As a gerontologist, I have to walk the talk.

A year as a long-term care ombudsman changed my perspective on aging.  Working with the bedridden, wheelchair-bound or hopelessly alone, made me wonder how far back in time would these people have to go to make changes to course-correct their end-of-life experience?   My hope is that it’s middle-age and not childhood.

Middle-aged Americans typically go through everyday life much as always, expecting that lifestyle to carry them through the aging process.   Few people want to plan for old age or even discuss it.  Typical responses:

  • I don’t expect to live long – I don’t want to get old.
  • I plan to just keel over one day or die in my sleep.
  • My family doesn’t have longevity so I don’t have to worry about it.
  • Live hard, die young.

Granted, my experience is skewed because I meet more people who need help than those who don’t.  But what I’ve seen is enough to motivate me to make an effort.

Life for today but plan for tomorrow

The truth is most people have longer morbidity and more disability than they expected.  “Seven of the top 10 leading causes of death are the result of chronic diseases,” according to the CDC.  Delaying chronic disease seems to be the best method to increase years of health and independence.

We’re inundated with advice on how to live a healthier life but just look around at Walmart, or even more illustrative, your local casino.  People aren’t doing much to be healthy.

So as I enter the last year in my fifties, I intend to see what I can do to start my third age in the best health possible for me.  This will be my online journal to keep me on track in search of self-discipline and a place to share what I’ve found.

 

 

Experiences to bank

I was sitting next to a 98-year-old woman (I would’ve guessed 88) who was telling me about her life.  “My experiences are all I have left,” she said. “I can’t do any hobbies anymore.”   Having just moved into a small assisted living home, she wondered what she was going to do with her remaining days.  She loves to read but needs new glasses.  Her hearing is impaired, making conversation difficult, but not impossible.  Another resident was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie and she wasn’t interested so she turned to me.

“I took my grandchildren on a hot air balloon ride in Napa,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “We had to be there at 5 a.m. and they will never forget it.  I wanted them to have a good memory of me.”

“My advice is to have experiences to remember later when you can’t do anything,” she continued. “Do things now, don’t wait.”