The Unprepared Senior

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

The trouble is, time won’t stop.  And who can guess what lies ahead?  You look around and assess what you see among the people you know.  You periodically consider your own health and finances and how your parents or other relatives handled aging.  Sometimes you are forced to face circumstances that shape your choices – again, finances and health figure hugely.

Preparation May Be Forced Upon Us

On our wonderful street in Toronto, ten years ago neighbours had a series of meetings where we talked about various models of sharing property in some fashion that would allow us to remain a community and help each other into agedness.  In the end, it was pretty well decided that the best answer was perhaps to stay in our homes on the street and follow the example of our older neighbours, mostly immigrants to  Canada in the 60’s, who keep an eye daily on how each other is doing.  We’d be each other’s support group and hire medical resources as needed.  I think we were somewhat relieved to arrive at that conclusion because it didn’t require fresh reserves of energy (to build or design anew) and we could remain among friends, Olive-based AND beyond.  And our grown children would be likely to enjoy coming back to visit on Olive.

And then the first crack in the vision showed up.  A differential in finances.  Dave and I moved away, after 33 years there, to a street where we are strangers because we can live here within our means, which we could not do indefinitely in Toronto.  There’s less stress on my heart, which suddenly entered as another issue; I’ve discovered that lots of rest and quiet is balm to the body.

A Shift in Paradigm

I’ve given ourselves as examples of one Shift factor – a couple of circumstances bringing new realities to light.  Oops.  We’re really getting older.  The world tipped a little, with retirement and health factors becoming concrete and spurring a few decisions.  The elderly were as much my compatriots as my 20-years younger friends.

One of my dear (younger) friends back in Toronto stopped enjoying birthdays a decade ago.  When I visited older friends in their nursing homes, she didn’t want to hear about their lives because, she said, aging is a dismal process to not be dwelt upon.  She for sure didn’t want to identify with the infirmities and the loss of mastery of the body.  I didn’t blame her for I was loving these very senior friends but not yet identifying with them.

Now I see that it’s the luck of the draw.  No one knows what will befall us as we move toward the 80’s and 90’s.  And we all know sprightly, intelligent, funny, creative, much-older people.  It’s just that we can’t determine that we’ll have the means to be one of those.

Is Any Preparation Possible?

A couple of things that we can maybe manage.  Be sure to have a doctor who believes in active pain control.  “Stay ahead of the pain” – great mantra.  Do at least one thing that one enjoys a lot, every day.  Check bitterness anytime it rears its head and knock it out with remembering anything that one has ever learned about love as the beating heart of the universe.  (A lovely little quick read for anyone not uncomfortable with religious non-judgmental thinking is Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived).  Don’t expect the worst; enjoy things that aren’t necessarily the best.

I would add “find someone else to help”, but there are times when that just comes to you, like a gift.  A chance to lend a hand that comes naturally, from the heart.  Otherwise, there are indeed volunteering opportunities, as much a chance to get out among people as to exercise kindness.

Living Arrangements?

Chance, unexpected opportunities, a bit of planning (getting one’s name down on a list or two for desirable affordable seniors’ living facilities – luckily they take your name up to 10 years ahead of when you expect to need a spot)- there’s a great variety of options.  Unfortunately, few are available if you suddenly need them.  So there may be short periods of being under-supported or meanly housed.

Maybe learn how to ask friends for help?  If it’s only going to be short-term, you’re not becoming a burden.

Not a Walk in the Park

This has been a gentle ramble among thoughts about aging.  I know it’s not that simple.  The saying, “Old age isn’t for sissies” isn’t just cute.  It’s too true.  Self-pity doesn’t work.  I read an e-mail this week from a 99-year old friend who is preparing for her big party in June – a very lovable person – and had to laugh.  She’s wonderful!  I last e-mailed her in August so she’s a few months late answering.   And what a treat that she did.  Her life is her gift.  That’s what growing old can do for you!



Filed under A Bigger Circle, Rosemary's entries, Uncategorized

5 responses to “The Unprepared Senior

  1. Juanita Rathbun

    Hi Rosemary
    This is a very important topic for me as I celebrated my 80th birthday a few years ago. I stopped counting then because I think 80 is a nice round number and those who want to know my age can figure it out themselves without help from me. I live in a very comfortable townhouse on the ground floor where I have access to a small patio where I can place a couple of planters of flowers which I can see from my living room chair. Even my laundry is on the main floor, no stairs and I have a garage where I can access my car sheltered from the weather.
    However, in the spirit of being prepared for the future, I have been touring some of the newer retirement residences both in St. Catharines and Fonthill so that I could be in a position to choose the most appropriate one for me if my health required a move. One never knows what might precipitate a hasty move, and I want to be prepared for such an eventuality. In the meantime, I try to enjoy each day as it arrives enjoying music and discussion groups that stimulate my mind and my senses. Being connected to the Internet is also a marvellous way to connect to the world around me as so many things are happening not only in our own country but in countries around the world.

  2. I suppose it’s to late for me to ‘go cougar’ and marry a rich younger man?
    Sigh, well one can dream.
    And I do….still dream.


    Dreaming I hope is what leaves us all last and lasts us all longest.

  4. And Again /
    Dear Rosemary / everyone

    – I feel I ought to apologise as my attention to this blog has been a lot less than it could have been, and will now probably decline further: because
    I NOW HAVE MY OWN SITE: which will feature a number of different kinds of content / Selfish Artist / Scots / Celt Autobiographical Whinings with Feature Pages on the / State of Our Cancer / and / So On and So Forth: (mebbe I’ll become the Duke of So Forth): so it will have some of the features of an artist’s site and some of the features of a political blog with News Commentaries (the 1st post so far): Photo + Bon Mot of the day: that kinda stuff. Its-a gonna be-a fun-eh?

    PS to Rosemary / I’m not sure what the policy is about advertising each others’ activities: I would appreciate it if you would allow this post but will understand the necessity for editorial control if you do not. Best Wishes either way


  5. Hi, Rosemary. Liked your choice of topic. I used to feel younger, but have been feeling my age (68) the last couple of years. Financially, we can stay put, it’s health permitting. Would be worried about our pensions and money except I have high hopes for gold as an investment that will not nosedive and will probably soar. May end up richer than I have ever been, with little I want to spend it on. 🙂 Will try to visit more often. This one was prompted by a “notification” from Facebook. Brian

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