It has been nearly three weeks since we moved into Malcolm’s mom’s home, and almost every waking hour of that time has been spent creating a new normal. We are making progress but adjustments, like the three of us are making, require compromise, patience and time.
When we considered a ‘shared residence’ with Malcolm’s mom we were prepared for the physical adjustment of living in a smaller space and the changes that would follow. We strongly considered the disruption to her life but felt that the eventual upside would make it worthwhile. What we underestimated was the level of anxiety that the initial upheaval would create.
At ninety-one, she is a highly functioning, mostly independent individual who has created a comfortable space for herself within very small boundaries. We have interacted frequently in the past and have noticed normal signs of aging , but nothing alarming. What has surprised us lately is how much of her confidence and sense of security is tied to her environment. Our challenge has been to mitigate her confusion and allay her fears by tuning in to her tolerance levels and communicating changes carefully.
We have accomplished a lot in a short time and consider our initial growing pains a valuable learning experience as well as a foreshadowing of things to come. Without a doubt, becoming 65 year old boomerang kids will be an interesting experiment.
Glimpsing into our future these past few weeks has taught me much about how I want to live my next few decades. While the choices may not always be mine, I think it is possible to develop the framework now.
Do The Work Now
I have written much about creating a life that fits; not too big, not too small, and certainly not defined by anyone other than you. You can read more of my thoughts on living a satisfying life here and here. What I have realized lately is that at some point, defining the terms of my life will likely be beyond my control.
At sixty-five, it might seem premature to plan for life at eighty and beyond, but that time is quickly approaching. While it is impossible to know our physical and mental condition ten years from now, we can presume that it will most certainly deteriorate, even if we come from a lineage that supports longevity and manage to avoid serious illness.
I am of the mind that rolling the dice is not an option regarding my ‘elder care years’ and I want to be proactive regarding the issue. Considering that I already have a financial plan and Will & Testament in place, I came up with a few practical actions that I’d like to share. If you have read my blog for long, you already know that these thoughts mirror my philosophy of balanced living within the framework of mind, body, spirit.
I know I am ‘preaching to the choir’ since my readers generally share this philosophy, so just consider my words a gentle reminder that there are genuine pitfalls to aging gracefully and being proactive now might help to avoid future angst.
Suzanne’s Tenants for Aging Gracefully
- Be kind to yourself and others – if you see a downside to this one, stop reading now
- Move it or Loose it – maintaining muscle mass is essential to good health
- We are never to old to learn – don’t let your mind starve to death, feed it with healthy information
- Go full-on Marie Kondo and purge sooner rather than later – your heirs will thank you
- Positive energy is contagious – be a carrier and don’t wear a mask (joke people, not a political statement)
- Life will change, with or without our permission, cooperation or acceptance – that’s a fact Jack
- Forgiveness is the antidote to bitterness – don’t invite bad juju by being stubborn
- Pay attention to the signals your body sends – there is a fine line between being aware and being a fanatic
- Slow down, eliminate busyness from your life – quality is better than quantity (cliché but true)
- The past is in the past – learn from it and let it go
- Plug in to local senior resources now – seek advice before you need services
- Technology is your friend – stay as current as possible (or ask a 5 year old for help)
- Plan your remaining years – if you don’t, someone else may do it for you
Our track to fulfillment includes staying physically active, mentally engaged and curious about life. While we may have lost our relevancy in the workplace long ago, we still have influence in small circles. Continuing to choose projects, explore hobbies and volunteer opportunities, surround ourselves with good people, positive energy and family give our days structure and purpose. Having an adventure on the horizon is always a motivator. Less is more has taken on a whole new meaning and as always, our motto is balance in all things.
Having a trusted advisor, whether it be a professional or family member is essential. While we might think we have all the answers now, it is nice to know that someone who cares will be there when we need them most. That person for us is our daughter. We trust her to offer advice that will be in our best interest at all times. Even when it isn’t necessarily what we want to hear.
What we don’t want to do with our remaining time on this earth is to dwell on the past, lament about missed opportunities, become bitter with regret or simply exist from day to day. I can’t imagine a fate worse than becoming the neighborhood curmudgeon and Debbie Downer. Life is meant to be lived fully and abundantly and there is a big difference between getting old and living to an old age.
“Begin With the End In Mind”Stephen Covey
This famous Stephen Covey quote seems fitting for the first action that Malcolm and I have taken regarding our future. Our first step toward aging on our terms was to eliminate a lot of excess from our lives and sell our home. At nearly 5,000 sf, it had become the equivalent of velvet handcuffs. Every closet, cabinet, drawer, cubby and three garages were filled to capacity with ‘stuff.’ Some things were easier to part with than others, but in the end, it is just all stuff. We kept things that we might take into the next chapter (when that day comes) but mostly, we purged.
We are now in a good place in which to consider options and will continue to sort through them until we are ready to embrace the next step. Until then, we are grateful to have choices and a place to drop our flipflops.
How about you? What tenants would you add to my list? Are you being proactive about old age?
I am sharing with Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share, so please pop over there, read about her week and take a look at her amazing photo gallery. While you are there consider visiting some of the other bloggers who have linked up this week.