Aging: Learning to Cope with Change

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As published in the Reading Eagle, 50 Plus, on September 13, 2020

Change is all around us. From the time we are young, we have constant change in our lives. It is the one constant we all have in our lives. Today we may have control over the change and tomorrow we may not. We can’t live without change so why is it so hard to except especially as we age?
When we are young, we embrace the changes. We look forward to driving at 16, getting married, and buying our first home while embracing what we learn from each transition, focusing on the positives these situations create in our lives. We quickly forget about the sleepless nights we spent with our children, when we celebrate their first steps and other wonderful milestone which follow.
The first part of our lives we focus on the future, full of hope, beauty and prosperity. As we approach the second phase of live, we lose focus and direction. Why is that? We know at some point we all die. We can’t determine our destiny anymore at age 75, then at 20. So why not create a plan to age gracefully? A plan which includes continuing to live to the fullest of your potential.
As we age, the changes don’t slow down but we alter how we manage it. We fight against the things we should be embracing and celebrating. Doing this could be challenging but just like everything else we have experienced in our lives; planning helps to prepare you. It provides us with options which otherwise may not be available to you.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for this:
Figure out what is important to you. Be present in where your life is right now. Complete an assessment of your life. What goals to you want to accomplish? What limitations do you see? Etc. Ask yourself important questions about how you see yourself both now and in the future. Then share this with your family and or doctor. See if they view your assessment as an accurate depiction of where you are. Being honest with yourself.
Celebrate the positives. There will be many positives in your life. Continue to celebrate everyday as a gift. I had a client once tell me she starts every day with a moment laying in her bed thinking about what will make this day a great day. She surprised her foot doctor when she arrived at her appointment when she shared that on this day, he was the thing she was grateful for. He gave her a puzzled look and she responded that he makes her laugh and feel important. She looks forward to these appointments when she once dreaded them. She decided to find the beauty in a situation most of us would not have given a second thought too. What a great idea.
Confidence instead of fear. Be confident in your research and decision-making process. Take some time to look back over the process to reassess your wishes as needed. Be open to change when it is necessary. Don’t let fear drive you to change course mid-stream. Communicate your wishes to others so when fear crepes in and starts to overwhelm you, you have support. Fear can lead to anxiety and depression when left unaddressed.
Assess your level of control. Be mindful that some situations you may have no control over. You can plan all you want, but sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Laura had a plan until her husband passed unexpectedly. Instantly she found herself in the middle of many decisions she had never thought of previously. All the plans they made where based on her husband providing care for her, she was lost. Making decisions based on the good old days won’t help you. Focus on where you are now and create situations where you can feel empowered by the choices you have. It is easy to get stuck in a difficult situation or pattern so stay the course. Look to your support system, be resilient. Don’t blame others or focus on changing what is unchangeable. Instead see how you can work to navigate thru this time.
Be open to what you do not see. You visit your daughter and she suggested that perhaps you should consider not driving anymore. You laugh and say you are fine. A month later a friend offers to drive you to get groceries, so you don’t need to drive. A week later your doctor mentions giving up your driver’s license. When these suggestions start to appear, take a minute to think about why this keeps coming up in conversation. You don’t know what you don’t know. If people are making suggestions to you think about why this might be happening. Remember people don’t want to have these difficult conversations with you so if someone is bringing it up, you should consider what they are saying. You have surrounded yourself by people who mean the most to you, value their input. Sometimes we don’t see what is right in front of us.
Change. It is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either. Celebrate the positives in every day. Assess your current situation. Enjoy the memories of the good old days while realizing you are not there anymore. Today’s changes are different than yesterdays and tomorrow will hold something new as well.