For a senior citizen, flipping through the pages of a photo album can evoke mixed responses. Nostalgia, yes; with rekindled memories that bring a smile and a warm flush to the heart.
There could also be a feeling of loss – of youth, of people in the album who are no more; a desire to rewind the clock and do a few things differently…….
But…. not possible! We know age creeps up on us. The pictures are evidence. Life is finite.
So what can we do? We could plan for our senior years to the extent possible. For those very senior or ailing, we could assist them in having a respectful and dignified farewell and help them know that they lived a meaningful life.
A letter to the age called Senior Years
Here’s my letter to my Senior Years, the age which is creeping on to me at a steady pace
Dear Senior Years,
I know I am getting there. In so many little ways, you announce your presence.
- I forget the name of the movie I watched a week before.
- If something rolls under the bed, I holler for assistance to retrieve it.
- Walking up or down stairs or slopes, I mutter if there is no bannister to clutch on to.
- I sit ravenously hungry at the dining table and then manage to plough through only a quarter of the delectable stroganoff before giving up.
- Listening to bygone days’ bygone music, the morning somehow slips into late afternoon, without my even being aware of it.
- Playing with grandchildren I feel terribly challenged, when having to navigate technology.
You get the picture, right?!
Of course you do! You orchestrated it.
But…..Let’s play a game shall we?
Now that I am somewhat aware of your game plan, dear senior years, I need to chalk out my moves so that we have a healthy match, without you vanquishing me from point go. I realise that checkmate will be your call; but you know what – I’ve restructured my strategy – we will get there, hand in hand, as friends.
So what do I do?!
You keep moving up, while I do what I need to
I understand that you cannot really alter your path but I have the ability to exercise choices and make that path a less bumpy, slippery, steep, downward spiral. And though I may have been a little slow in comprehending this, I can try and do so now.
To start with, I will not fight you; but accept that you are nature’s companion to me, not my enemy.
Next, I will try and strengthen those areas where your intimacy can make me anxious and wobbly. After all you don’t want an uninteresting, uninspired partner on your journey, do you?
So I will keep myself attractive, physically and mentally. I have been told by innumerable mentors that a judicious diet, physical exercise and mental recharge is the secret to this.
Easier said than done. But my desire to keep pace with you as your charming mate will keep me disciplined. I don’t want you to consume me out of sheer irritation.
I want my senior years journey to be one where we can share camaraderie, empathy, kindness towards each other; and also allow time to nurture human connections, hobbies, travelling and doing nothing too.
I would like to continue having a purpose to my day so that I wake up with energy and hope.
My responsibilities in this senior years journey
You know senior years, along with enjoying my journey with you, there are certain responsibilities that I need to complete; For my own self.
- If it is useful later for those after me, even better. I need to record my family history and stories of individuals in my family, which I have found fascinating. I could collect stories from those older than me in the family and add what I have heard so that these are not lost forever. There are times when I wish I had someone I could go to, to verify a detail.
- And if along the way you decide to give me a jolt for some reason, I would like to have the resilience, strength and grace to accept it. For doing this I need the blessings of gratitude and the love of those I care for. I would like to also, consciously, be a source of strength and comfort to them and contribute in whatever I can.
- I realise that I get tired nowadays of managing things; and for that matter, also dealing with heavy emotional baggage. They make me drag my already weary feet. So I have decided to shed weight. Of course the physical kind is a great idea but also the other kind. Winding down is the term used so that life is more manageable and less overwhelming, just dealing with daily maintenance.
- Clearing out cupboards of unused clothes, giving away curios and extra crockery, even giving money to those I want to. It gives a lot of happiness.
- Perhaps even moving into a smaller place, if necessary. And if need be, and at the cost of touching on a sensitive topic, be open to investing in a suitable retirement home, which requires a lot of planning and scouting around for.
- The more difficult part is the emotional negativity which takes longer, more sustained effort but is possible to cast off. And that brings a lot of personal relief!
- What also brings joy is to connect to people I have been meaning to but never got around to making that call or that visit. I would like to do that and tell those close to me what I feel for them and their place in my life. I know that I cherish words of love said to me but I have been remiss in doing the same. Sometimes feelings, however ‘understood’ need to be spelt out.
Planning mundane essentials
Planning for senior years also entails the more mundane but essential aspects like
- health and life insurance, planning a realistic retirement budget, keeping in mind the rising cost of living; learning important skills like online banking, keeping bank accounts and lockers with nominees, managing finances judiciously and if necessary with the help of a trusted expert; signing up with an organisation that provides care to elders ( a large section of us live in nuclear families and need to look after ourselves).
- Since I am totally unaware about when you will decide to declare checkmate, I would like to try and leave a peaceful legacy for my family. It will give me a sense of calm too.
- Making a will, informing my family about the whereabouts of important documents and keys, keeping my financial and other papers updated, neatly filed and without encumbrances, are a few of the things I can do. It helps me too, you know. I don’t want them to remember me with angst about having placed them in a cauldron of complications.
- And finally, my friend senior years, I know I cannot plan for all exigencies or control all aspects but to the extent possible and ‘plannable’, I will do my best, so that we are happy together and as stress-less as feasible.
- With this ‘awakening’ that I have recently had, I am now also getting more conscious about how those who are very senior feel, when their opinion is not taken in decisions regarding their own lives, when possible.
- We all like to feel that we have some control over own own lives, regardless of our age. It gives us a feeling of self respect and dignity – I count or what I say or feel matters. I have contributed meaningfully in my time and would enjoy continuing to do so. Of course there are situations when an emergency or a chronic problem like dementia or Alzheimer’s makes it difficult.
Am happy we had this time together – you and I – to help me sort out my own thoughts regarding you, senior years.
So! Cheers to our future together, dear Senior Years!
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