By Lee Nyberg
“My way,” could be the Baby Boomer motto; it oozes confidence. Even supremely self-assured Baby Boomers need a confident attitude toward aging. Consider approaching a round-the-world adventure with self-assurance, even nerve. Plan for the unknown and the possible and reserve funds for needs, eventualities and pleasures. Poise, courage, and boldness define your successful trip. The same attitude of self-assurance can help navigate the unknown territory of the rest of our lives. Success is a life journey with purpose, independence, control, dignity, and peace of mind. The journey takes preparation.
Put your house in order
- Legal: Everyone over 18 years old needs a will and documents naming a durable power of attorney and medical directives.
- Financial: Fund your health care. Today’s Medicare does not pay for very much. It is likely to be vastly reduced, if not obliterated. YOU will most likely pay for your care.
- Spiritual: Examine your internal life.
- Medical: Be proactive in your own healthcare and healthy lifestyle. You might have another 10-20 years beyond the average 78-year life span; your body needs to last.
- Lifestyle: Around 90% of us want to stay in our own houses. Consider downsizing into a house that can be adapted for an older person with mobility issues.
Face the reality of an illness.
Denying health issues will not make the problem vanish. Get regular check ups and age-appropriate tests. Early treatment, for some conditions, like Alzheimer’s and heart disease, can make a huge difference in the current and future quality of your life.
Find out all you can about an illness. Join a support group. Sufferers and in home caregivers benefit from talking to someone who understands and can give helpful advice. Eventually, you might offer your own experience in return and help someone else.
Humans are much more successful when we interact, exchange ideas, and touch one another. Stay connected and involved in the world, even if you are ailing. Participation in life takes the focus off our troubles.
My dad withdrew when my mom’s Alzheimer’s took away her filters and she repeatedly made unforgivable comments to strangers. Her condition became an overwhelming prison to him. Depression and anger were a very large part of his life while caring for her. His withdrawal took him away from people who could help. Isolation did neither of them any good.
•Go where the people are: church, school, senior centers, political and organization meetings.
•Work: You may need the income to fund your longer life span!
•Volunteer: Assess, and then offer, your physical and mental skills and talents.
Ask for help when you need it
A person does not stop reading when she needs glasses to see the small print. The same logic applies to driving or cooking for oneself. Changes in abilities are not a dramatic “end of an era.” Get on with living. If you think having someone drive you somewhere is giving up your independence, think about this: I might stop cleaning my gutters but that doesn’t mean I can’t decide when they are cleaned and who does it. Making adjustments to the way you do things does not mean giving up independence or dignity. Neither does asking for help. People want to help. Allowing them to do so is a gift to both of you. They feel good doing good and you stay connected. Home Care Assistance in Lincoln provides professional caregivers who are trained in specialized care for seniors. We help seniors who require assistance live a better quality of life and give families peace of mind knowing their loved one is receiving exceptional care.
Take care of yourself
“Aging is inevitable. How you age is not. You will very likely spend about three decades as an old person. Deal with it. Death is the only alternative. If you put behind you the fantasy of eternal youth, you begin to plan seriously for what comes next and to think hard about the type of old person you want to be,” from Stanford psychology professor, Laura Carstensen.
While considering the type of old person you want to be, read this from 80-year-old Robert, “Since retirement, I have exercised five times a week. Exercise led to my complete recovery from arthritis and reduced the effects of a heart attack. My present routine consists of upper body strength training (15 minutes), a two-mile run on a treadmill (26 minutes), five miles on a stationary bike (25 minutes), and fifteen minutes on a stair climber. This workout includes warm-up, cool down and thirty minutes of stretches and abdominal exercises. On the other two days I attend a yoga class.”
For additional reflection, take into account only 1/3 of health and longevity is due to DNA–the other 2/3’s are due to how a person treats his body and mind. According to Carstensen, “…medical science has become powerful enough to rescue people from the brink of death but remains largely impotent when it comes to erasing the effects of the lifetime of bad habits that brought them there.” A Harvard University study tracking longevity since the 1930’s confirms common sense and recommends we avoid tobacco and too much alcohol; exercise and maintain a healthy weight; cultivate stable emotional relationships; get an education; and develop coping skills for handling the vagaries of life.
Wheelchair-bound basketball players did not start out that way. They adapted to return to what they loved. All life journeys differ. For some, disease will come or spouses will die. For others, fortunes or mental prowess will be lost. The ability to boldly and assertively solve problems does not change with retirement or diabetes. We need flexibility, creativity, and interest in new ideas and ways of doing things to beat life’s obstacles. Plan your journey.
Lee Nyberg is the Marketing Director of Home Care Assistance.