How to Improve the Quality of Your Life in Old Age
If you want to have the best possible quality of life in your old age, you will have to learn to adapt.
If you try, as so many do, to ignore the fact that you don't sleep as well, have more pain, must deal with certain disabilities or don't think as clearly as you did when young, your older years are not going to be easy.
In fact, by ignoring your needs, you might end your life prematurely!
If it wasn't so pitiful, it would almost be laughable to watch older people spend fortunes on skin creams and face lifts only to realize later that while their faces might look young, their bodies still are old!
It's also sad to hear elderly people saying that they refuse to use walkers because they don't want to look old, and then watch them suffer the consequences of falling.
Growing old is not fun, but it can be made more bearable with early planning and the willingness to accept and deal effectively with the realities that the majority of people face as they age.
People age at different rates.
Many don't think about the aging process.
Some take the attitude that they are going to stay young by doing things such as exercising, eating right and having a variety of surgical procedures that make them look young.
While these may seem to be great ideas, the truth is that people who feel this way are kidding themselves and as a result can do themselves a great deal of physical and emotional harm.
For example, exercising is a good idea, but those who think they can do this activity the same way as when they were in their twenties find that they become plagued with a variety of injuries, some of which lead to serious health problems.
We hear stories on TV all the time of people in their 80's who do miraculous things. They inspire other senior citizens, but many fail to understand that these individuals
- represent a very small minority of the elderly,
- sacrifice a great deal to be able to do those things,
- are able to afford personal trainers, expensive exercise equipment and nutritionists and
- are lucky enough to enjoy better health than most people their age.
The average person simply grows old despite his desire to retain his youth, so it is very important for people to plan for this eventuality.
Doing this makes the aging process much easier to deal with psychologically and also creates safer and healthier living situations.
Aging Makes Life More Difficult
Life is never easy, but as people age it definitely becomes more difficult.
They lose their sense of balance, don't hear and see as well, are slower to respond, lose a good deal of their former energy and develop a variety of social, health and financial problems.
Their social lives dwindle because they
- no longer have as many people in their lives as in prior years,
- develop communication problems and
- become physically or psychologically uncomfortable when doing many of the things they used to enjoy.
As reality sets in, they also become fearful about what will happen to them as the years go by.
They used to think that nothing would change, but for many just about everything changes. This makes daily living increasingly difficult.
It's a slow process that sneaks up on people until they suddenly realize that they've got big problems.
However, if they planned for their older years ahead of time and are willing to use the tools that will help them to adapt better to them, the quality of their lives can greatly improve.
Many older people find that caring for their vehicles has become increasingly difficult, and driving them can be dangerous due to decreased vision, hearing and response time issues.
Some choose partially resolve their problems by having someone else wash, wax and repair their cars, but this does not fix the driving issues.
To ignore this one is to ask for problems, so the only way to adapt is for people to sell their cars and find other ways of getting around.
These can include but are not limited to
- asking relatives, friends and neighbors to drive them places or pick things up for them at stores,
- using car services such as Uber and Lyft,
- Using delivery services that are offered by some pharmacies and supermarkets,
- taking public transportation where available and,
- if possible, using transportation services offered by nearby hospitals.
While doing these things is somewhat limiting, they still allow the elderly to take care of their personal and business affairs without having to worry about having accidents or caring for their automobiles.
It may cost a bit to pay for transportation services, but in the long run it can be much less costly than owning a car.
Another option is to move into assisted living facilities that provide transportation and other services.
In the future self driving vehicles may resolve driving issues, but until they are perfected, people will have to count on the above options for transportation if they wish to remain safe and still be able to get where they need to go.
In order to adapt to decreased energy and other health problems, many older people find themselves
- cutting back on the foods they eat and prepare,
- spending less time cooking,
- eating out more often and
- entertaining less.
Some people even stop cooking altogether! (I knew one 80 year old woman who actually threw her stove and oven away after her husband died!)
Many have dental problems that make eating difficult. A dentist I know recently told me that the average person has lost all of his teeth by the time he reaches the age of 75!
To adapt, they need to eat soft, easily digestible foods.
No matter their issues, today's senior citizens have many options for obtaining healthy, edible and nutritious foods. For example
- many grocery stores and pharmacies now deliver,
- they can order meals from Meals on Wheels that are previously cooked and taken right to their homes,
- people can purchase other types of prepared foods and have them mailed to them or
- they can move into assisted living facilities where meals are provided daily.
Doing these things can go a long way towards helping seniors to eat nutritious foods regularly and avoid many of the issues that might otherwise keep them from eating well.
Dressing can become difficult and sometimes dangerous, especially for individuals who have back, hip and foot problems.
The way to deal with these and similar problems is to opt for clothing that is easy to put on and wear such as:
- slip on tops that have no buttons or zippers,
- pants and shorts that have elastic waist bands and wide legs and
- slip on shoes with low heels that are made of soft materials, have rubber soles good arch support and fit properly.
Wearing these types of items helps people to avoid falls and puts less strain on their bodies.
They may not be as attractive as the clothes people wore in their younger years, but they are much more comfortable and help people to avoid accidents.
Where people end up living in their golden years can make a huge difference in their safety and comfort.
Those who plan ahead can live in single story dwellings that are located close to doctors, hospitals and shopping.
By doing things to their homes such as
- eliminating carpets,
- getting rid of throw rugs,
- making sure all rooms have good lighting and'
- putting grab bars in showers and tubs,
they greatly increase their safety.
Housecleaning is a thankless job that can cause real and immediate dangers to the elderly.
Health problems and age can make this job difficult as well as dangerous so those who wish to remain in their homes need to hire people to do this work for them.
They can also adapt by moving into a senior community where cleaning is included in the services offered by the community.
This is not a pleasant choice, but unless people want to move in with their children, it may be the only one available.
One of the biggest mistakes older people make is to isolate themselves.
Doing this leads to unhappiness and depression and can cause serious declines in health.
While staying active may be difficult for some, people who find ways to do so given their limitations find that life is much better for them because activity gives structure to life.
People need a reason to get up in the morning, so becoming involved via activities they are physically and mentally able to do is extremely important for the overall well being of older individuals.
One of the best ways to do this is to spend time at a senior center where the elderly can work with others to produce crafts projects, share their views on books they have read and play various games.
In most cases, all people need is the will to become involved.
The benefits they receive for doing so can go a long way towards creating happiness and contentment in their lives.
When to Start Planning
The inability to do certain things sneaks up on people, and it arrives in stages and at different ages.
- Those in their 50’s start to notice mild declines.
- By the time they reach their mid sixties, most have already experienced one or more serious health conditions.
- At 70 they become somewhat forgetful and start having problems taking care of their personal affairs.
- By the time they’re in their early eighties, many already find themselves struggling to maintain or already living in senior citizen facilities.
The secret to having a better quality of life in old age is to plan well and plan early for what may come and then be willing to adapt as needed.
Many problems start to rear their ugly heads when people are in their fifties, so it is during those years that they should consider
- moving to smaller, single story living facilities,
- making their homes senior friendly,
- making their homes safer,
- seeing health care professionals regularly,
- learning how to prepare simpler, healthy meals and
- finding out what resources will be available to help them as they age.
Face the Truth
My husband and I are in our mid 70’s.
Having done many of the things on this list early on, my husband and I can tell you that the quality of our lives is much better than those of many people our age who believed that they could beat the aging cycle.
You can't. The best you can do is to plan ahead and count on adapting.
If you don't, your quality of life in your older years will not be what you would have liked.
If you are an older person, do you see any of your issues in this article?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle