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Helping you navigate through the second half of life with clarity, vision and purpose

Conscious Aging

© 2015 Brenda Dineen | Reprinting permission with credit to author

‘To live the life one has imagined:  that is the sum and purpose of the whole second half of life.‘-James Hollis, author of “Finding Meaning In The Second Half Of Life “

Graceful aging.  Healthy aging.  Growing younger. Audacious aging.  Anti-aging. ’60 is the new 40’. Aging backwards. (I just heard this one recently.) Conscious aging. Conscious eldering.

Are you feeling bombarded or bewildered by all the different messages you are getting about aging?  Are you confused or trying to sort out where you are at in your own life journey?

We are living in an age where we continually get messages about being youthful. We aren’t young anymore. We ask ourselves, “Is life all downhill from here?”

Also, we are now in a time when life expectancy is much longer. We have the technology and resources to have a healthier and longer life as we move into our elder years. Our generation has the privilege of not only living longer but having many more opportunities than our parents did.  We are the first generation who will be aging consciously.

We each experience the aging process individually.  Perhaps what we can all agree on is this:  We are all changing.  I met with a friend for lunch one day and she said,  “Take a good look at me now.  I will have a few more wrinkles in three years.”

Most people in the second half of life are noticing changes in their body and their health.  I am not as resilient as I was 10 or 20 years ago.  I don’t even like to stay out late at night. When I was in my 30s I could go stay up late at a Saturday night party and get up on Sunday and carry on with lots of energy.  Not any more.

This winter I had continual knee pain, followed by back pain.  I have gotten treatment from my chiropractor but I wasn’t able to exercise for a few months.  Now I find myself stiff and sore.  I’ve discovered that yoga classes are very helpful in keeping me flexible both in body and mind. One thing we all need is to keep moving. 

Aging is not just a physical process of changes in your body and your health. You are likely facing additional challenges:  family issues, decisions about retirement and changing perspectives in life.

What is hard for many people to be aware of are the gifts of aging. Our culture is sadly lacking in understanding these gifts.  But we hold wisdom from life experience.  Aging is a natural process, a journey into our elder years when we can savor the life experience we have had and share this with others.

If you feel bombarded by mixed messages about aging, this is something you can do:  Check in with yourself.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • What is true for me today?
  • What challenges am I working through?
  • What am I enjoying at this time?
  • What do I dream about for my future?  Am I looking forward to?
  • Do I have a deeper sense of purpose?

I talk to lots of people who are retired and they say they have many things ‘to keep them busy’.  It sounds like being busy is the ultimate goal for some. There is a big difference between filling time and living one’s precious elderhood with as much purpose and passion as possible.

There are many people leading the current wave of conscious aging and helping others find new purpose and inspiration in the second half of life. One of these people is Ron Pevny, author of a new book: ’Conscious Living Conscious Aging’. Many Baby Boomers are no longer satisfied with the idea that contribution in life ends when they retire.  Ron Pevny presents a new model for positive aging that focuses on the potential for growth, service, fulfillment and spiritual exploration.  He calls his work Conscious Eldering and he leads retreats and workshops in Canada and the U.S. I like the way he opens the possibilities for people from a variety of backgrounds to see they can make a difference in life for others and to see the elder years as a time of growth and deep fulfillment.  I recommend his book.

Ron is leading a one week retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon at the end of June. For further information check his website: www.centerforconsciouseldering.com.

There are so many possibilities for you to consider:

  • becoming more reflective
  • having creative pursuits
  • learning something new
  • writing your memoir
  • volunteering

How you age is a choice.  If you could see yourself in 15 or 20 years, what would you feel satisfied with? What dreams do you want to fulfill?  Most importantly, how do you want to be feeling?

The most important aspect of your own aging is your attitude.  Do you see new possibilities for growth and contribution on the horizon of your older years?  If so, you can have a very fulfilling life as you get older.

If you are needing support with any aspects of aging or life in the second half, please call me and we can talk about ways I can help you. I offer free phone consultations:  604-435-9400.

warm wishes

Brenda

Boomers and Our Aging Parents

© 2013 Brenda Dineen | Reprinting permission with credit to author

We are now facing a Longevity Revolution. Only thirty years ago, life expectancy was 71 years for men and 79 for women (StatsCan.) Now, many seniors are living well into their 80s and 90s. The Baby Boom generation is the current ‘sandwich generation’, caring for aging parents as well as facing the needs of our adult children, who may still be dependent on us. This is dramatically changing the picture for modern families. This means that elder parents may need extended care and support as they live longer lives.
This extended lifespan has big implications. Some seniors still enjoy good health and an active life in their 80s, while many others are having health issues, illness, and cognitive decline. Aging can bring with it increased dependency and vulnerability.

If you have aging parents, the lives of everyone in your family may be affected including siblings and grandchildren. Many people are feeling the demands and challenges of trying to meet these needs as well as to find some balance in life.

Here are some of the possible impacts in your family: 

  • Communicating and Decision-Making – This may pose some challenges if there has not been a history of talking together effectively.
  • Geography – Many family members live in different cities or provinces. This poses problems as to who is going to take care of an aging parent who lives far away; as well, how will distant siblings be involved?
  • Emotions – A roller-coaster of emotions is common, including stress, overwhelm, anger, resentment, frustration and depression.
  • Caregiving – The burden of care often falls on the siblings, more commonly the women than the men.
  • Respecting the parent’s needs – Family members need to know and respect the wishes of the elderly parent and to include them as much as possible in decisions and conversations. If dementia is present, this can be a significant challenge.

A number of my clients are caring for an elderly parent. One woman has been taking a few trips a year abroad to care for her 93-year-old mother. She is the sole person who advocates for her mother and meets with the doctors and caregivers onsite; as well she phones long distance and emails between her visits. Although this has been a huge responsibility in this woman’s life, she feels called to do the best she can for her mother.

My own mother is now 90. Last summer she fell and broke her leg, resulting in a hospital stay for the last few months. It is very hard to accept that things will not be the same, as her level of mobility is changing. Everyone in my family is affected by the decline in my mother’s health. She has had an extraordinary life full of adventure and activity and now is facing significant losses.

Looking at your own life, do you have an elderly parent who needs care? Or did you have a parent who died after a lengthy illness and extended caregiving by you or others in the family? What is this experience like for you? Are you able to balance all the demands you are facing?

Some questions to address in your family:

  • What is each person’s role and what are the expectations of family members?
  • Who assists in getting the elderly parent the necessary medical assessments and support?
  • How does your family best have conversations together and address what is needed?
  • Who are the decision-makers and to what extent is the elderly parent part of the process?

It is important for the caregivers to practice self-care, and to avoid burnout. The work of the caregivers can be taken for granted but they need to be included in the process. This includes attention to:

  • identifying what your needs are and being aware of your stress levels
  • being knowledgeable about the aging process, community resources, etc
  • finding best ways of offering and asking for help
  • having a support system and avoiding being isolated

I have touched on just a few issues in this big topic of caring for aging parents. I would like to hear from you, my readers. What are your experiences? Have you had some triumphs or some challenges? Is there something you would like me to address in my newsletter on this or related topics?

Whatever your situation, it is important to practice self-care and get help navigating through the caregiving process. A clinical counselor who specializes in family issues in the second half of life can give you the support you need.

Warm wishes,
Brenda

Being Kinder to Yourself

© 2013 Brenda Dineen | Reprinting permission with credit to author

As I grow older, I am learning to be kinder to myself.  This is a process that has come upon me through my own life experience.  Like everyone else, I notice all the various messages I am getting about the aging process:  graceful aging, healthy aging, even ‘anti-aging’.  As I experience some of the ups and downs of the aging process, I notice I need to find ways to be gentle with myself and not feel like I need to compare myself to others or to judge how I am going through the aging journey.

Do you sometimes get down on yourself as you notice signs of aging? Do you resist or perhaps deny the aging process? Do you feel badly because you can’t remember someone’s name, or why you walked upstairs into a room? Perhaps you find yourself comparing to others.

How do you take care of yourself and what words do you say when you talk to yourself? These are important questions to think about. It is your attitudes, habits and self-talk that are creating the quality of life you are living.

I am learning to practise being kinder to myself. I find it is so helpful to have a gentle attitude toward myself. I take note of the changes in my body and my health. And then I say, ”It’s alright. Everything is going to be okay.”

Now in my 60s, I notice I am definitely slower to heal from injuries (especially my knee) and less able to do endurance or impact activities. Although I do not have the resilience and stamina I had at age 40, I take stock of what I do have: very good health.  I exercise regularly and watch what I eat. I have supportive people in my life. I especially try to monitor my thoughts.

It’s helpful to watch how you talk about aging.  I read reports that “It’s all downhill from here.” However, that’s not true.  As Baby Boomers we know that as we take care of our health, are physically active and keep our brains alert and sharp, we can enjoy good health as we move into our senior years.

A few months ago I was on a group hike near Squamish. We hiked the perimeter of Brohm Lake and then took a trail up the side of a mountain.  I found myself huffing, puffing and sweating as we scaled a steep hillside to a higher elevation. Up and up we climbed over stones, dirt trails and rocks. “I feel like I’m climbing Mount Everest!”, I called out to the group ahead of me.  Even though I did not hike at the same pace as the younger people in the group, it was a wonderful accomplishment to get to the top and stand together looking out over a valley to the stunning Tantalus mountain range beyond. I did it! I felt grateful for that day, as I drove back into the city.

We are so often hard on ourselves and neglect the simple practice of being kind. Kindness holds a high vibrational energy, and the ripples are felt both within and beyond you.

Life gives us opportunities to practise being kind and more forgiving with ourselves. Recently I was at my gym and noticed there were some new, very flashy elliptical trainers. ‘Oh,’ I thought. ‘I’ll try one of those one.’ It felt great to cycle and even to increase the level of intensity on the machine. However, later that day, my knee hurt. It was telling me: ’Too much. Don’t do that.’  I have had ongoing challenges listening to my knee. I find I am flooded with memories of what I used to be able to do 10 or 15 years ago and I now need to listen carefully and honour the messages from my body. When it says ‘No’, I need to rest a while.  I take a break, and adjust my expectations.

As our physical bodies go through changes, we can become much more aware of our true essence which we hold within us. As you practise being kind to yourself you may be more aware of your wonderful inner qualities and strengths. These do not need to diminish as you age. In fact, they can and do flourish.

Ways to practice being kinder to yourself:

  • speak lovingly to your body and thank it for serving you all these years
  • be conscious of what messages you pay attention to from the media and from other people
  • let go of being so critical of yourself
  • adjust your expectations when your body says ‘No’
  • give thanks for all that you do have

As you practise being kind to yourself, you are strengthening the foundation for all aspects of your health and your life.

Warm wishes,

Brenda

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