By Laura Smith
Gifts of Getting Older
Life is beginning to get back to normal. Masks are generally off, we’re returning to social Events, and COVID, although still around, is not consuming all of our attention. People are starting to travel again and making plans for large gatherings.
Well, life is almost normal. I ordered some furniture last April. Some of it will be delivered next week, some at the end of July. Groceries and gas prices keep rising.
Shootings and wars penetrate our thoughts with unease. The heat and drought bring worry and concern. Stress, which is also a normal part of life, is becoming for many, a constant companion.
A bit of stress is good. It pushes us to act, gets us to plan, encourages us to relax. But frequent, unrelenting stress damages health. Multiple studies have linked stress, especially chronic stress, to poor health outcomes. Those who suffer from persistent stress age more quickly, than those with less stress. Stress has also been associated with increased risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia, and diabetes.
Daily hassles cause stress. But for seniors, one of the most significant predictors of stress is declining physical health. Of course, getting old usually includes aches and pains. But there are more serious health issues that frequently come along with age.
The World Health Organization lists the top problems of an aging population as:
- Cataracts and other vision problems
- Hearing loss
- Heart disease
- Cognitive decline
- Balance issues
- Pulmonary disease
Well, that’s a lot to be stressed about. But, on the other hand, old age has some notable advantages. For example:
- More time to enjoy reading, socializing, volunteering, gardening, or looking out the window.
- Stability of emotions. Older people are generally more content and less emotionally volatile than younger people.
- Fewer allergies and colds. Although aging decreases immune responses overall, colds and allergies usually become less frequent.
- Higher self-esteem. Upon reaching old age, most people feel a sense of living life the best they could. And few suffer the insecurities of youth.
- Better social skills come with age.
- Wisdom comes from living a long life and solving multiple problems along the way.
How can a senior use some of the advantages of aging to cope with the stress of life in general and deal with the more difficult health issues? Here are a few suggestions.
- Slow down. You have more time. Don’t try to do everything at once. Smell the roses.
- Reflect on your struggles and accomplishments. You managed to survive. Be proud of what you did and forgive yourself for your mistakes.
- Accept your present reality with grace. You are human and this is your journey.
- Use your social skills to reach out. Ask for help when you need it. You will be giving others meaning and purpose.
- Use your life’s accumulated wisdom to solve your current problems the best you can.
One of the most precious gifts of old age is not caring so much about what other people think. You don’t need to prepare gourmet food to entertain, a cup of tea or a glass of water suffices. Most importantly, a good conversation can be more than enough. Make friends, connect, and let others into your life. No one remembers how fashionable you are, they remember who you are.
Laura Smith is a clinical psychologist and member of Village in the Village (VIV). ViV’s mission is to help seniors stay in their Corrales homes while connecting with the community. For more information about the organization visit: VillageintheVillage.org or call 505-274-6206.