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Relying on Others as We Age

Relying on Others as We Age

We instinctively want to maintain independence and control over our lives. It takes a special source of strength—whether we call it grace, guts, or abundant common sense—to let go of them, even partially. If you have arrived at a point where circumstances and/or family members are suggesting that you do so, these ideas may help make the transition smoother.

Revise your mindset about decline

Most of us would argue strenuously against the idea that a person’s worth is measured by what he or she is able to do or accomplish. But for all our resistance to that idea intellectually, we can easily be infected with it when we survey our own declining abilities. A certain grieving over their loss is normal, but proper grieving does not become fixated on itself. Rather, it leads us toward peace: acceptance.

Resist the inclination to resist assistance

Reluctance to accept assistance is not always wise, and sometimes creates a danger to oneself and others. Unwillingness to face frailties does not hold them at bay or make them disappear. Again, someone’s worth does not wane if he or she can no longer perform tasks that used to be routine. When younger siblings, adult children, and/or nieces and nephews offer to take over a particular task, let them.

Discover and utilize available resources

Beyond your family and circle of friends, programs of assistance are available from your community. Your civic community will probably offer many. The simplest way to start is an internet search.

Maintain dignity while leaning on others

A sincere expression of thanks for someone’s assistance is far more dignified than a barrage of apologies for needing it. Try to see the humor in senior situations and share it with those who assist you. The 19th century American writer, Charles Baily Aldric, wrote words that could well be a guide in growing old: “To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent— that is to triumph over old age.”

Accept and explore new types of interdependence

None of us is totally independent. We live in various types of interdependence. Aging doesn’t change this. We don’t become merely receivers of others’ assistance (unless we choose to do so). We are still givers in new types of interdependence. Challenge yourself to find ways in which you can “make it go both ways.” What would make the people you lean on look forward to doing so and be glad that they did?

All the major faiths teach that we come from God and return to God. At the end of our time on earth, we surrender our life back to—and return to—the One who gave it. Accepting the losses of independence that come with aging can be seen as preliminary steps in that surrender and toward that meeting. Leaning on others as we do so is a natural effect of God’s plan that we are all in this together.

Excerpt from Not Going It Alone – Relying on Others as We Age from CareNotes

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