Senior Matters: Growing old gracefully
One in five people who live in Routt County is 60 or older. According to a Feb. 14 article written by Aldo Svaldi in the Denver Post and Steamboat Today, “Steamboat Springs, Edwards and Breckenridge ranked first, third and fourth, respectively, for the biggest gains in their senior populations this decade. … Steamboat Springs, including surrounding Routt County, saw a nearly 80-percent surge in its senior population in the period studied, edging out The Villages, a community northwest of Orlando, Florida, built specifically for seniors.”
With such an increase and with the trend forecasted to continue, it’s important that Routt County be proactive with embracing seniors’ needs. For this reason, Routt County Council on Aging will coordinate a monthly column Steamboat Pilot & Today has graciously agreed to run. We thank the paper for their support of our work and our county’s seniors.
For the first column, I wanted to share an excellent viewpoint piece written by Ellyn Myller. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Growing Old Gracefully
It might be strange that a fifty-something year old has been looking for a decade for the answer to the following question: “How do you grow old gracefully?” I recently attended a memorial service of a woman who left a cherished legacy, a legacy much of which came about during her later years of life. A speaker at the service said, “If you want to be a sweet old lady, you have to start now.” So, I have compiled a list of things I’ve either been told or have observed in my current quest to grow old gracefully.
• Laugh: Helen is a dear ninety-four-year-old friend of mine. Her words of wisdom for me were, “Find your sense of humor!” I think this is something that comes with age for many of us, and it can be thoughtfully applied. Even Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “Laughter is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person strength.” I’m going out strong.
• Embrace change: Growing older means change to varying degrees for everyone — changes in vision, hearing, hair color, creaking joints, memory-fog and independence limitations. How can these challenges become opportunities? I believe the little things can help. Right now, I’m sporting colorful cheaters from the dollar store, but wearing classy glasses in the future will help me to celebrate my diminished vision. When I need to let go of my driver’s license, I’ll find a young person to pick me up and take me to the store. Then, I’ll take them out for coffee or ice cream and have a chat. That will be a win/win for both of us. Finding positive replacements that fit the current circumstances will turn the downers into delights.
• A.I.E. – Attitude is everything: Everyone has difficult valleys in life. Remembering that life won’t be like this forever and counting the blessings along the way is proven to change the way our brains work. What am I learning during this painful process and how can this experience help me be a more compassionate, empathetic human? I’m not going to be done learning or striving to make a difference even when I’m 80.
• Let go of stuff: “You can’t take it with you.” I’m in a stage of life where my accumulation is still being used, but I recognize the benefit of regular purging. I feel a lift when I choose to live light. There is great value in passing on things that will be a blessing to others who don’t have or can’t afford things that are unused in my closets and cupboards.
• Eat healthy and exercise: I’m so inspired by every senior I see in exercise class Monday mornings when I come into the Community Center. I know they are maintaining their strength and balance. I won’t forget the example they are setting.
• Care network: I’m committed to finding or creating a community around me who I can call on for help. I’m going to trust that this network of friends and family are always trying to help me and that they care about me. I also will, in a nice but firm way, communicate to them how I wish to maintain my independence and dignity as an older person.
• Give back, get joy: I’ve seen how much older people must give up as they enter the golden years, and I have seen how much they give by volunteering, mentoring young people, telling their story and sharing their wisdom. Focusing on others in positive ways brings joy and supports all the ways to grow old gracefully.
Meg Tully and Ellyn Myller work for seniors at the Routt County Council on Aging.
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