As I sit here and write this article, my 99 year old Grandfather is in hospital, and this time, it doesn't look good. "Oh, that doesn't mean that he won't rally again", the family say to each other, "after all, he has surprised us many times before". "No", says the hospital Physician, "this time he's not wearing out, he's worn out".
We are now at the pointy end of the stick. He is 99, and possibly (more than likely) won't make 100. For a lot of us, we assume that death will be sudden. It will be a car accident, terminal cancer, or a heart attack. We never think of actually just growing old, and our bodies just wearing out. It is almost as though we have a built in blind spot for our own future; we can imagine ourselves until about age 70, but then things start to get a bit hazy. We know that we will look "old", that we will probably even smell "old". We will have health issues, and will worry that the kids won't visit. Above all, we know that we shouldn't have a fall, because that will be the end of us.
Which leads me to point out that many of our Grandparents, and Parents, are leading a life of "non-living". We plan for so many areas of our lives, and yet when it comes to leading a fulfilling life in our twilight years, we leave it to chance. We rely on our family to provide much needed company and stimulation rather than seeking it out for ourselves. Is it a lack of confidence, or is just a lack of forethought? Or, sometimes, is it being told by our families that we shouldn't be doing things at our age?
My Grandfather has had a good life, but he has been lonely since my Grandmother died a few years back. On the other hand, my ex-husband's Grandmother is still going strong in her 90s, and when asked, she will say it was because she was widowed in her late 30s and so most of her life is outside of the home, rather than within it. I know this is true, because when I take my Daughter to visit I have to book in to make sure that it doesn't clash with her social calendar.
Aged care is not just about finding an "appropriate" facility when Mum gets too frail, and forcing the sale of the family home. It is about helping our elders, throughout their twilight years, to make decisions that will help them lead happy, and fulfilling lives. We should be encouraging more independence in thought, not just physical movement. We all have a different life expectancy. Our partners, our friends, our loved ones, they will either outlive us, or be outlived. Society needs to acknowledge this, and be more active in supporting each other through this life transition.
Planning ahead will help us for when we, ourselves, get there. Men's shed, the Red Hat Society, RSLs, all of these things are available to us as we age, and they are so important. Join clubs, together, or separate, maintain your interests outside of the home, and when things start to get physically tough, ask for help so that you too can continue to be the best (older) version of you.
*Authorised Representative of Madison Financial Group Ltd ABN 36 002 459 001 AFSL 246679
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