Aging in 2015

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

The terms ‘Aging’ and ‘Seniors’ are hot topics right now due to the fact that soon there will be more in the 65+ demographic than the youth demographic. Is society prepared worldwide?  No. As a case manager who works with older adults, I see first-hand the struggles that many seniors face.

Many more services and innovations are needed to assist older adults while they age. For those that choose to remain at home for as long as possible, services must be brought to the home environment; this is the ‘age in place’ concept.

Getting older is tough, but should not be viewed as adverse or deleterious. It could involve reliance on others for IADL’s (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living), e.g. food preparation, running errands, driving, doctor visits, managing health conditions and so on, or ADLs (Activities of Daily Living): mobility, bathing, even dressing oneself, eating, intellectual issues, vision and hearing challenges, and of course socialization becomes scant. Managing everyday life becomes a challenge. In today’s society, often the children or close relatives don’t live in the same town. Thus, a senior is left to depend on anyone who would provide help, e.g. neighbors, private or public organizations and friends.

As a society, aging or getting older is an area that needs a modern look that describes reality. Aging is a combination of the good and the ability to apply it to what can still be accomplished independently. Seniors need to keep busy doing what they enjoy and live day by day.

For individuals who are older, it is an adjustment; life slows down, and accepting the changes both physically and mentally, and seeking and accepting assistance are not easy decisions. Keep that in mind with each interaction with a senior. Suggest, listen, and wait to see what they are willing to accept. Keep offering and suggesting and eventually they may accept, but it requires patience.

For some, their funds run low each month and they live with daily pain, to say nothing of dwindling energy. As one senior said; “I do not fear death, but do fear living each month ahead with a thinning wallet and growing pain.”

On the other side of all this, for those who are healthy, active, and have the financial means, getting older is viewed as a time to enjoy life, to pursue leisure, and hobbies.

Four months ago while camping I injured my right shoulder by sitting in a friends lounge chair. When I went to recline in it, the bar at the bottom got caught in the rocks and dirt and my body went a different direction than my arm!

I am much more limited in what I typically do. I cannot do fast or sudden movements. I cannot lift heavy items like a heavy bag of groceries or a full laundry basket. I cannot clean the snow off the roof of the car. I must use my left arm for many things even though I am right-handed.

I have been forced to s-l-o-w down. I ask for help. I have had to re-learn certain things. I take breaks and rest more. I am still quite young, but it turns out this is not an age thing and is common for women in their 30’s-40’s. I now have a better understanding of what clients tell me regarding pain levels and a change in their mobility, and dexterity. I get it!

I have a choice; I can continue to be frustrated or I can accept the limitations and adjust. I have chosen to accept the challenge and adjust. I do physiotherapy and I consult with an orthopedic. I do the necessary exercises that are assigned even if they hurt a bit because in the long term it is meant to improve my mobility. I follow the advice of the orthopedic and in February will receive a distension injection to hopefully ‘break’ the frozen shoulder joint/provide a certain level of cushioning to regain mobility.

I use myself as the example as if I feel this way, imagine how a senior feels? To witness one’s own aging process which can include loss of mobility, hearing, vision, dexterity, memory issues, balance and more. Professionals and individuals who interact with seniors need to keep all of this in mind. Acceptance of limitations or change is not easy; no matter the age. As a professional this is an opportunity for discussion and suggestion(s) to best assist the individual. Chose your words wisely, listen, and problem-solve as a team.