Those of you who subscribe to EWA may wonder at its absence. There’ s a reason: I fell and broke my right leg in two places, experienced the over–crowded health care facilities for 5 days and then (proud owner of two bulky, heavy fiberglass splints) moved into my assisted care unit in a 45 member AC community. Here I`ve been recovering and learning the difference between nursing and AC perspectives. My fractures have healed. Now I must see if I can learn to walk again. This is going to take all of my energy and thought. I cannot promise when or if I will be able to focus on composing EWA ideas, but will if I can.
Aging as Adulthood-Plus
Old age often is seen as adulthood-minus, a situation in which normal losses in appearance, capacity and resources create an overriding impression that agers become less than they were as adults. At first glance that seems logical. But when one looks at the situation in greater depth it possible to see that adults who survive into advanced aging while losing some capacities have also gained wisdom and skills they didn’t have as adults.
When the young move into adulthood, they gain new skills and build on previous knowledge and skills as they learn from living with adulthood. They also leave behind some parts of childhood that are no longer appropriate in adulthood. The same process holds true when we as adults move into the years of advanced aging. For both groups this type of learning tends to emerge quietly, day by day and experience by experience. It is noticed only when looking back over time.
When we adults moved into post-adulthood, we brought with us the capacities developed in adult years that then were available to use and build on as we moved ever more deeply into aging. The significant difference is that here we’ve had to manage daily living requirements and overlying conditions with:
- ongoing, normal age related changes (ARCs) to our capacities that are not only continually emerging and progressing (each in its own way)
- pairs or clusters of ARCs each in their current status aiding and abetting each other. E.g. vision, strength, proprioception each affecting the ARC of balance; loss of sense of smell (anosmia) and aging taste buds et al.
Have you ever felt as though daily living is like trying to walk on an unstable wavy, slack tight rope?
A concomitant outcome is that day-by-day and situation-by changing situation we’re having to learn how to fine-tune:
- our awareness of each presenting situation and then
- alterations in present strategies or creation of new ones to deal with them.
The consequences can range from maddening inconvenience to life-threatening risks But, through both failures and successes learning goes on.
It’s not unusual for youngsters and adults to acknowledge and take pride when they manage a new age-related achievement and for others to do so as well. Somehow this acknowledgement of achievement seems to be less prevalent for old folks. Perhaps it is because of its focus on tiny details and its constancy. Whatever the reason agers’ achievements in growth in knowledge and skill tend to be either not or less recognized. But recognized or not, post adulthood offers a remarkable, multidimensional Adulthood Plus.
From Can to Cannot to . . .?
There’s no question that we agers come into post-adulthood with a wide variety things we can do given the range of capabilities, knowledge and experience we’ve already developed. There’s also no question that each of us will experience normal age-related changes (ARCs), that alter our capacities even as requirements in daily living remain.
Some of us will develop one or more of the pathologies common to aging that not only impinge on our aging organs and thus our capacities, but add requirements to daily living as well. And then there are the traumas that can suddenly befall any of us and steal who- knows-what capacities. The result is that gradually (or sometime suddenly), things we could do almost without thinking become increasingly difficult, even risky. And still the requirements of daily living go on and on. Besides, there are things we just want to do. We’re still going and going as aging and slowed-down energizer bunnies.
It becomes increasingly obvious (even to the most stubborn, obtuse of us), that something has to change. We can:
- give up on some things and mourn the loss,
- get someone to do them for us if that’s possible,
- figure out ways to change the task to make it doable (split into smaller bits, adjust the timing to our “best’ time of day, or visualize different ways for doing them),
- consider a similar substitute, or even acceptably different that is within our current abilities.
At 100, I’ve used each of these approaches, but had the most pleasure and feeling of achievement when I found different ways to do a particular activity. (I’ll admit that I’ve been advantaged in remaining healthy, remaining on the main floor of my own home and having both family and a few friends who are comfortable in helping out.) But, it’s still left me with more than enough challenges. What is available is time and a great recliner in which to ponder.
There’s time to go to my ponder-chair, consider the current task that’s becoming difficult or risky, and start figuring out what’s still possible. (Note: it’s become necessary for me to write the ideas down as they occur to me because the short-term memory ARC causes them fly out of my head in a flash with no idea when or even whether they might return. (Note: Actually this is a personal example of can→cannot→adaptation adventure.
Each of us will have to figure out what’s possible at any given time. But, just thinking up and trying out an adaptive approach is both harmless and painless. So, what’s to lose? And like any skill, it gets easier with practice. Besides the ideas sometimes are really funny and goodness knows we can stand a bit more fun and sheer goofiness in our lives. These adaptive adventures are causing me to become even more widely adventurous. Still green and growing.
What is your experience with moving from cannot to. . .?