Aging. Getting old. What does that really mean?
Think back to when you were young – and think about what you hear from young people today. There is such a stigma in America about getting old. So let’s start with all the negatives benchmarks:
- Losing eyesight
- Losing hearing
- Pain and illness
- Inability to drive
- Inability to remember or think well
- End of sexual activity
- Financial instability
- Loneliness and depression
Of course, that doesn’t cover everything ever thought about as the problems of getting older, but it’s a good start. The good news is that according to a recent Pew Social Trend report, “older adults report experiencing negative aspects of aging at lower levels (often far lower) than younger adults report expecting to encounter them as they grow old.”
On that note, let’s consider all the benefits we have come to expect in our “golden years” of retirement or old age:
- Spending more time with family
- Traveling more for pleasure
- Having more time for hobbies,
- Doing volunteer work
- Starting a second career
The incidence of those things coming to fruition are about as less likely to be the experience of seniors today than anyone expected, too.
It seems our expectations don’t fit the reality of aging in either the negative or positive ways we thought they would.
So what are the trending perceptions of aging?
First off, when is it that someone becomes “old”? According to the Pew survey, respondents aged 18 to 29 believe the average person becomes old at age 60. Middle-aged respondents say it is closer to 70. And respondents ages 65 and above say old age is achieved around age 74.
So, generally, when anyone starts exhibiting some of those negative markers: memory loss, fatigue, changes in sight or hearing, the label of “old” starts coming into play to describe that person by young people. People over 30 don’t quite agree. Is that because they know that most of those changes are simply physiological changes that happen to the human body?
However, when it comes to some makers such as:
- Failing health.
- Inability to live independently,
- Inability to drive.
- Difficulty with mobility and stairs,
… there is general agreement across all ages that these are benchmarks that are accurate indicators of old age.
When do the aging feel “old”?
It seems that the older people get, the less they feel their chronological age. Ask anyone you know over the age of 65 or more how old they feel, and they are likely to tell you they don’t feel anywhere close to their actual number of years on earth. In fact, according to the survey, a full one-third of respondents ages 65 to 74 said they feel 10-19 years YOUNGER, and one-in-six say they feel at least 20 years younger than their actual age.
And, on the same positive note, “nearly half (45%) of adults ages 75 and older say their life has turned out better than they expected, while just 5% say it has turned out worse.”
Those results don’t seem consistent with the negative expectations at all, do they?
While many aging adults report experiencing the problems of aging from memory issues to illness or less activity, it may be a surprise that those problems only really begin to accelerate for most after around the age of 80. The largest issue they grapple with is the feeling they aren’t needed or are a burden to others, which explains the epidemic of loneliness and depression among the senior population.
What may be equally as surprising is that the majority of the respondents to the survey in that older age group say they have “made peace with their circumstances.” Does that mean they are happy with it?
What is the reality of aging?
While the positive expectations of aging are not quite being met by reality, the truth of the matter is that the majority (well over half) of people ages 65 and older are enjoying the benefits they were hoping to have in old age. By far, the greatest is that of spending more time with family – their children and grandchildren.
Some of the activities – volunteering, traveling, hobbies, or a second career – are coming to fruition for seniors, but not at the rate they expected.
I wonder if that is because it sounded more enticing as a concept but the reality is that they simply are tired of doing it all for everyone and just want to spend their time the way they want. Perhaps they are spending their time meeting with friends, enjoying clubs, or savoring some still, calm or quiet time.
People are living longer
It’s no secret that the population is trending toward the aged. And, it is not uncommon today to hear about people in their 90s or 100s and the things they are doing – including work, athletics, and volunteering. People today are staying more involved and active in life and community longer and longer.
Medical advances and technology are playing a part in that as well. Robots are not being developed to assist the aged in living more active and independent lives, both mentally and physically.
Whatever you think old age looks like, getting old is an individual matter.
Families and the community are doing more to make old age a productive and happy phase of life.
That’s why Keeping In Touch Solutions started offering the daily check-in service. Staying in contact is so important to keep aging adults engaged. It is our way to help and to prevent loneliness and depression from overtaking the health of seniors.
That one call, that one voice may be the only reason someone you care about has to raise their voice each day. Think about that.
Spend one day without talking to anyone – chances are that you would not use your voice at all that day, either. Now, think about spending every day in that silence and isolation.
A daily check-in call could be the lifeline, the joy you give someone that makes the biggest difference in their perception of what old age is like.
Contact me at 317-480-1038 today. Let’s make a difference together.
I’m Diana Beam, Founder of Keeping in Touch Solutions. It is my heartfelt desire for every person to live a happy and healthy life in the place they call home, no matter what their age. You can’t put a price on peace of mind for your parents and yourself. It’s priceless . . . and significant.
For that reason, the goal of every Keeping In Touch Solutions program is to provide a caring connection and service that both the elderly and their caregivers can rely on to make living that good life easier.