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Becoming ‘old enough’

Life: It’s all about the journey and the experiences we have along the way. Yet it recently occurred to me that we have a problem with the “experiences” part of the journey. From the moment we are born, the term old enough hangs over our lives. We are always striving to become “old enough” for one thing or another.

Think about it: Our parents brim with anticipation for the days when we will become old enough to take our first steps, say our first words, and go to school. We feel excited when we become old enough to be a teenager, open our first bank account, have our first date, and turn “Sweet 16” (not necessarily in that order). The euphoria is short-lived, however. We are not yet old enough to take a driving test, vote, work at a full-time job, acquire a credit card, or buy a car. (For my part, I looked forward to becoming old enough to see restricted movies, access the liquor store, and go to the bar with my friends without looking over my shoulder. And, yes, there are plenty of stories of my misspent youth.) 

Ages 18, 19, 20 and then 21 all come and go with as much fanfare as we decide to give them. We can go to college or university or travel the world. In fact, we start to take on adult responsibilities—moving out of the parental home, getting married, having a family, moving up the ladder at work, buying a first house, paying taxes. Some of us begin putting money aside for “retirement.” Unfortunately, many of us think we will wait until we become “older” to start saving for this life stage (little do we realize how quickly the years go by). 

Then, to our surprise, we start talking about the “good old days.” Friends move away, loved ones pass on, and life throws proverbial curve balls, but now we are told we’re becoming “old enough” to deal with these issues and to live with the consequences. Perhaps we even think that some challenges will simply disappear when we are old enough to retire. After all, we will have time to spend with our families, travel, take care of our health, and live our delayed dreams. 

And then the one thing happens for which many of us find ourselves ill-prepared: We are finally “old enough.” Our journey through life nears its end. What now? 

How many of us have kept a tangible or subconscious “bucket list” throughout life of what we wanted to do and pursued it—say, travel and education, parenthood and love? Is hospice on that list? For many of us, it is not. That is why the July/August 2017 issue of the Journal on Active Aging® featured an article on hospice care and end-of-life issues by geriatric nurse Kimberly Baumgarten, with longtime Journal contributor Dr. Mary E. Sanders. 

In this article, Baumgarten urges readers, their families and their residents to discuss hospice and “crossroads” at the end of life. She explains that, to her, these issues are part of active aging. 

“Hospice places the individual at the center of decision-making and supports quality of life for the whole person,” states the article. “Active aging also focuses on individuals taking charge of their experiences, engaging fully with aging, and making choices that determine life’s direction and quality. That includes end-of-life care, starting with questions about what really matters—‘What do I really want and need?’”

By adding hospice to our bucket list, we can choose to make our end-of-life experiences as vital and personally meaningful as the life we have lived, and support others in making their choices. That’s a decision we are all old enough to make. 

Colin Milner, CEO
International Council on Active Aging®

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Note: This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from research. The view expressed here are not necessarily those of the ICAA, we encourage you to make your own health and business decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified professional.

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