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The Realities of Aging: How We Can Help

Updated: Jun 19

Most of us begin life believing we are immortal and assuming that nothing bad will happen to us. As we grow old and encounter the physical land mental hallmarks of aging, the reality of our mortality and the concept of finality creeps into our thoughts. Time marches on; there is no slowing life. This describes the emotional state of most senior citizens today.

Growing old is difficult, especially for those elderly seniors over 75 years of age. Parents and educators teach children how to be firemen, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and construction workers, but no one teaches us how to be 70, 80, 90 or 100 years old. No one teaches us how to deal with wrinkles, failing eyesight, hearing impairment, deteriorating mobility, or memory loss, and certainly no one prepares us to deal with life-threatening diseases.

The onslaught of the marks of aging are not just physically painful, but they also take a toll on a person’s mental health, chipping away at their self-worth. Many elderly citizens who are having difficulty coping with aging, need guidance from us—their family, friends, and caregivers. Conventional wisdom has also turned its head for our golden agers. They live in a youth-obsessed nation where aging is out and being young is in. Young celebrities like Kim Kardashian are revered, while the elderly are put out to pasture. Many older people are ashamed or embarrassed to display marks of aging in our forever young society because they fear being labeled frail and useless.

Wrinkles are ugly, wheelchairs represent helplessness, and hearing aids reflect weakness. The cultural belief that aging equals decline and poor health has created self-fulfilling prophecies as seniors surrender to infirmities and sink into depression, believing their usefulness is gone.

How to Help

Old age is a sensitive phase in life; elderly people need care and comfort to lead a peaceful life without worries and anxiety. More importantly, they need to possess the wherewithal and mental capacity to cope with quality of life decline due to aging. The greatest challenge for seniors is to break old habits formed when they were young and learn new habits that best fit their senior citizen lives. As young adults, work and raising a family were top priorities. But as seniors in their twilight years, the priority list has dwindled, which leaves many feeling empty and unsettled.

How an older person prepares for and copes with aging determines their quality of life, both physically and emotionally. If you are a family member or a caregiver of an elderly person, you have an opportunity to help them navigate growing old.

If a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or Parkinson’s disease, are they emotionally prepared to battle and endure? If their knees fail, are they emotionally prepared to use a walker? Do they have the confidence to wear a hearing aid in public? Are they mentally prepared to say good-bye to their youthful appearance forever? How to help an elderly loved one is difficult, especially for older adults already set in their ways.

Elderly people desire a life with good health, dignity, economic independence and finally a peaceful death. They long for care, love, and affection. Understanding their needs and concerns will ensure their emotional health. Lending emotional support to the elderly keeps them jovial, which is inevitably the ideal way to live a healthy life. But the best you can do for them is to give them the tools to help themselves deal with the hallmarks of aging.

Not surprisingly, golden agers are dealing with a three-headed monster as they age—physical decline, mental decline, and societal displacement. Fortunately, there are ways to deal effectively with our aging challenges. That is the first of a series of blog articles with we call Positive Aging for Golden Agers where we will address ways to help seniors age gracefully. Stay tuned.

David Lereah

President, United We Age

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