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Yikes, I Need a New Sofa at Age 82

By Ann Richardson April 19, 2024 Lifestyle

When I was young, I used to think that things sort-of worked out in the course of a life. I mean things, like your pots and pans and your cutlery and your living room furniture.

I imagined you bought all this stuff when you were young and then they were just ready for throwing away around the time you died.

It doesn’t seem to work out like that.

Buying When You Are Young

I grew up in the 1950s, where the contented suburban housewife was the prevailing image. It was easy to imagine the newly married couple all nicely set up in their newly bought house with lots of shiny new household goods given to them for their wedding.

But I never really thought about what happened after that. When was anything replaced, if at all? Like the fairy tales where people get married and live ‘happily ever after’, the ‘ever after’ for all their stuff never gets told.

In any case, this scenario didn’t happen to me, as my husband and I were very poor (two graduate students, after all), had a small wedding and didn’t get huge numbers of presents.

When we moved from our initial furnished apartment into an unfurnished one, we had to make do with a lot of hand-me-downs from my parents, putting ‘throws’ over somewhat dilapidated armchairs and the like.

I guess that should have told me something about what happens when you are somewhere in the middle – you can hand down your old furniture to your children and buy some new stuff.

And as my parents aged, I could see their furniture – and everything else – becoming a bit shabby. It didn’t seem to matter much. Much more interested in matters of the mind, they were not super house proud. Some slightly old furniture, the occasional stain on carpets and chipped coffee cups were not so serious.

Setting Up a House

At some point along the way, my husband and I moved from the US to London and, after renting for a year, we bought a house. Indeed, we bought two houses seven years apart – the second being where we continue to live almost 50 years later.

And we had to furnish these houses with all sorts of stuff, including a living room suitable for ourselves and for guests. Which we duly did.

We always tried to do everything fairly cheaply, as we were in academic jobs and did not earn much. There was no moment of splashing out on things.

Just after we moved into the larger second house, my husband saw an ad for leather furniture at a considerable discount. He had the bright idea that if we bought this, it would last well and would therefore be much cheaper ‘in the long run’.

I didn’t much like leather furniture, but I could see his point, and we bought a sofa and two chairs in a rich brown colour. I tried to soften them with bright cushions, pictures on the wall and a nice carpet on the floor.

The Long Run

And now aged 82 and 83, I think we have reached the famous ‘long run’. The leather furniture did last. And last. All this time.

We thought we might have downsized by now, but somehow that never happened.

So here we are with the same sofa and armchairs. Only, they are cracked here and there and are looking very shabby. I put thick tape over the worst of the cracks, but that only highlights the predicament.

Indeed, when we invited our energetic 18-year-old grandson with three of his friends recently, we decided we didn’t dare sit them in the living room because they might tear the furniture accidentally ­– and we didn’t want to embarrass them.

What to do? I think our only choice is to buy new furniture. Which we won’t be using for all that long for obvious reasons.

We can afford it but are loathe to spend the money. We try to be frugal more than ever, so that our children – and, more importantly, our two grandchildren – will inherit as much as possible.

The youngest generation will be facing a mountain of debts, with rising university and housing costs and the more we can save toward them the better.

And, not surprisingly, it doesn’t stop with a new sofa and some armchairs! Everywhere I look, there is need to update.

Are we the only household where the husband argues that a few holes in his undershirts or pyjamas don’t really matter?

Growing Old

There are many aspects to growing old and many of them I like. The need to buy new things is not one of them ­– and I suspect everyone has seen older people ‘making do’ with what they own.

It’s a pity one cannot buy things with a built-in obsolescence rate calibrated to your own decline. Then, things would sort-of work out in the course of a life (as I wished at the outset of this piece).

People like us wouldn’t be faced with the need for a new sofa.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you had to buy new things at a late stage? Was it a pleasure to have bright new things or an annoyance at the need to spend the money at this point? Do you keep some things, like clothes or anything else, well beyond their time?

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Diane C Jendrek

I’m pretty sure the need to purchase new kitchen appliances is going to happen before I pass on or feel the need to move. The present items have been here for 30-40 years already. I think I should get an endorsement from the manufacturers or maybe complimentary upgrades are in order. It would cost me $700 to replace the ice-maker in the refrigerator. That’s not going to happen. I just buy bagged ice at the store on the corner and fill up the ice bin. It still dispenses just fine.

I’ve started pricing electric cook tops. The good ones are quite pricey with their glass top cooking surfaces and all the gadgetry of touch screen controls. All four burners on mine presently work…(kind of). The control knobs are getting sticky and a little trickey. Have to make sure “off” really means off. One thing leads to another when you start updating kitchen spaces. I might want new counter tops too! How long do I wait? The real estate description will read “newly updated kitchen”.

Donna Heron

My husband and (76 and 75) r in the exact same position. Old shabby living room furniture. We keep putting it off because we don’t know exactly what to buy or where to buy it. It seems like such a Herculean task!!!


Go consignment!


If you have adult children, it might be fun to ask them to go shopping with you? I read in another message that if you plan to leave it behind for them, perhaps, they should have a small say about the couch? Of course, it is entirely up to you and your partner to decide but make sure it is comfortable and you can get out of it too!!! These days mobility can be an issue and once you are down and comfortable, how able are you to get up??? LOL. Take care and happy shopping!


Buy something nice for yourself that you will enjoy; you might live another day or another 25 years and it’s a pleasure to live in nice surroundings.


I so get this! I was never of the means to move past the hand-me-down stage with furniture, to the point where the stuffing is coming out, the springs are shot and covers are torn. I’m now 70, my dear cats won’t be with me too much longer and I’m tired of feeling shame about my home. I never want people to come over. I need the “living room set” never got since I never married.


Don’t feel shame – true friends visit because they want to see you, not your house contents.
A friend of mines had a husband who walked out on her for his 20 year old secretary, leaving my friend with 2 small children to bring up. She was given social housing, a small 2 bedroom house, but didn’t have much to put in it and what she had was quite shabby in places. However, her house was welcoming, friendly, clean and above all a safe place for her children. That’s all that mattered at the time. Eventually she was able to buy it, when her children were school age she was able to return to work.


Make yourself happy go and get something nice. Have company you’ll love it!!😀


I have always tried to buy nearly new things from people with more money than sense. That way replacing tbings doesnt seem to bad.


I’ve been updating a few things in my apartment. I’ve been in this rental for 30 years, rent control in SF…all that time I never had a bookcase and was living out of boxes still, until a few years ago. I got rid of a desk I didn’t use and was collecting dust and stuff. What a difference a good piece of furniture is to change someone’s quality of life! I was firstborn in my family so I was used to handing things down to my sister… so even though we were lower middle class, I always got the new stuff. So I treated my things with respect and a sort of reverence so they would last a long time. In this new stage in my life and always single, I save to make a space I love, with many planta and my pets…it’s ok to get a new piece of furniture and for me, I have to get rid of something first. I’m lucky to have a neighbor who is a chef, like me so when I upgrade cooking utensils etc. I can give him my hand me downs!


I’m going to spend my money on being safe and comfy when I’m in my 80s. My daughter and grandson can inherit a bit less and be none the worse for wear. We worked and saved and invested so we could live a nice life and yes, buy a new sofa when needed.

Joyce Ramsay

Well done Jane. I have actually heard young people complain that there parents are still alive and depriving them of their inheritance. They complain if their parents dare to spend anything on themselves as they see it as THEIR MONEY. I heard of one older farmer who was regularly put in hospital after having been bashed by his drug-abuser son because he wouldn’t sign the farm over to the son. It’s this new-fangled culture of entitlement. You are right – we worked, bled and scrimped when we were young and it didn’t kill us. These next generations can do the same. Some of my descendants are so distasteful to me that I’d rather leave my money to a cat home.


All the comments I have read have been so interesting and revealing that we are the generation that worked very hard to get to where we are that we often deprive ourselves of a little comfort. I remember thinking that our generation that worked so hard, needs to learn to play hard too! We have forgotten to give ourselves a treat once in a while. My parents who worked as farmers, saved their money, gave their four children a wonderful opportunity at life, finally at age 88 and 91 bought business class tickets to fly overseas!! They deserved it and certainly earned it!!

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The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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