Just in case you hadn’t noticed yet - getting old is really hard. Even if you don’t value your independence, your body does. Can you imagine discovering that your bladder no longer respects your need to be able to get to the toilet in a timely manner?
Or how about the need your ears have to hear all of the words coming out of someone’s mouth? Aging has aspects that no one realizes until they find themselves trying to figure out how to pick up something you just dropped, or clean up something that just got spilled. Unsteady hands, eyes, ears and bladders can ruin anyone’s day. Now try multiplying this by 365.
Adding a little kindness
As kids we might have wondered how grandma got to be so patient with us. As adults we assume it is from practice. As an elder - I discovered it is through blatant necessity. I can’t get across the room any faster than this - and so I have to be content with my speed and condition.
This direct experience is then offered as patience to those around us. We can’t very well expect from others what we do not offer ourselves, yes? Patience and understanding is the kindest thing we have to offer. This is usually the earmark we remember of our grandparents.
Aging means shopping is a major exercise
Getting out now takes far longer than ever before. First, there is the slow shuffle to the closet to get properly dressed for an outing. Next, there is the matter of having enough money in the wallet. (Oh, yes, a list. And, um, walking the four blocks and bringing groceries back in my walker should be okay.)
Shopping has now become a major life event akin to attending a wedding or making it to a funeral. The preparation, time, physical demands and the mental acuity required to get an accurate list together with a plan to execute the adventure and return before running out of energy is always a risk. Thank God for those little seats on the walker basket. Oh yes. I can’t forget to wear those outing pants. Um, adult briefs I mean. (Just in case).
Have you placed yourself in these shoes, yet?
“Why am I still here?” “All my friends and the rest of my relatives are all dead.” “I was the oldest - and I still am! All my siblings have died of cancer, diseases and car accidents. My parents are gone. I didn’t have any children and now even my best friends from school are gone.”
Have you ever wondered why our elderly struggle with depression and loneliness? Stress is the result of depression and loneliness, as well as declining health. Companionship is a mandatory human need when a goal is set for thriving. To thrive - one needs joy. For joy - one needs a trigger.
An opportunity to see and smell the flowers, have that humorous conversation, laugh at the silly dog across the streetwhose body seems to wag instead of his tail. Moments of sweet remembrance that can bring some ease and grace into a world that has gotten so hard, getting up in the morning has become a way to check and see if you are actually still alive.
“Will I lose another tooth if I try to eat a steak?” “Will I fall down in public if I try to climb to the next floor using that escalator?” “Will my stupid adult diaper leak and get on my clothes if I don’t get home before four o’clock?” “Will I smell like pee if it does leak?”
These are just a few of the reasons our elders don’t go out as much as they used to. This - and because of their memory. By the time an elder gets to 90 - memory is affected. Even if they have made it this far without a dementia diagnosis - there is basic aging and decline happening in the brain.
“What did you say? Do I have a shopping list? Of course I do!” “If I can just find where I put it.”
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.