Childhood dreams of growing old gracefully did not include all the aches, pains, flabbiness, and crankiness that I now experience. In my younger years, I saw it as a time when all my problems would be over and life would be sweet.
There is nothing like aging to burst that bubble! The more I see and experience, the more I realize that it isn't a time of sitting back and letting others take care of everything. I've encountered those who think, "Now it's my turn. My kids will have to do everything for me. I've earned my right to have my own way."
This can be very disturbing to the kids. They are probably totally maxed out with their own jobs, children, health issues, and responsibilities. Parents who assume that their grown children must drop everything to cater to them are not being responsible people. As a Christian, nowhere am I told that it is now fine to rest and let others do everything for me.
It is the responsibility of every senior adult to think ahead and plan accordingly. Psalm 92:14 (NASB) says, "They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green." God doesn't intend for a Christian to quit doing His will just because a certain birthday has been reached.
While it may seem right to be a part of the extended family's home, this is not always practical. Many grown children live far away, making it impossible for them to do everything.
Some areas to think about as you grow older are:
- How does your home fit your needs as you age? (Is it too big and too much work for you to do?)
- How much can you realistically plan ahead? (Wonderful literature about the different aspects of aging is available in many hospitals or libraries.)
- Take care of the legalities and talk to your children about your ideas for your own care. If unable to care for yourself, what are your alternatives? Make decisions on a will, burial or cremation, power of attorney, and many other fine details. Far from being morbid, this can be a wonderful help to your family when the time comes.
- Pay ahead for cemetery or cremation fees. (My mother has even written her own obituary).
- Don't allow others to force you into something that you really don't want, but listen to their ideas, too (e.g., assisted living, in-house care, nursing home, wheelchair accessible apartment, someone to do yard work and regular house maintenance).
- Let your children know what medications you take and keep a list of them available.
- Build a supportive group of people around yourself. If your family members work and cannot help when you are ill, then make sure there is a "circle of friends" who are willing to help with food and care.
- Stay active in church. You may feel that you deserve to retire from church work, and perhaps you cannot do as much physically as you used to be able to do. But you still need the fellowship, and you can always pray (an often underappreciated ministry).
- Get out when possible. (I live in a retirement community that provides numerous activities, including buses to take one to the store, doctor, or other places.)
The years may not always be so golden, but you can do a lot to make them easier for yourself and your family members--if you age helpfully.