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Adventures in Aging: Seven deadly pitfalls in elderhood

Carole Carson
Special to The Union
Carole Carson
photo by Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

“Friends and wine — the older, the better.” But as you and I know, it ain’t necessarily so.

Some of us become more like bitter vinegar than a mellow aged wine. When that happens, over time such a senior probably fell into one of these pitfalls.

Stopped Learning, Changing, and Having a Purpose

This senior forgets how much fun it is to learn something new. Perspectives and opinions are rigidly unchanging. New skills necessary to keep up with technology are dismissed. The need to contribute — even in a small way — is ignored.

She refuses to read, stay current with the news, explore a new hobby, acquire a new skill, play a new game, or take up a new hobby, like sewing or learning a language. She finds no raison d’être, no purpose to her existence.

Ignored the Care and Needs of Their Physical Body

Maybe this senior drinks too much. Or won’t stop smoking. Or refuses to exercise except for trips to the dining table. Preventative vaccine shots are refused. Symptoms that might indicate a problem when treated early are ignored until the point of no return. He bemoans his balding head and declining prowess.

She constantly berates her body when compared to her younger self. She weighs more, hates her gray hair, and despairs about the wrinkles. To regain her former self-image, she goes on severe, potentially dangerous, fad diets.

Accepted Isolation as Inevitable

This senior doesn’t bother to stay in touch and makes no effort to reach out to others or make new friends. Because all youth are dismissed as hopelessly flawed, he fails to engage with young people. (Incidentally, I find their different perspectives refreshing. Besides, they help me keep my computer and other technology gadgets working. As a bonus, they teach me how to use them.)

Ignored Reality and the Inevitably of Passing Time

This senior operates as if he will be forever young, denying the impact of aging. This translates into a failure to plan for the time when he will need help with living or whatever financial implications of the future require.

She may seek to offset the impact of aging on her body with ongoing cosmetic surgeries. She may lie about her age or try to pass herself off as her daughter’s sister.

Nursed Resentments from the Past

He can recite every grievance he ever suffered starting with preschool. He is furious about how his help of others was never reciprocated. He’s disappointed that his career choices fizzled, yet the past is where he lives.

She is bitter about children who grew up and disappointed her. She may still be angry about her unhappy childhood or how her parents favored a sibling.

(I can’t resist pointing out that both of these seniors are drinking poison, hoping it will make their enemies sick.)

Became a Depressing Bore

He gives himself permission to be self-centered, grumpy, cranky, and stubborn — a regular killjoy. He feels others should put his needs first because of his age.

She uses every opportunity to give family and neighbors a full organ recital about whichever part of her body is failing now. She stops contributing to others and insists that the gifts come only to her.

Failed to Express Gratitude

He views the years from age 60 on as wasted ones best spent in a rocking chair. It is never enough for him simply to be. He has nothing to look forward to and takes what is given for granted without giving thanks, not even the gift of life.

Buried in her losses, which she likes to complain about, this senior lacks the perspective to celebrate her accomplishments or the accomplishments of people around her. She takes little pleasure in the sound of a bird singing, the dappled morning sunlight, or a delightful call from a friend checking up on her.

Look around. You may recognize some of the seniors I’ve described here. Your goals and mine in elderhood are to seek to be more alive than ever, to have the curiosity of a 5 year old and the confidence of a teenager, to be thankful for every lesson and learning experience, to value ourselves and to let our friends and family know they are valued, and to experience the joy in simply being alive.

And most importantly, to stay mindful and avoid these traps and pitfalls!

Carole Carson, Nevada City, is an author, former AARP website contributor, and leader of the 1994 Nevada County Meltdown. Contact: carolecarson41@gmail.com


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