Facing the challenges of aging in today’s world is not easy or simple.
My mechanic had the right idea recently when he repaired more of my car than what I asked him to do. He said an “older” car could have several things go wrong at the same time, and it was best to address all of these issues in order to get the car back in top shape. We seniors could well use a comprehensive tuneup as we face what comes our way.
One way to start is to look clearly at what is happening to our minds and bodies as well as how we respond to today’s challenges. Dr Emma Staudenger’s study on aging in the March 13, 2014, issue of the New York Times suggests that in order to look within one’s self, it is necessary to clarify how we think. Unfortunately, the ability to gain a “clear and accurate insight into one’s life and feelings” is a skill frequently omitted in one’s education. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of our “make, model and age,” and the road on which we have traveled.
Some of the characteristics and challenges of aging include:
Short-term memory loss in addition to other physical, environmental and material losses
Less flexibility in attitudes and behavior
Fewer opportunities for broad social integration
Many changes in cultural mores, technology and world affairs
“Thinking errors” about one’s self and others (The author calls this “senior puberty.”)
Unresolved issues about death and dying and human relationships
Now, to the difficult part: honestly and accurately looking at ourselves. Dr Staudenger suggests beginning the process by carefully reflecting on, and thoughtfully answering the following questions that reflect on the aging process.
1. Do I understand and accept that priorities and values, including my own, may not be absolutes?
2. Am I aware and accepting of “life’s ambiguities?” (As Doris Day sang, “Whatever will be, will be!”)
3. Do I have the ability and willingness to achieve personal growth and demonstrate it?
4. How complete is my awareness of my personal life experiences and how they influence me?
5. Do I have enough conviction in my “completeness” to ward off the negative effects of aging?
6. Do I see my life’s value as less who I am and more who I was, what I did and what I had?
Aging in this world is not for sissies; but doing one’s own tuneup may produce better “gas mileage.”
If you run into tough sledding, get yourself a friend who is a good listener ... who knows, he or she might become the best mechanic you ever had.
A more structured, no-cost counseling service is available through the PERLS program offered by the Rogue Valley Council of Governments or the Age Wise, Age Well program through RSVP of Jackson County. Some churches offer Pastoral Counseling services.
Of most importance is to be active in doing something for yourself. Remember the childhood story of the little steam engine struggling up the mountain panting, “I think, I can!, I think, I can!”
You can do it!
Stewart McCollom has been a volunteer counselor for 25 years. He has worked with Age Wise, Age Well, a free counseling service in Jackson County, and Stephen Ministry of Trinity Church in Ashland. He operated McCollom’s Texaco Service Station in Portland. He is 90 years old.
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