August 8, 2019
When my mom found out that I was writing counseling blogs, she said, “You need to write one for people who are getting older, like me! It’s tough getting old.” So this blog is for my mom, and all those like her who still feel young at heart, but realize that age is bringing some new challenges. Aging can bring new physical health issues, financial stress, an increased need for help, decreased independence, loneliness or isolation, and a variety of other vulnerabilities. Here are three suggestions for how to move into your later years with greater ease.
Make Peace with Your Past
Life brings an array of experiences, and at some point most people encounter some type of trauma, disappointment, and regret. It is not uncommon for these experiences to lay dormant in ones heart and mind for years. Life gets busy, emotional pain is difficult to look at, and false notions of weakness can prevent someone from processing past hurtful events. Developmental psychologist, Erik Erickson, suggests that when we move into our later years and encounter a sense of our mortality, an individual looks back over their life to determine if it was a success or failure. Was life meaningful? Did it hold purpose and achievement? Was there wisdom gained? He calls this stage, “integrity vs despair.” Looking back at life with disdain and unresolved regret is a crisis which can lead someone into depression and despair. As you begin to look towards your later years, it can be very helpful to meet with a counselor who can help you process through your life story, identify places of pain and regret and help you heal from these experiences so you can age with less burden from the past.
Share Your Story
Your life has significance and your story carries wisdom, joy, insight, and hope for the next generation. Find a meaningful way to share your story with others. This story telling act can bring new joy in your later life. Not only is it a gift, but it is a part of you that can carry on beyond your life. My grandmother would often tell me stories of her childhood and stories of my mom growing up. My other grandmother shared family recipes and told stories of the friends that gave her those recipes. My grandparents taught me how to fish, sew, and bake. They were quick to remind me how special, loved and beautiful I am. Your story and perspective can impact the next generation in substantial ways!
Aging is expensive, inconvenient, and can cause much stress. It’s not uncommon for those moving into their later years to avoid planning for the undesirable aspects of later life. This avoidance leads to increased stress and pressure on not only the aging person but often their entire family. Do you know who will take care of you if you got sick? What if you need around-the-clock care at some point? Do you have a will and is it up to date? What about your wishes for medical care, life support, who will make medical decisions on your behalf if needed? What are your plans for your home, funeral, and other expenses? These questions can feel overwhelming and scary, especially if you do not have answers. A counselor, lawyer, nurse, or social worker are all good resources to help you start to find answers to these questions. Avoid the temptation to avoid these questions.
In conclusion, the challenges and stressors related to aging can be navigated in such a way that don’t take away from the joys of moving into your later years. With some help from others, intentionality, and planning, you can contribute in meaningful ways, decrease your anxiety, and bless others in the years ahead. Do not miss out on the benefits of these years. I would love to be a resource and help to you as you navigate the challenges of moving into later life. Give me a call today!
Written by therapist Amie Bilson
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