My life has been filled with loved ones, companionship, social causes and a career that has kept my mind and soul in a state overload (in a good way). Life has been filled with a hundred reasons to get up in the morning and a hundred new reasons every day. But some days, I think about what it will be like when I retire and life slows down to the point that I can do all those projects around my house, or I could simply sleep in until the sun is up. We all hope our retirement will be a time when we can travel, watch our grandkids more often and volunteer a couple of days a week to give back to society.
Being a senior in the future at sixty-five sounds pretty good to me, but let’s turn the clock ahead another twenty years and consider how life might look for many of us. By then there is a strong chance our spouse has passed and we are now living alone. Many of our close friends and neighbors may have also passed or moved away. The independence of driving ourselves wherever we want to go may be a thing of the past, so we are depending on others who are younger and have busy lives for support and our transportation.
Our lives may now be one of seclusion as we have become isolated from society by our limitations. Our children and grandchildren may have moved away or they are living such busy lives that we don’t see them as often as we would like. We watch too much TV or read, but we seldom talk or interact with others and we miss the most important and enjoyable parts of our past life. We don’t have the cognitive stimulation of conversation, the fun and laughter we once had with good friends and the love or the personal touch of having our spouse in the house.
So, are we all destined to a life of isolation and loneness as we age? According to the U. S. Census Bureau 11 million, or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone in 2010. Is your aging parent or grandparent in that situation, or soon to be? Let’s consider the issues and explore what options are available for aging adults that might change the paradigm of this aging “plague” for your family, friends and maybe yourself.
In recent years, towns and cities have created senior centers to provide social interaction, fitness classes, nutritional programs and educational events. What a great way for senior adults to get out of their home to exercise their minds and their bodies.
I have had the pleasure of connecting with and speaking on senior issues to many of the senior centers in our region in recent years and they are bee hives of activity. Seniors can now have a reason to get up in the morning to get healthy, make new friends, eat well and continue to learn. Check them out in your town or section of the city and see what they have to offer for yourself or your senior adult family and friends.
There is no reason today not to get out of the house with the many transportation services that are available for senior adults. Options are available at little or no cost that can help with medical and non-medical transportation needs. Organizations such as Easter Seals, Eldersource, Medical Motor Service or the Catholic Family Center are just a few options that you can find in a few minutes of searching.
If you’re a senior adult who still drives confidently and has a dependable car, why not volunteer to drive friends and neighbors when they need a ride? You will be helping others while enjoying the company of people your age who have a lot in common with you.
A Life of Purpose
Talk about a reason to get up in the morning, what is a better reason to get up than helping others? Volunteering at a local church, museum, school or senior center can provide an opportunity to get out of the house, find purpose, interact with others and get a bit of exercise in the process. Search on “not for profit organizations” in your region, ask your clergy or ask at the senior center if there is anything they need help with. There is nothing better for the mind and soul than helping others.
Love is Alive
After years of supporting senior adults in my career and personal life, I have seen many new friendships develop in later years and even a bit of love when the chemistry is right. But, society seems to wince at the thought of their own parent or grandparent finding new love later in life.
For some reason, our senior adult family members are not supposed to have a new love after their lifelong spouse passes. Without adequately thinking about how loneliness feels, younger family members may think that dating again means that their parent or grandparent is getting over the loss of their spouse too quickly or that they will get hurt if it doesn’t work out. I am sure there are a thousand reasons why family does not want their senior family members to date, but ultimately it is important that we are all adults and should be treated like one no matter what our age and life challenges are. Respect for the individual rights to pursue happiness that we all want to possess should hold true at any adult age.
A great snapshot on senior adult love can be experienced in the international award winning movie “The Age of Love” that I recently viewed as part of my company’s sponsorship of “Intergenerational Learning Lecture Series” at the College at Brockport. The movie was created by Rochester based movie maker Steven Loring who was inspired by his mother’s own experiences with loneliness and love in her 80s.
The film chronicles the personal stories of a group of single seniors who desire companionship and love. He then follows their experiences as they become part of a speed dating event for adults 70 and over. The film will make you laugh, cause you to “aww” a bit and maybe shed a tear. But ultimately the common thread among the participants in the dating event was that they all missed the friendship and personal touch that we all need in life when we seek a special companion or fall in love.
Independent Living for Seniors
I spoke in a previous column on the levels of senior living and care that are available today and one of those levels was Independent Living apartment communities. I bring that level up again as the value of Independent Living offers one of the best solutions for seniors to escape from isolation and loneliness that their current life has become. By nature, Independent Living apartments are a “community” that connects their residents with people who have much in common and share similar interests. Walk out of your Independent Living apartment and you will run into others who understand you and look forward to knowing you better.
Services included at Independent Living communities are all geared toward creating the lifestyle that allows and encourages their community members to interact, make friends and enjoy the life they deserve. Apartment housekeeping eliminates the burden of maintaining their apartment and allows seniors to get out of their apartment and participate in the active community. Outside of their apartment door they can enjoy meals in the community with their new friends or participate in one of the many activities that the community offers every day. The diversity of activities available allow senior adults to enjoy arts, hobbies, pursuits of passion and day trips, but most of all social interaction and a reason to get up in the morning and enjoy life.
What’s on Your Mind?
We would love to know what you would like discussed in future issues of Senior Lifestyles. Knowledge is power when it comes to creating the best lifestyle for seniors and their care providers, so let’s start a dialog on what matters to you. Feel free to contact me directly.
Jim Payne, Director of Marketing
Seniors’ Choice Communities
Jim Payne has provided consulting and held executive positions for companies offering senior living/care communities and services. Jim is a certified Eden Alternative Associate and has also held a three-year cabinet position with Leading Age New York, the premier association of senior living and care communities.
Seniors’ Choice Communities is a developer of senior living and care communities serving the needs of upstate New York by offering independent and assisted living communities with unique upscale amenities and services including the new Chateau at Heritage Square in Brockport.