Aging Gray-cefully fills my thoughts a lot. Could be because I am getting older and feebler every day; slight exaggeration…. perhaps, but nevertheless it is where I am in life. What does it mean to age “Gray-cefully”? I wish I knew. I live in a community which is primarily seniors, a.k.a. you need to be 55 or older to own a home or live in our community. Therefore, I get to observe the actions of those who are living out their “Golden Years” up close and personal. I observe their behaviors as they stand in line at the grocery store or at the pharmacy. I observe their behaviors as they wait in the doctor’s office. I have had the privilege of doing church where the average age of the congregation was 68 years and older; worshiping in song, praying and eating together. I have had the privilege of working for those 55 and older for several years; some are very patient, some very demanding. Some have good days, some bad days; some laugh and some cry; some care and some don’t; not much different from those who are younger. Yet the aging process appears to take on a life of its own. It makes people fearful, easily frustrated, grumpy, impatient, mad at the world, and more.
One of the greatest joys of living and working within this community is getting to know people’s stories. Getting to hear their stories of growing up as youngsters experiencing life without the many advantages we now have technologically; hearing of their service to our country and what it meant to be at war fighting for our freedoms. Learning of the trials and joys of career life as they made their way in the world; preparing their children for life ahead as adults in a world where values appear to change as quickly as one changes clothes. I have had the privilege of gaining insight and understanding of the fears they face in the Autumn and Winter of their lives.
Finding a senior citizen without some fear or worry regarding the future is rare. With the rising costs of medical care many worry about how they will pay for their meds. With the rising cost of food, utilities, gasoline, well, basically everything except income, the fear of having to depend on their children or others is never very far from their thoughts. There is a sense of betrayal as their bodies no longer function as they once did. The fear of a debilitating illness or falls; a tiny trip along a sidewalk curb or on a carpet could land them in the hospital facing surgery, costly rehabilitation and long recovery time. Lack of energy, diminishing sight, inability to do what they used to do all make life more challenging. Soon they find themselves behind closed doors with nary a visitor or phone call; life seemingly taking a course all its own without them. They find themselves on the sidelines; often forgotten.
Getting to know many seniors, having the chance to understand, at least in part, the aging process has been a privilege. I would say the number 1 fear in aging is losing their independence and the fear of being alone with no one to care at the end of life runs a very close 2nd. The privilege to come alongside others has been enlightening, yet at the same time added to my own fears.
I have discovered 2 things; our relationship with God appears to play a huge part in how we age. Those with a strong faith and a confidence in knowing they will spend eternity with a heavenly father who loves them seem to age more gracefully than those who don’t. Also, those who have strong family relationships also seem to age with grace. Notice I didn’t say families, but those with strong family relationships. Perhaps relationship is the key! Having a relationship with God, having a relationship with family and a relationship with others, may be the root to aging gracefully.
I’m still trying to discover what aging “Gray-cefully” will look like for me. I suspect being full of fear for my future will make aging with grace difficult. How does one come to terms with the natural every day fear/worry/concerns which come with the aging process? Now that is a good question.
Until next time,