Pleasure is not a word that comes to mind when one thinks of aging, particularly advanced aging. That’s why can be so important to plan for it, especially as our capacities and resources keep changing. But most of us have plenty of resources available to do it.
We can take a first enjoyable step of remembering, reliving and examining a pleasure we once enjoyed.
- What was it that made it so enjoyable?
- What specific tasks/activities were involved?
- Which of our capacities were involved?
- What’s the status of those capacities now?
- What environmental factors are unchanged? Changed?
This thinking process doesn’t need to be formal, just doing what’s possible and enjoying it while we’re doing it.
I have cherished memories of the food my Swedish mother made for us. I recall the sights, smells and tastes of her cardamom buns, orange rye bread, kåldolmar (cabbage rolls). The comradery as we cooked. Now she’s no longer here. For a time it was possible to carry on her traditions until I too changed. My senses of smell and taste are disappearing, my hand strength, balance and stamina too. Still it’s been possible to find ways to adapt. E.g. I still can have the pleasures of mother’s Swedish baking, by:
using a smaller recipe (to manage the doughs with weakened hands).
setting the ingredients in place one day, doing the mixing and baking the next morning and allowing a bit of recovery time before cleanup (to manage stamina issues)
being more heavy-handed with the seasoning (for my missing taste buds)
finding resting places for hot bread pans where I can set the hot pan down (as I realign my nose and toes) between the oven the cooling place that is a full 360°away from the oven. I had a near fall and dropped one hot loaf before figuring out a solution.
Somehow the warmth of the baking process heightens the aroma and the tastes and textures still come through as I nibble. That pleasure is still there.
Sharing “gramma’s buns” with the children and grandchildren so that they still can have pleasant memories of baking with me and enjoy eating them also offers pleasure and a legacy.
A different challenge to eating- pleasure arose with the need to increase potassium (K+) in my diet. Meat, an earlier source of potassium, now felt like chewing cardboard, so K+ had to come from other sources. Cruciferous veggies are great sources, but loading meals with those on a daily basis would not offer me eating pleasure.
I enjoy soups, so I devised a concentrated soup base of well-seasoned/herbed, multiple cruciferous veggies, lentils. These: cooked, blended until smooth and saved in the freezer, then mixed with non-fat milk offer me a satisfying, tasty, attractive, green dish with a nice mouth feel. (Cheese, chicken, salmon cooked carrots, celery etc., can be added.) It provides me K+, calcium, fiber, protein and fairly low calories. This ongoing pleasant outcome gave rise to purposefully thinking about finding pleasures with other things throughout the day.
And, the ongoing work with pleasure-planning, led to another insight. One also has to be as active in the enjoying phase as one is in the planning! Mindful enjoyment’s the name of the game. Sensing, sensing, sensing with whatever sensing and cognitive capacities are available.
One no longer just eats. One notices the jewel red of the beets that were pickled to make them tasty, the smooth mouth feel of the veggie soup. One notices how a bright sweater or scarf makes a gray day feel better, how the friendly warmth of flames in the fireplace chase away a bleak night. A pleasant memory can merely come to mind, but it can also be re-experienced with greater pleasure. It’s a mindset, an attitude.
Initial activities in seeking pleasure in whatever the day brings has led to engaging with daily living this way. It feels positive, controlling, and that’s a pleasure in itself. So far it’s been risk-free and has not felt the least bit decadent.
But of course, you’d need to decide if this is all foolishness or worth testing for yourself.