When we recognize problems and risks involved in aging, we need to take them seriously. This is a big issue for us in America. We admire our ability to choose, and we want our independence. We equate this with health and success. We see ourselves as failures if our bodies threaten us with disability. We must realize that our image of ourselves as being able to always act independently might need alteration.
This becomes prominent when we have less strength and resistance than we used to have. Caring for ourselves becomes more necessary and predominant when we become more vulnerable. We may need to call for help to improve. Our view of ourselves will be altered.
Interdependence becomes the watchword when we feel frail and weak. We recognize that we may not be able to be as active or as balanced as we had been. Using caution in our decisions becomes highlighted. Accommodating to a new reality can bring fear and gloom into our self-perception.
If we can talk about the highs and lows with others in a context of warmth and understanding, we will be rewarded with tolerance, compassion and support. This can reduce the feelings of embarrassment and isolation that we face when considering the struggles of aging alone.
Older adults in late age need to confront and work on the challenges which result in severe life changes. Juggling declining health with wishes to be younger and more agile helps to reassess our functioning.
Adaptations in order to transition to new options may be necessary. This process is unlike resignation or surrender which has a quality of giving up attached to it. The new adaptations or readjustments are geared to alleviate pain and dysfunction and to enhance productivity.
People feel, “I want to still be somebody. I am somebody. I’m still alive. It’s ego, vanity. I want to show people what I used to be. What am I now?”
Self-perception needs to be considered and replaced in order to move on realistically at this time. The capacity for regeneration and development is still there.
Our eyes have opened to the road ahead. There is no question of turning back. We have come along to a place where we are willing to consider facing late life realistically.
Making changes requires letting go of a former part of ourselves. The wish to be a replica of a previous self is replaced with an expanded and illuminated perspective of life more in line with what is doable now.
We discover a revised version of ourselves. We can look at the person we had been in the past and the way we have lived life at that time.
We then measure this with the needs and expectations that we currently have. This aids in an acceptance of a realistic identity that we can feel proud of in order to live life. We can redefine ourselves by redirecting and adapting personal strengths and talents to goals that fit in with our current abilities.
Denial of a problem is replaced with acceptance. This frees up energy. Experience gathered over a lifetime can be called upon to make appropriate redefinitions based on what is doable now.
We develop increased determination to get back to a reasonable level of health and functioning in the face of problems. We develop flexibility in our ability to accept the reality of the change. A common reaction is, “This is the way my ability to function to function is now. I accept it. I can’t be the person I had been. I’ll live with it”.
Personality traits strengthened in this struggle are determination, resilience, courage, patience, tolerance and an ability to negotiate solutions.
Instead of feeling humbled at the reduction of these abilities, older people need praise for their endurance and frustration tolerance in making the best of an unalterable situation.
These transitions can be navigated with determination and dignity, enhancing late life and reducing bitterness. Accepting downturns and returning to an adjusted and comfortable place can move us into a position of accommodation to reality.
-In the face of aging, do you feel you have to remain the person who you had been?
-What does it take to adapt to the inevitable changes that aging requires of us?
-Can you figure out when to ask for help?
-Can you draw on the strengths and coping skills that you relied on earlier in life?
-Would you be able to make trade-offs to meet future goals (exam: adapting to health restrictions)?
-Can you redirect your personal strengths and talents toward goals that fit your age and stage in life?
(Google News chose this article to appear on their web site. It drew many responses. Development in the Face of Decline « Vibrant Seniors
Feb 6, 2017 – When we recognize problems and risks involved in aging, we need to take them seriously. We must alter our image of ourselves as …)