For a lot of us, for quite a while now, here’s how we thought about life: Live, live, live…DIE!
Well, OK, perhaps we injected a bit more detail into that line of thought, but on a galactic scale, that’s pretty close.
And if most of us were offered the prospect of live, live, live then DIE! Suddenly! BOOM! Gone! Most of us would probably go along with it, an understandable degree of reluctance notwithstanding.
The “problem” for many of us is that many of us won’t have that simple a proposition to deal with. Many of us will have to deal with the space in-between live, live, live and die — that “gray area” (no pun intended) known as “long-term care.” Don’t let that phrase get you sideways, because it means exactly what it sounds like it means: Somebody needs some level of “care” (meaning, they can’t do everything for themselves anytime and any way they choose to) long-term — They’re not going to get “better,” then rush right back to snowboarding on Kilimanjaro.
That’s the “problem,” especially when we didn’t have children upon whom we can gleefully thrust the burden of ourselves, or a cooperative extended family or a bank account that requires its own bank — Oops. Now what?
There is no simple or pat answer, and the whole darned country (and, soon, much of the world) is going to be trying to figure out the same thing. What I asked you to do last week was to think about what’s important to you. What are the activities, pursuits, undertakings (OK, maybe not “undertakings”), rituals, habits, values of your life that are genuinely important to you? More than just this chair in this room in this place on this street in this zip code?
And if you’re feeling somewhat contrary, you could also give a modicum of thought to what doesn’t particularly ring your metaphorical bell, like:
*I HATE yardwork!
*I DETEST having to fix little things around the house!
*I wish I didn’t have to go downstairs to do the laundry!
*I wish I didn’t have to own, maintain or drive a car! But I SURE want to go where I want, when I want!
*I like to cook, but I loathe cooking for one.
*I hate being alone!
*I hate being around people, 24/7!
You get it.
Some folks in some places put together a “Golden Girls” kind of scenario, where two, three or four throw in together to spread the load and compensate for who-can’t-do-what — or doesn’t want to.
Some take it to more of a “communal” level, which doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to grow your hair down to your waist, eat rutabagas and chant.
Some put their heads together and buy places that are right next door — a “share-the-load” arrangement.
Some communities organize “volunteer banks,” where you get “points” for helping someone else, which you can then “cash in” for getting some help.
I know of groups of folks who threw-in together and bought an entire apartment house!
Some folks just focus on making their current place as friendly and accessible and low-maintenance as possible, then focus on their money and their health.
Some make old friends their durable powers of attorney.
Get the picture? There is NO picture! We have to make our own.
So, let’s say you’ve made your own. Is it perfect? I doubt it. Does it sound like you’ll live happily ever after, no matter what might befall you? Of course not — what part of your life ever did?
Right; but you adjusted. So did I.
Without getting too philosophical or too spiritual, here’s what I think the “goal” is: To be reasonably happy — reasonably content — most of the time; after that, you have to fill in the rest.
So do I.
And if you need some ideas for solving particular “problems,” shoot me an email and we’ll talk. But you have to create the picture.
I’m sorry. I know that none of this was an “answer,” but that’s because there is no answer. We are “Boldly going where no one has gone before.”
Live long, and prosper.
Mark Harvey is the director of Senior Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.