Saturday, January 3, 2015

Observations on Aging

So the house will not be the same, but my view of senior citizens and my commitment to my aging parents and my aging self remain the same.  I am committed even more so to the following statements in regards to my own journey into old age after witnessing and caring for Nan for the past month.

First,  I want to be placed in a senior living center/ assisted home care environment, when it becomes evident that I am beginning to struggle with aspects of life and the tasks at hand that I used to handle with ease.  I want to be able, in an age appropriate  situation, to make the most of my time and my activities.   The allure of others, in my same age bracket or similar circumstances who understand what stage of life I am in, and those that would surround me that are trained to work with seniors, makes all this an attractive option for someone that is as social and active as I am.  Secondly, I have come to the conclusion that it is a choice that we make as we age, to be humble, kind and tenderhearted or prideful and discontent, I am desiring to choose in advance kindness.  (when I falter in the years ahead, please bring me back to this post) and I am beginning now to pray that the Lord would grant me a sense of humor and humility in the entire aging process.

All of this to say, that within the past month, I have gained significant insight into many areas of aging that have perhaps crossed my mind briefly, but due to the circumstances at hand and the ensuing conversations, I have come to ponder these issues much more, and in research and consideration have come to the following conclusions: *** disclaimer, I am not, nor at any point in this post, do I lay claims to any medical insight or any professional training, this information is all gathered in the trenches, during day to day activities and  through first hand observations and musings.

When you live alone, it is far easier to keep up the facade of "normal aging".  The occasional repeating of facts, the infrequent confusion of dates and times and occasions is overlooked for a significant and sustained period of time longer than if you were married or living with other family members.

That there is a brief period in your aging years (70 - 80's ) where you can articulate that things are slowing down for you. That you are not able to keep up, or to use the phrase from an old folk song, "the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be".  At this point you are aware, and still okay with the fact that things are not as they used to be, and you are willing and able to compensate for the changes to your physical being with glasses, or hearing aids, surgeries, or slowing your activities, making adjustments as needed to sustain a quality of life, knowing that things can still be good, but will not be the same. There comes a point in that journey where you loose that ability to focus or see clearly the aging process,  and you revert to phrases, like " I am not crippled" "I'm not deaf", "I can see that just fine", or " I am not an invalid" as a method of self preservation and to hide that you are not able to do what you used to do, with ease, and you not any to happy about it.

At some point in the cycle of life you go from having the ability and desire to help others that are transitioning through life stages, to being someone in a life stage that refuses assistance. For example at one time you were the first one that if a neighbor/friend had to give up driving, you offered them a ride to and from wherever they needed to go, because serving others brought great joy to you. Now at this stage in life, when the tables are turned, you are refusing to allow others the blessing of taking you places, or doing things for you, because you are stubborn or prideful and do not want to ask for help. Completely forgetting the era/season in your life where your service to others was a complete and absolute blessing.  I venture to say that some of this refusal to "be a burden" is a generational issue.  The prevalent mindset, of the 30's, 40's and 50's was that you took care of yourself. Pride aside, perhaps the even more underlying issue is the deep seeded thought that one just handles their own business, for the good, the bad, and the indifferent and that asking for help is a sign that you are no longer capable. 

The predominant personality trait that is hard wired into a person from birth reemerges in your later days.  In younger days if that personality trait is not an exceptionally great one, you learn the social cues and the social expectations and are able to down play that trait with more acceptable behaviors and respond accordingly.  In later days, I would assume you are too old or tired to really give a rip, so you stop trying. Sadly, more often than not, this dominate personality trait now taints how you respond to most things that come your direction. Often times without the realization that perhaps you are in the wrong or that you misunderstood the situation completely.

In no way do I wish to down play the affects of aging and the difficulties that lie within the psyche of the person experiencing the changes that are undoubtedly physical and mental.  There is much to be said for the grace in which those around love you through this process, I can't help but consider that there should be much more thought and consideration placed in preparing for the aging process.  Not just our retirement plan, this goes far beyond finances.

While in today's day and age, there is much more research, many more medical advances and far less stigma attached to seeking assistance outside the areas of what we feel comfortable with as our bodies begin to age, increasing our life expectancies exponentially. Sadly, we may delude ourselves when we are young into thinking that we are not going to be difficult as an elderly person, or that our experiences in life will make us a different breed of elderly, and while to a certain extent that may be true, I also believe that we need to be prayerful and conscientious about aging process.

In just this small window of time that I have shared with an elderly gal near and dear to our hearts, who declares "she is not old, or deaf, and is in denial about her memory skills", I have begun to pray that in my older days, I would be humble, gracious and would retain my sense of humor.  I am also being purposeful now, so that in my older days (or the event that I should I become ill and need full time care) that there has been prayerful considerations about what I desire for my care and for the amount of responsibility that I desire for my children to take in my life in the future.  I want to be intentional in the planning and preparation for the execution of events in the future. All of which will, in the long run lend to set expectations, and clear boundaries for everyone including ol' feeble minded me!  

This is not a time to make stuff up! 

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