“Old age ain’t for sissies,” stated that famous old dame, Bette Davis. I am beginning to understand what she meant.
If you are getting older, like I am and hopefully everyone else is, you are finding that there are new difficulties in your life style caused by physical and mental changes.
Changes in Our Bodies
We will at some point find our bodies failing us, whether from neglect, abuse, a hard life or just aging. That is going to be the hardest part for me. Hearing loss, failing eyesight, poor balance, muscle weakness, disease processes or just the aging process itself can sneak in and steal our vitality. What can we do?
Changes in Our Independence
Since I am almost 66 years young I began to think about what life may be like for me someday. I love my independence and the ability to go when I want to; where I want to; and for how long I want to. Both of my parents had to give up driving because of decreased reflexes, attention and mental changes. I can imagine how I will feel when or if my sons tell me, ” Mom, you can’t drive anymore. You are not a safe driver.”
If you think about it, we will all most likely face that humiliation someday. How can our kids prove to stubborn oldsters like us that we should hang up our car keys for good? Our tendency is going to be to deny it, to excuse it or to attribute it to our kids trying to rule or ruin our lives. We may even go through a grieving process over this loss. But accept it, we must.s
Changes in Our Status
After years of being the experienced, wise, helping parent, we will soon need the experience, wisdom and help of our adult children. My parents, uncle and aunt developed Dementia or Alzheimer’s so, I am concerned that I too may eventually drift off mentally and impose sadness, grief and financial strain on my sons and their families. This is a common concern. When one of my patients commented on this, I reminded them that they took care of their kids when they were young because they loved them. So their adult “kids” should be willing to show their love for their parents when they need help. This reminder hopefully helped a few of my patients, but there is no way of knowing for sure that it helped anyone but me.
Changes in Attitudes
Our attitude about our world changes. Remember how as a kid you heard your aging relatives go on and on about “the good old days?” The world is slowly becoming a different world and to us oldsters, change disrupts our secure lives. Favorite buildings are torn down, new roads and developments are being built where once grassy meadows grew. Governments change. Belief systems evolve and change. We are changing too and all of these other changes just remind us of this. I try to see changes as a challenge, instead of destruction of my secure little world.
I don’t know how men my age feel but I feel vulnerable. I think about my grandmother who was beaten up on the walkway to her country home by two men who stole $10 out of her apron pocket and a ring off of her finger. So I am shoring up my defenses by being more cautious and wiser. I also try to stay informed about whatever is going on in the world. I live in a keyed entrance condo building with my own locked door, which does provide me with a sense of security.
I am doing what I can to maintain the brain cells and heart muscle that I do have for my senior years to come. I rarely eat fried foods; I eat lots of non beef and low fat meats; I get plenty or enough sleep. I write this blog, stay engaged with friends and enjoy volunteering four hours a week at a thrift store. I also continue to challenge my mind with Sudoku, reading, learning new things, word games, and silly challenges on Facebook. I love to figure things out. I listen to the news once our twice a day. Sadly, although exercise is recommended, it is my weakness.
Some say, “Ignorance is bliss.”I say, “Ignorance can kill you!” When dealing with repairs of things mechanical I left that to my husband. He’s gone. So now it’s up to me. But I have found confidence in some matters by looking up potential problems on the internet. I found out I could type in, “Car is making clunking noise” and found a video of different car sounds with explanations. The internet and You tube empower me with knowledge. Even though I may not know how to fix a problem I can do research and understand what may be wrong and what can be done about it. And there are always my sons and my brother who are wonderful resources.
What Can We Do?
We can live each day to the fullest. Slow down and use your senses to enjoy whatever beauty there is to enjoy near you. Keep a sense of gratitude or thankfulness; this has been found to increase levels of dopamine and serotonin (also found in antidepressants) in your brain!
If you have grandchildren or are able to volunteer, go where the children are. Some kids do not have loving homes. A little grandparental affection could do wonders for them and for you.
Have you ever seen videos on the news of children, who have grown up in poverty, playing together? Children want to play, they need to play. They make ways to play even if it is with stones, grass, plants, music, or “substitute balls” of cans or stones. Since we are starting our second childhood, why not do what children do when we are able. They get together with other kids. They play. They notice their world through eyes of innocence and see beauty, hear music, touch their environment and explore it for the first time.
I never gave up my first childhood. I figured why end the first one if a second childhood was coming later. People think I am in my 50’s. I am almost 66. I rarely use make up, so what you see is what I have.
If you can’t walk, get a wheelchair; if you can’t hear, get hearing aids; if your eyes are failing, get glasses or surgery. The point is: do what you can to make each day into one filled with whatever good things there are to enjoy. Stay connected to your world with your brain, your senses and your activities. Be with people who love you.
Don’t just sit around the house moping! Do something!