• When I’m old I want to be interesting, funny, vibrant, and spunky. I want to be healthy and attractive, meeting and greeting life as it comes, positive, at peace, deeply spiritual and an inspiration to my family. Like everyone, I want to live independently as long as possible, but I know that at some point I will probably need some help from family or friends, at least to supervise help. The important thing is to visualize myself in these ways, remember role models, and plan.

    As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I’ve really studied this. I learn from my patients. These are my observations on what works to make old age a happy time, what doesn’t work, and some things to do now to prepare. I learned how I want to be and I how don’t want to be. I’ve heard that a smart person learns from her mistakes and a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. I hope to be in the latter category.

    I’ve tried to organize my observations in this chart so they are clear and easy to understand. Here’s what I see:

    What Works What Doesn’t Work To Do
    Spirituality

    • Belief in God and angels
    • Belief in an afterlife
    • Being at peace with your life, regrets as well as accomplishments
    • Being at peace with life ending
    • Having a faith community
    • Resilience
    Lack of faith

    • Believing you are utterly alone
    • Believing existence is over at death
    • Fear of death
    • Hopelessness
    • Focus on the past
    • Fear of the future
    • Denial
    If you do not have faith, ponder the mystery and wonder of the universe and nature. Cultivate a sense of awe and a relationship with mystery. Let go of fear. Be open. Meditate. If you have faith, be grateful. Strengthen it and be strengthened by it.
    Family Focus

    • Prioritizing family
    • Enjoying family
    • Respecting adult children, grandchildren and spouses
    • Relinquishing control gracefully to the younger generation
    Self-Absorption

    • Feuding with adult children and grandchildren
    • Holding a grudge
    • Trading family for warm weather
    • No one to supervise caregivers
    • Attention seeking
    • Thinking it’s all about you
    • Being right
    Foster good relationships with family. Focus on their positives. Be thankful you have them. If you live far away, consider a move for one of you while you are able. If you have no family, create close ties with friends and their families. Build a support system. For future reference, investigate facilities with continuum of care.
    A positive attitude

    • Being thankful
    • Doing as much as you can with limitations
    • Accepting change in yourself and the world
    • Using technology
    • A can-do approach to life
    • Finding projects
    • Finding meaning in life
    Negativity

    • Stubborn independence
    • Being mean, especially to caregivers
    • Complaining
    • Resenting technology
    • Refusing to try new things
    • Focusing on regrets
    • Refusing help, suggestions
    • Insisting on your way
    Contradict negative, critical thoughts with positive ones. Focus on what’s right and good. Learn to use technologies. Find meaningful ways to be busy. Accept help; consider it a gift to the giver. Don’t fear change. Accept that aging and associated losses are part of life. Decide to age with grace and dignity.
    Being open

    • An easy smile
    • A sense of humor
    • Laughing
    • Talking about how you feel about things
    Being closed, rigid, Fearful

    • Worrying
    • Feeling sorry for yourself
    • Being bitter
    • Being afraid of the future
    • Believing big boys don’t cry or have feelings
    • Not showing affection
    Cultivate a sense of humor and fun. Tell stories. Put words to your feelings. Write about them. Tell your loved ones you love them. Cry if you feel like it. Find someone to listen to your sorrow. Listen to them.
    Money

    • Having adequate income
    • Long term care insurance or financial resources to pay for help
    • Having a generous spirit
    • Being realistic about resources
    Materialism

    • Thinking it’s all about money
    • Being a tightwad
    • Being the family bank when your resources are needed for your own care
    • Focus on who’s in and who’s out of your will
    • Keeping things you don’t need or have room for
    Save, invest, and plan while you can so you can live without fear in old age. Be generous but realistic. Know that greed is evil. Don’t fight over money. Value the relationships in your life. Clean out your closets.
    Good Self-Care

    • Strong bones and muscles
    • Good balance
    • Exercise
    • Using a walker with panache
    • Good nutrition
    • Mental exercise
    • Age-appropriate sense of style. Wearing old classics, not old trends.
    • A classic French twist
    • Jewelry
    • Lipstick
    • Manicures
    • Clean clothes
    Poor Physical Condition

    • Falls, broken bones
    • Too proud to use a walker
    • Being sedentary
    • Taking care of another, not taking care of yourself
    • Neglecting medical care
    • Not wearing hearing aids correctly
    • Driving when you can’t see well or are forgetful
    • Being secretive with family about health issues
    • Poor dental hygiene, care
    • Smoking
    • Not grooming yourself or your clothes
    Be proud of yourself and your age. Condition your body for aging with exercise and balance and strength training. Stop smoking. Have a working relationship with an attentive primary doctor. Take good care of your teeth, eyes and skin. Keep up your appearance. Be learning new things to keep your brain healthy.
    Valuing Your Legacy

    • Knowing you are a role model
    • Having a personal mission statement
    • Sharing your story
    • Reminiscing with family, friends
    • Being proud of your life
    • Expecting respect
    Valuing Your Ego

    • Talking too much, not listening, interrupting
    • Thinking you have all the answers
    • Being aggressive, in other people’s business, telling them what to do
    • Expecting to be the center of attention
    Value integrity. Know that you are of intrinsic value and give history to your family and friends. Derive a sense of pleasure and gratitude from that. A sense of leaving a legacy to the younger generation gives meaning to your life.
    Enjoying Life

    • Having friends
    • Being a friend
    • Dancing, with partner or without
    • Music
    • Tai Chi
    • Water aerobics
    • Trying new things
    • Learning something new
    • Knowing what’s going on in the world
    • Having things you look forward to
    • Working in some capacity
    • Being productive
    • Having a hobby
    • Having a pet
    • Having a library card
    Being Depressed

    • Isolating
    • Focusing on your losses
    • Watching TV all day
    • Having no hobbies or interests
    • Your spouse is your only friend
    • Thinking you have to have a man/woman to be happy
    • Thinking you need no one in your life
    • Thinking someone else can rescue you from problems
    • Feeling like a victim
    • Making excuses
    • Passivity
    Be responsible for yourself. Cultivate a sense of adventure. Experiment. Take classes. Create projects. Set goals for yourself, no matter how mundane they may seem. Make sure you have interests and hobbies. Listen to fun music. Move as much as you can. Act in the face of your limitations. Identify what gives purpose and meaning to your life. Give to the world.

    Angelyn Bush Lata

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    Article by: Angelyn Bush Latta

    Angelyn Bush Latta is a recently retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Masters Degrees in Social Work and Theological Studies and is currently in training for certification as a spiritual director. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and frequently travels to visit her family and friends in Jackson, Mississippi.

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