what you can do for someone—if you hold space for them, that’s probably the most important thing that you can do.
Roseanne: Well, it sounds like, though it was hard to do this, you certainly gained so much.
Candace: It was a good move for me. I’ve been taking it very slow. It’s not something that you have to just jump into. They have a lot of activities there. I understand that it was kind of funny. I’m sitting on my pat—I have a little patio out there and I have a little table, you know, and I’m going, “Wow, you know, these people are really ancient.” And then I started laughing because I’m going, I looked in my phone, you know, at pictures, selfie of myself, and I’m going, “Oh, you fit right in.” You know?
It was admitting—I think we have to admit that we can’t all exist in a vacuum and we have to realize—I don’t care who you are—whether you have a disability or not—I have multiple disabilities. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. We can’t exist in the universe by ourselves—we can’t do this alone. And we have to be connected.
Roseanne: Oh, that’s a beautiful thought.
Candace: One of the things about the downsize is that I have the time now to explore my art. I was a painter but I haven’t been painting for 25 years. So now I have time to paint, I have time to sketch, I have time to read. I can focus on other things like watching a herd of deer walk through my backyard. The point is, is that having a smaller space has given me time and given me permission to do these things that I want to do for myself. I didn’t move there to die. I moved there to live.
Roseanne: Wow! I want to thank you so much for coming in today.
Candace: Thank you.
Roseanne: Whether you’re downsizing or not, but want to explore housing options in your community, visit MyPlaceCT.org. Thanks so much for listening to Front Door, a My Place CT podcast. Please subscribe, rate, or review the show on i-Tunes. And you can access all the episodes as well as transcripts and the show link at MyPlaceCT.org. Again, I want to thank Candace Low for sharing her experiences with us. As we heard, downsizing can be stressful and highly emotional, but it can also be freeing and life-changing in many positive ways. Please stop by Front Door for our next episode. And remember, our door is always open. Front Door is a production of the Connecticut Department of Social Services and Mintz + Hoke. My Place CT is the virtual home of No Wrong Door.