When I’m old I want to be interesting, funny, vibrant, and spunky. I want to be healthy and attractive, meeting and greeting life as it comes, positive, at peace, deeply spiritual and an inspiration to my family. Like everyone, I want to live independently as long as possible, but I know that at some point I will probably need some help from family or friends, at least to supervise help. The important thing is to visualize myself in these ways, remember role models, and plan.
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I’ve really studied this. I learn from my patients. These are my observations on what works to make old age a happy time, what doesn’t work, and some things to do now to prepare. I learned how I want to be and I how don’t want to be. I’ve heard that a smart person learns from her mistakes and a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. I hope to be in the latter category.
I’ve tried to organize my observations in this chart so they are clear and easy to understand. Here’s what I see:
|What Works||What Doesn’t Work||To Do|
|Spirituality||Lack of faith||If you do not have faith, ponder the mystery and wonder of the universe and nature. Cultivate a sense of awe and a relationship with mystery. Let go of fear. Be open. Meditate. If you have faith, be grateful. Strengthen it and be strengthened by it.|
|Family Focus||Self-Absorption||Foster good relationships with family. Focus on their positives. Be thankful you have them. If you live far away, consider a move for one of you while you are able. If you have no family, create close ties with friends and their families. Build a support system. For future reference, investigate facilities with continuum of care.|
|A positive attitude||Negativity||Contradict negative, critical thoughts with positive ones. Focus on what’s right and good. Learn to use technologies. Find meaningful ways to be busy. Accept help; consider it a gift to the giver. Don’t fear change. Accept that aging and associated losses are part of life. Decide to age with grace and dignity.|
|Being open ||Being closed, rigid, Fearful ||Cultivate a sense of humor and fun. Tell stories. Put words to your feelings. Write about them. Tell your loved ones you love them. Cry if you feel like it. Find someone to listen to your sorrow. Listen to them.|
|Money||Materialism||Save, invest, and plan while you can so you can live without fear in old age. Be generous but realistic. Know that greed is evil. Don’t fight over money. Value the relationships in your life. Clean out your closets.|
|Good Self-Care ||Poor Physical Condition ||Be proud of yourself and your age. Condition your body for aging with exercise and balance and strength training. Stop smoking. Have a working relationship with an attentive primary doctor. Take good care of your teeth, eyes and skin. Keep up your appearance. Be learning new things to keep your brain healthy.|
|Valuing Your Legacy ||Valuing Your Ego ||Value integrity. Know that you are of intrinsic value and give history to your family and friends. Derive a sense of pleasure and gratitude from that. A sense of leaving a legacy to the younger generation gives meaning to your life.|
|Enjoying Life ||Being Depressed||Be responsible for yourself. Cultivate a sense of adventure. Experiment. Take classes. Create projects. Set goals for yourself, no matter how mundane they may seem. Make sure you have interests and hobbies. Listen to fun music. Move as much as you can. Act in the face of your limitations. Identify what gives purpose and meaning to your life. Give to the world.|
Angelyn Bush Lata