Let me be frank!
As we get old or older, life does not slow down. It only means that there is more living to do in a shorter period of time. So let us get moving and enjoy the beauty of old age.
There are certain conditions that accompany old age. Physically there is some deterioration of all our senses. Our eyesight, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling (touching) are no longer functioning at one hundred per cent.
They all do not change at the same rate nor at the same time, it is different for everyone. So it is possible for a 90-year-old adult to string a needle without the use of glasses, while someone at age 60 struggles to do so with glasses. We wear glasses to help our eyesight and we wear hearing aids to enhance our hearing.
However most of the senses remain functional as the loss of a percentage of the function may not seriously compromise one’s activities. Certainly we are talking about age-related problems. Most people can accept the physical decline of the senses, but there are some who refuse to listen to their body and act accordingly. It is an accepted fact that the body speaks to us and if we do not listen and act, there may be consequences.
I must have mentioned in previous articles two personal stories where my body spoke to me. I was a very good catcher and runner on the cricket field. I even got a trophy for taking the most catches one year. The last year I played I remember quite well. I went for a catch and with outstretched hands waiting for the falling ball, surprisingly it fell a few feet in front of me. Shame, shame, shame, how could you miss such an easy catch?
On another occasion, I hit the ball way down to the boundary line for an easy two runs. We made the first run and then called for the second. I was run-out reaching just halfway between the wickets.
Again, shame, shame, shame, easy runs, lazy feet.
My body was telling me that my eye-hand coordination was not what it used to be, and in the second example my legs could not carry out the command from my brain. The interpretation was it is time to put away the bat, the pads and the gloves, and to vicariously get my cricket thrills from the stadium as a spectator and from watching games on the T. V.
While a younger person can easily lift 20lbs of groceries or run a distance of 100 yards in 10 seconds, as one gets old, he/she won’t be able to do either anymore. So ask the grocer to put the groceries in two 10 lbs bags and you will be able to carry just 10 lbs at separate times.
Also, very soon the older athlete will discover that he/she will still be at the starting box while younger athletes are hitting the finishing tape.
The problem here is that the right physical strength and performance of anyone enhances his/her ego; and not being able to continue to perform up to par affects the proud ego.
So one needs an ego transference i.e. any adjustment of the ego to accommodate the reduced physical strength.
The ego and the body must be in sync in order to have body peace and to avoid pains and other problems when the ego and the body are not working in harmony. So listen and obey your body.
One must come to grips that the body one had twenty years ago is not the same as the one today. So, adjust to this new reality.
There are two common questions I have been asked since I retired over four years ago. One is “Do you miss your job?”. A quick and emphatic NO!
The second is, “Have you gone back to the campus? Yes, once to the print shop to get a document printed, then I visited the department I worked in for 40 years. No more interest in teaching, no interest in visiting.
We often see retirees visiting the campus at least once a week and continue and attend college functions. Good for some, but not for me!
After working in a job for many years, you become defined by your job. Once retired, the ego is seriously challenged. Who am I without a job? Sometimes, when a retiree struggles with that question, they try to hold onto the identity the job gave them.
An extreme case would be the retiree who continues to dress for work in the morning, grabs the briefcase and leaves the house, often ending up in the park or long hours in the coffee shop.
The job ego is best replaced by the older person becoming involved in a relatively new activity, which need not only be started after retirement, but possibly long before that.
One must find a new challenge or a long-lived passion to bring equal satisfaction. Maybe something you always wanted to do (sing, paint, socialize, garden, bake, sew or take nature walks).
The sooner in life we look for those activities, the better. So although you may no longer be a paid employee, one can still be productive and creative in a different way. Charitable and voluntary work are often options and opportunities that present that make one feel good about themselves and about their life’s purpose.
Life is a cycle. Adolescents and young adults are often referred to as the “Me” generation. That is to say that the ego comes first. He or she is looking out for him or herself and no one else. As one reaches middle adulthood, the narcissistic self begins to change to accommodate children and others. Jobs and promotions and financial independence begin to play a less pivotal role in one’s life.
As one gets older and children become less dependent, and the satisfaction that your children can take care of your grand-children, the urgency of independence will decrease and the ego preoccupation with one’s own growth will be transcended to making life more secure, meaningful and gratifying for those who will go on after one dies.
So ego-preoccupation must give way to ego transcendence.
If body preoccupation is replaced by body transcendence, Work-role preoccupation is replaced by Ego Differentiation, Ego Preoccupation is replaced by Ego Transcendence then the older adult would have achieved Ego Integrity and continued self-respectability.
Yes, Ego Integrity requires that older adults move beyond their bodies, their life’s work and their separate identities.
Unfortunately older adults are often maltreated and exploited by the younger generation. They are discriminated against even at times by the medical profession.
Still late adulthood should be admired. Most of them acquire a significant late life ability to expertly process emotional information which they use to regulate their own emotion. Also, one must not forget that although involvement in religion is fairly stable throughout adulthood, it takes on greater meaning and is linked to positive outcomes in late adulthood.
Late adult spirituality may advance to new high levels. Church, particularly in African-American and African-Canadian communities, serves as a centre of education, health, social welfare and political activism aimed at improving life conditions.
African American and African Canadian elders effectively use religion as a powerful resource for social support beyond the family and for the inner strength to withstand daily stresses and physical impairments.
Presently the fastest growing age group is the over 85 adults. So be assured that there is still a lot of living and celebrating to do.
LIGHTEN UP. WE’RE ALL ON A JOURNEY (Part 2)
So let’s get moving and enjoy the beauty of old age
Let me be frank!