Having worked with the elderly for over 12 years with a focus on improving their quality of life and providing peace of mind for their loved ones, one thing is clear; the behaviors we practice and choices we make today have a definitive effect on the quality of life in our elder years.
Which behaviors? What choices? If I’m honest with myself, I have a pretty good idea what they are. They are the product of lifestyle decisions we have made over the course of our lives thus far. It’s the accumulation of all the things we have learned to do right but, invariably, try to do but quit and fail before any chance of change or we revolt and do the opposite.
Everything from eating until we are full instead of practicing healthy eating and portion size habits to trying every latest quick fix and sure fire cure in place of good old fashioned stick-to-it-ness.
It’s the cultures and habits passed down through our families that act more like worn out excuses than the carrying on of traditions. For me, it’s this unrealistic believe that if I wish it so hard enough and long enough it will happen. Problem is, life is too short and I’m running out of time. What about you?
So what’s the solution? As a friend of mine says, it’s about life style changes. They have to happen over time and they start with making subtle changes; choices and taking actions that are proactive, not reactive.
It can start with something simple such as skipping breakfast and bringing healthy snacks to work. It may be waking up a half hour earlier each day to give you more time to start your day instead of rushing into it, zero to 60 in a flash. Allowing yourself to take medications instead of choosing healthy practices that eliminate the need for them. (I have met many individuals that are 90 and older who are healthy and happy and not one of them take more than one medication.) Maybe it’s changing a doctor while you can who prescribes medications most often as solutions. Choosing the stairs over the elevator or escalator or maybe watching less TV and going for a walk after dinner.
Our quality of life is more than our health and our weight. Finances, surroundings and people have an effect also. If I don’t live within my means or plan for future needs such as long term care costs I may be forced to give up control of my independence to someone else. If I don’t want injuries and other bodily changes to have adverse effects as I age, I need to be thinking about safety. That includes my home and vehicle. Taking care of important decisions ahead of time can greatly increase your chances of having the quality of life you want as you age. Decisions like where you’ll live, who will help you do things or make decisions that honor your wishes. Simple tools like a living will and medical power of attorney can make the difference.
What about the people we surround ourselves with? Do they enhance our quality of life or do they bring negativity and add to your stress. Life is too short. Ever notice how the older you get the faster it seems to go?
Because I've yet to meet the one person who raises their hand high and exclaims, “me, me,me, I want to go to a nursing home when I get older,” and because I have met many elders over 80 who live active, enjoyable, quality lives; I understand the quality of our life in our elder years is a product of the decisions we make about ourselves right now. Do you?
So it’s a New Year. And traditionally, it’s a time when we resort to resolutions to bring about change in our lives. Why not make this year the year that you make ‘Lifestyle’ changes that will last and have the "quality of life" in your elder years at heart. The fact is, you just may live long enough to find out what the choices you make today, do to you later in life.