Tuesday, October 23, 2012

old and alone

An article titled "Aging alone: Planning can make those future years golden" (Denver Post) talks about the very real possibility that many of us will grow old alone without spouse or even kids nearby. The piece cites some action steps suggested by Nancy Orel of Bowling Green State University to  ensure comfortable golden years:

  • Assess your personal situation.
  • Consider and make a list of who to call in an emergency.
  • Get a good lawyer
  • Don't seclude yourself. Instead build a support system.
  • Keep exercising body and mind.
  • Consider what changes you may need to make to your house so that you can age in place.
  • Stay positive; look forward to something

I love the Orel quote that ends the article:
"Have dreams and goals and objectives for the future. ... Many people fall prey to 'I'm old, I'm old, I'm old.' No. If people assumed they were going to live the maximum life span of 122 years, they'd look differently at their 70s."

(Read all of : Aging, alone: Planning can make those future years golden)

Of course the life of a single person can be much warmer and richer than the above list would imply. In her book Embracing Your Second Calling Dale Hanson Bourke tells of a time she took her sons to visit their  widowed great-grandmother Hanson. When they walked into her nursing home room at the time they had said they'd arrive from out of state, she wasn't even there.

"Oh, she's probably at Crafts or a Bible Study," the nurses said. "She's a busy lady."

When Bourke and her boys returned an hour later, there was Grandma Hanson in her room with a half dozen other guests. There were college students, a middle-aged woman, and a young couple with their toddler, all of whom Grandma was delighted to introduce to her granddaughter and great-grandsons.

During the several days of her visit Bourke recounts:
"Grandma had many more visitors of all ages. They seemed to arrive at all times of the day, and not one of them seemed to be there because they were worried that my grandma was lonely. They came because they loved seeing her, were seeking her advice, or just wanted to spend some time with someone with twinkling blue eyes and a big smile"  Dale Hanson Bourke, Embracing Your Second Calling, pp. 193, 194.

Why was Grandma so popular? It had a lot to do with decisions she had made earlier in her life. When, as a young mom, she felt hopeless about her life married to an alcoholic, she decided to take the kids to church and came to know God in a way that changed her and her boys. Eventually her husband came around too. She  taught Sunday School for sixty years and had known many of her adult visitors when they were children. She had watched them grow, get married and have kids of their own, genuinely loved them, and was interested in their lives.

Bourke concludes:

"Our family can trace our spiritual roots back to this humble woman, and I like reminding my sons that one person's decisions can influence the next generation. We have so much, thanks to Grandma Hanson" Bourke, p. 196.

Bourke adds this bit of wisdom after telling her grandmother's story:

"A common principle of good management is, 'Begin with the end in mind.' The point is simply to know where you want to end up so you keep aiming in the right direction" Bourke p. 196.
If our goal is to end up surrounded by friends and family like Grandma Hanson was, we'd do well to cultivate some of those friendships now, so that when we are old and alone, we're not reduced to frantically casting about for a lawyer, someone to go for a walk with, or names for the list of who to contact in an emergency.

Do you know some elderly singles like Grandma Hanson? What makes them well-liked and popular?


Violet Nesdoly / poems

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4 comments:

Linda at teacherdance said...

It seems like a good article, & interesting to see what others say, Violet. My move is aiming toward some of those goals, but it isn't easy doing all the things to do. I would add that starting early is important too, when one has the energy & stamina. Thanks for the post.

violet said...

Thanks Linda! I'm thinking the cultivating of many relationships early is easier for some folks than others. Personally I find lots of interacting a challenge (basic introvertedness, I guess). You're certainly right about starting early when the energy and stamina are there.

Frankly, though, I can't imagine you being "old and alone." You will be forever young and your kind, thoughtful manner will ensure friendships all along the way. (As one of my friends would say, "That's my story and I'm sticking with it!")

Peter Black said...

Violet, this is a very helpful post -- great ideas!
Thanks.

My late mom came to mind as one who, during her 17-year widowhood, was active and forward-looking, and continued reaching out in friendship towards others.
~~+~~

violet said...

Peter, thank you! It's great to have a parent to look up to in this regard. Actually I can say the same thing about my mom... Let's hope it trickles down to us.

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