“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Proverb When people think of planning for their later years, they think about saving for retirement. This is great, but it is not enough. Planting a tree requires thinking about water, soil and sun. People have more diverse needs. They need food, clothing, shelter, and health care. But they also need to fill their psychological needs. Some need something to do, a purpose in being, a goal. This may be harder to plan for, but it is important none the less.
A large part of our success in aging well has to do with how we cope with changes in our bodies. All bodies change over time. There are amazing people who are able to continue using the same skills well into older adulthood. There are also some incredible people who develop or hone new skills as they age. For most people, however, we need to be mindful that our changing abilities can affect our self-esteem. Those who pride themselves on their intellect may face an easier time with sore knees than memory loss, and those that were very skilled with their hands might have an easier time with cataracts than arthritis. But none of us are immune to the frustrations of changing bodies. Very often, we have to remind ourselves, if not society in general, of our own worth, even as we lose some of our functioning.
Two well-known social psychologists named Alter and Oppenheimer did an experiment in which they had groups of people take a quick, three-question intelligence test called the CRT. This particular test is rigged so that the most obvious answer is wrong. Eighty-three percent of people miss at least one question. However, the researchers found when they made the test harder, people did better. They did this by writing the test in a font that was difficult to read. The conclusion the researchers drew from the experiment is that making people slow down their reading made them make fewer mistakes. In this case, less speed made for more processing time, which in turn led to more careful answers.
Let’s face it, moving is hard for anyone. For an elder, especially one leaving their family home, moving involves extraordinary courage, a financial commitment, and a lot of hard work. Not everyone gets to plan their move, but great things happen when they are able to be part of the process. Here are a few of my favorite stories about the people who have done this.
I think often of what it means to age gracefully. Of the hundreds of elders I have met, I am most awed by those who make aging well seem so easy. One of my role models is Janice. Janice puts herself together every day. Her outfit is matched and her hair is coiffed. She is the quintessential lady. She doesn't have an unkind word for anyone. She is upbeat and forward-thinking. She is sharp as a tack and attentive and engaging in conversation. This month she turns 105 years old.
Robert Frost once wrote a poem called “Mending Wall” in which the property line between neighbors brings them together and yet keeps them apart. This seeming contradiction is seen every day in elder housing. The best neighbors come together in times of need, but are aware of their own limits, or boundaries in the relationship.
Over the summer, I play softball with a bunch of other women in my town. I am older than and not as nimble as my younger teammates. Even if I were, I’ve never been particularly athletic. But, they let me play and I enjoy my time on the field. Granted, I am always a bit worried that I am going to mess up, but even when I do, someone is there to back me up and we keep playing. I am part of a team. That is what teammates do.
This table summarizes the last several articles about each of the towns in Worcester County and how they compare on elder friendly characteristics. The higher the ranking, the more elder friendly the town was considered to be in each of the areas studied. The areas included the extent of medical facilities available in the town, how affordable the town was, how extensive the transportation options were in the town and how well funded the senior center was.
By Marianne Delorey This article is the last in a series about the towns in Central Massachusetts and how they can attract and retain more...
By Marianne Delorey This article is a part of a series comparing central Massachusetts cities and towns on factors making them the best and worst...