By Linda Gilman, MS, LPC, Gerontology Specialist
Miss Lily was sitting in her exercise class and turned to Sophie to ask her a question, “Sophie, do you feel old? You don’t look old, but I’m curious.”
Sophie stops lifting her leg and gives Miss Lily a long look. “Well, I’ll tell you what, Miss Lily. Every morning for the past 85 years, I’ve been opening my eyes to see a new day. I go into the bathroom to wash up and look into that mirror hanging on my wall. I see a plain looking woman with lots of lines, a rather large nose, her own teeth and a sparkle in her eye. Do I feel old…that depends on what you think old is.”
This month, the discussion is on Aging Well. What is the definition of aging? It’s the process of growing old. And, what does old mean? 1. Having lived a long time; no longer young. 2. Having the characteristics or showing the signs of aging. You know that saying, “you’re only as old as you feel.” How do you know if you are aging well? Let’s look at Miss Lily and Sophie, and find out what their thoughts are about this important subject.
“Miss Lily, are you going to come with me today? I’m going to hear this speaker on ten warning signs of getting old.” Miss Lily says, “Sophie, I don’t need to hear somebody telling me what signs I need to look for if I’m getting old. I could probably stand up and talk about those signs, and people would find me more interesting! Let me tell you about what Marilyn has been doing for me to make me feel better than ever.”
Marilyn is Miss Lily’s caregiver, and has been making sure that Miss Lily makes the most of each day. Some of the items on Marilyn’s list that she prepares meals from include: energy drinks made from mangos, blueberries, and cranberries; dark green vegetables like kale, collard greens, and spinach; and yogurt. Sophie explains, “Marilyn makes me this green drink every morning. When I first tasted it, I thought I was going to…. you know, r-e-g-u-r-g-i-t-a-t-e… Marilyn fixed it up and in no time, I was drinking the stuff. I have more energy than I can remember, Sophie.”
“I also take lots of classes. You know… the one where we looked up to the sun and waved our arms at it (Tai Chi)? I also started a writing class where I get to write down my story; where I came from and what I want people to know about me. Kind of like a biography, Sophie. I never did write well, but the teacher says it’s not how we write that’s important, but what we write about. I love writing about myself. I could even write anything I want, as long as it is appropriate.”
Sophie thought about this conversation for a moment and then said, “Miss Lily, you are so smart. I think that’s why I like you so much. You are always learning something new, and you are nice enough to share with others.” Miss Lily also told Sophie about Happy Hour every Friday in her Senior Community, “Oftentimes, there is someone who comes in to entertain; singers, piano players, and the like. One guy comes in and plays old time songs… maybe not so old time for some. Can you imagine us old folks doing YMCA in our seats?? It is a gag, Sophie. And, it’s fun to watch the kids (60 year olds) dance… Sophie, you are right, you’re only as old as you feel, and today, I feel like a kid… at least 65.”
Obviously, people don’t age the same, do they? Medical and mental challenges plague seniors all the time. With the support of good medical personnel, family, and outside care-giving resources, older people can age better than ever before. If you find yourself not being able to answer the question, “Am I aging well?” then you need to get some direction. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling, talk to friends to see what they are doing, and get more involved in community programs that educate. I know two people who could offer support, resources, and answers to your questions.
Be Well, Miss Lily
Marilyn Woelke MAG, MSW and Linda Gilman MSG, LPC of Geri-Ed Services are available to talk to you. They are both Gerontology Specialists and Certified Counselors. Marilyn: 309-281-6462 and Linda: 309-373-2400.
Photo credit: SelectStock/iStock