Aging with Choices

aging-with-choicesBy Melanie Richardson,
Senior Resource Specialist

Imagine living to the ripe old age of 90 and still have all of your major faculties intact.  You can still read the small print on the newspaper without a magnifying glass.  You can take your dogs for a walk to the park (although you need a nap afterwards).  Driving a car still feels relatively safe.  You are still able to maintain your yard (again, you need a nap afterwards).  New technology while challenging, does not completely bamboozle you.  Sounds like a win, right?  I thought so too until I had a meaningful conversation with our very own resident 90 year old family member.  The conversation changed me forever.

I pulled my car out of my garage headed to work one morning recently.  As I backed out, I could feel him even though I had not yet spotted him.  There he was, across the street from me, just standing there.  Little beanie pulled down to cover his ears from the cold, holding the leashes of his two little pugs.  Standing there, his eyes waiting to meet mine.  And meet they did.  In that one solitary look, that touched me to my soul, I knew he was in trouble.  I could FEEL the depth of his sadness.  I stopped my car, rolled down the window and said, “Pop…you ok?”  His reply was “I don’t know.”  I pulled back into the garage and into the house we went for a bagel and some coffee.  For the first 10 minutes, we just kind of sat there together, feeling our feelings and being quiet.  And then I just let him talk.

At 90 years old, even though your brain tells you that you can do anything, your body constantly forces you to face reality.  The cold reality is that you are not ever going to be able to rig a sail and windsurf again.  You will never be able to get in your Suburban and drive across the country to see your friends again.  Your friends, in fact, are now either gone or are in the process of leaving this earth from their own health issues.  You can’t hear most of the conversations that go in a room full of people and when you go through the enormous effort to get hearing aids, you realize that all of the noise you have been missing is overwhelming and overstimulating.  Being able to ride your bike for miles is a distant memory.  Your family loves and adores you but they are now in that busy, fulfilling, all consuming phase of their lives where they are still working, welcoming grandchildren into the world, helping their own children to become contributing members of society all while trying to stay fit and physically healthy.  You don’t blame them.  You are happy for them.  You enjoyed that phase of your journey, too.  You just miss them.  You ache for them.  Ache for a distraction from your race to the end.

As much as I wanted to help him rally by telling him all of the wonderful things he still had going for him, and all of the many things that he could do to make himself feel better… there was a part of me, a deep, soul touching part, that totally understood his despair.  Instead, I just sat there, patting his hand, allowing my tears to match his and just be.  He didn’t need a cheerleader in that moment or someone telling him what to do.  What he needed was someone to just simply listen and understand.  We sat there for two hours, just being sad together.  And you know what?  It was all fine.  He felt better to unburden himself.  I felt good to have been there for him.  The dogs were happy to have company.  It was all fine.  The experience made me thoughtfully reflect about the things that I have learned at 50 by loving a 90 year old….

 

  • Sometimes you have to feel this way, until you don’t feel this way anymore.
  • Age isn’t just a number, so quit saying that it is.
  • Enjoy every single moment of your journey because the journey goes so fast.
  • Don’t just listen with your ears.  Listen with your heart, too.

I’ll leave you with this… “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph G. Nichols

As always, I would love to hear your feedback or would be happy to answer any questions related to senior care or senior resources that you might have.  Feel free to submit any comments or questions to us by email at hhseniorresource@aol.com or by regular mail to 313 Kendal Street, Suite A, Vacaville 95688, or by phone at (707) 451-8724.

Best Wishes,
Melanie

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