Embraced by God…the hope of aging well

Aging Well

Aging Well

What does aging well look like?

My mother used to live in a retirement village in Florida. It’s graduated care so as people lose their ability to care for themselves they can move to another unit. It starts with a typical apartment and  then progresses to assisted living with an optional Alzheimer unit and a hospital-like unit as well.

I typically took my mom out to eat to give her a little variety in her life. But I also ate meals in her dining room to share her daily experience. That was enlightening. She shared a table with three other women, all in their eighties and nineties. They ate in silence only breaking it to comment on the quality of the food or service.

Aging Well Means Dealing With Loss

When I visited I tried to make small talk with the ladies but none of them heard well, thus, helping me understand the reason behind the silence. But as I listened closely to the few comments they made, there were deeper reasons for the silence.

I think they all struggled with an immense sense of loss. Loss of their husbands, loss of hearing, loss of their family coming to see them, loss of mobility, loss of something to look forward to each day, loss of mental abilities…the list is endless.  Whenever I would encourage them to  “have a good day” the typical response was, “I  don’t  think it will be” or something to that effect. Ouch. So sad.

I usually left with two strong feelings; one, intense sadness for the grief my mother and others like her endure every day in the face of their increasing losses. And two; the fear of having to face that same situation.

Fast forward forty years. How will I handle the loss?   If I allow myself to focus on the losses in my life I’ll be just like they were. I’ll despair. To sit at a table with people in silence and return to my room to take a nap and watch CNN is enough to make me want to scream.

Aging Well Means Focusing on What I Have

For me to age well I need to find what I DO have and dwell on that. What will I  have in my nineties when I’ve lost most everything? God. That might sound simple or cliché but it’s true. It’s what the Christian mystics have always told us. It’s what people like Viktor Frankl said who survived the Nazi death camps. It’s what  paraplegic’s like Joni Tada tell us who overcome their condition. To survive all encompassing losses God must become our all-in-all.  I must find my satisfaction in Him alone because some day He might be all that I have.

Aging Well Starts Now

But here’s the real kicker…I can’t wait until I’m ninety to develop this mindset. I need to bring this perspective with me before my mind starts to slip.  Finding joy simply in the presence of God needs to be a habit today because tomorrow might be too late. I might lose it all tomorrow and become a bitter man because I can only see the loss and nothing good about my life.

Now, this post is about the elderly. But it’s for you too. What are the losses that you are focusing on  today that rob you of your life? Right now you have the luxury of distracting yourself from your losses through work, entertainment, relationships, etc. What if all of those distractions were gone? What would you have left? How would you face your losses? And then, how might learning to find your fullness and satisfaction apart from your accomplishments, possessions and relationships help you in your life today? It’s worth considering. It might be the difference between joy and despair in days to come.

You might enjoy this article: Understanding Older Adult Grief

Question: What needs to change in order for you to age well?  Leave your comment below.


7 thoughts on “Embraced by God…the hope of aging well

  1. Jodi Giroux

    A great read Remy!! I’ve cooked in Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Homes and now the Senior Center in Glenwood City. Having the new start at the Senior Center has really opened my eyes to the stages elderly go through, and how much I enjoy cooking for them at the Senior Center. It was sad at Nursing Homes/Assisted Living Places because of the sadness and sometimes anger/frustrations they carried with them. We have people of all ages at the Senior Center and there is a lady there who just turned 95 the day after Valentine’s Day (and she was crowned Queen on Valentine’s Day!). She’s so active – gets around like there’s no tomorrow – it’s wonderful to see her walk in there everyday. Our site manager, 71, who is also very active, noted how she hoped she ages as well as our dear 95 year old is – I told her I didn’t think she had anything to worry about!
    I often think how I’m going to age and know I need to make many changes about myself if I’m going to be like Florence, the 95 year old spitfire, and I do know, through my willingness, my trust in God that it is not only possible but do-able! I’m so grateful I walked into Cedarbrook last January because without the Big Dream of that church by several of you I don’t know how I would have gotten through the last year(+) without the support and friendship of Cedarbrookers and yourself! Thanks and I am really looking forward to many more years to come!

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      In light of the many losses old people incur I’m even more impressed when I see someone who shines brightly. I saw a video recently of a 108 year old woman who went through the Nazi concentration camps. She said she was born optimistic and as long as she was with her son (as she was in the camps) she was happy. Hearing her story was very inspiring. Maybe I can track it down.

  2. Barbara Altman

    Remy, I love reading your posts! I belong to a Religious Science of Mind church. The teaching there is similar to this post! We become what we focus on. I’m wondering if the reason people face loss as we grow older is because we’ve seen previous generations face loss and the tendency is to worry about that for ourselves. We create what we think about. I too work in senior centers. I’ve chosen to have compassion for those who have lost their faculities, their hearing, and their loved ones.
    I deliberately focus on those who seem to have survived well, as my 104 year old aunt did. i find those who have aged the most gracefully are generally those who maintain a joyful attitude and who do not worry excessively,. My aunt Girlie (Alvina, Mary Margaret) did just that and was smiling right up to her death at age 104.
    Your mother is fortunate to have a devoted son,.Many do not have any visitors at all.Keep those posts coming. They are so enlightening.
    Barbara altman

  3. Dave J

    Great perspective, Remy! … I’ve been greatly helped in times of loss by a number of things, but the deep abiding knowledge of the presence of God has been my strong-hold! And, if I might say, often times that presence is felt most profoundly when I’m with His people! I’m sure that your Mom and her friends felt that when you were with them! Thanks for inspiring all of us to invest in others! … the return is out of this world!

  4. lisa

    This is a very wise piece of insight. Psalm 90:14 “Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!”

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