Are seniors afraid to ask for help?

The world rewards strength success.

We are taught from our early days the importance of winning and succeeding and being the best. Few stories are told at bedtime of second place achievements – first is what matters. And in our climb toward the top of the heap, there is no place for weakness, no tolerance for failure. Even the Bible reiterates this explaining that God helps those who help themselves. We are the master of our own destiny and should not need to ask for help.

Is it any surprise then that we seniors display a reluctance to reveal any chink in our armor, anything that may be perceived as weakness, anything that makes us appear less than perfect? No matter what our age, we often believe that we can handle whatever is thrown our way and do so all by our self.

Old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man ~ Leon Trotsky

Humans as a species are not at the top of the food chain based on our physical attributes. There are a lot of bigger and badder creatures in the jungle that could make a quick meal of us. It is our brain not our brawn that set us in control of our fellow creatures. Thinking and reasoning, using our experience and education, analyzing the situation and taking appropriate action – that is how we survive.

And yet when it comes to using that same brain to realize that we are not perfect and that we may need to ask for help from others things tend to get a little murky. The reality is that if we lower our guard, if we let someone get close to our true feelings and fears, we could be better off. We could use their help. All we have to do is let them in and be vulnerable. How big of a risk can that be? Big enough that many senior citizens prefer to struggle and suffer and often times fail rather than risk revealing a need that shows us to be less than that strong, self-sufficient person that we feel we must be. Superman to the end, even when kryptonite is in the room and someone else can easily save us if we just ask for help.

All would live long, but none would be old ~ Ben Franklin

As we age like it or not we become more dependent on those around us, subject to frustrations, insecurities, and a loss of control that comes with old age. Little things begin to be not so little anymore. Try though we may to do it ourselves, senior citizens need help to get by. We need to acknowledge the limitations of our aging bodies and not be afraid to ask for help. How much easier that is to say than to implement! We treasure our independence and will not surrender it without a fight. But in the end, who wins the war?

How to ask for help

  • Acceptance – there is no denying it – aging will eventually take its toll and we will no longer be the spritely young whipper-snappers we once were. No fault of our own – it is just the nature of things. Accepting our old age is like a marriage – we are committed to it for life for better or worse! And like a marriage, there will be good days and bad as well as times when we will need the help of our spouse and others. We cannot get through life without the help of others. If we choose to deny this irrefutable fact, we are in trouble. Once we accept our state of affairs and embrace our “elderliness” along with its inherent needs, we can begin to move forward. How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young — or slender. ~ William James
  • Realization – yes I am getting older, things are not as easy as they used to be, and I must face my retirement fears – I grudgingly accept this. Now it is important to realize that I can benefit from the help of others. Now is the time to realize that alone, I may struggle but with the help of others, I am made stronger. I am not an expert in all things and only appear the fool if I pretend to be so. If I am smart, I realize that a little humility goes a long way.
  • Willingness to ask – accepting my inevitable situation as a senior citizen of the world and realizing that there are others who can help me through difficult times along my life’s journey, now I must simply be willing to ask for help. I am vulnerable at this time as theoretically I may be refused or my “perfect image” sullied by a self-confessed weakness. But it is truly worth the risk.

I do not believe that we were made to go it alone. We are a social animal and we enjoy being with others.

I believe that people are by default good and if asked, more than willing to lend a helping hand and support us.

I believe that there is no reason to be afraid – all we have to do is ask.

The Best Anti Aging Tip

The world in which we live has long worshiped youth. Movies starring young and vital actors and actresses, incredibly fit and beautiful, represent everything that we want to be. On the TV we are bombarded with 20ish women carefully treating their skin to fight the effects of aging (as if 20ish year old skin has even BEGUN to age). And advertising in general is built around beautiful, youthful, still-wet-behind-the-ears individuals with perfect white teeth and convincing smiles.

It is no wonder that there is an incredibly receptive market for anti-aging offerings. Everything from salves and ointments to pills and poultices offer the promise of delaying the appearance of aging and extending our youthfulness. Some of the things we willingly put onto our faces and bodies would cause a sane person to wrinkle their nose and head for the door! But we want to look younger than we really are and will try almost anything. And you can bet that these “solutions” are not cheap with anti-aging products ranging from $100 to thousands of dollars. Is it money well spent?

Watching a recent Dr Oz show which focused on anti-aging solutions, the topic of facial masks came up and various options were evaluated. In the end, we learned that Milk of Magnesia has all of the working ingredients that provide the best results and at a cost of about $6 per bottle. Makes you think a bit…

As the old ad used to say, “a little dab will do you” and if using these potions makes us feel better and we can afford them, what is the real harm? Is there anything wrong with our obsession to look young?

I think the answer is yes. I believe that the real harm is fostering the current perception that young is cool and old not so much. Aging is not about wrinkles in our skin, it is about our growth as individuals, our life experiences, our contributions to the world in which we live, and raising families to be proud of who will ultimately take us into the future. With age comes wisdom and through the myriad of life’s experiences, we learn what to do and most importantly what not to do again. This experience is incredibly valuable to ourselves and our personal growth but even more so to those around us who are “too young” to know better. None of this growth happens quickly or easily – all require time and effort, trial and error, success and failure. And guess what – aging is one universal that applies across EVERYONE no matter what race or color or creed. We need to accept this fact and truly make the best of it. Avoidance is not an option, acceptance is the way. It is time to be proud of our wrinkles, our character lines as mom always said. At our age, we have earned every one of them!

James Hillman in his book “The force of character and the lasting life” addresses what he calls the force of the face, claiming that “older faces are marked by character, that their beauty reveals character, and that their lasting power as images of intelligence, authority, tragedy, courage, and depth of soul is due to character. The absence of these qualities in contemporary society and its public figures is due to the falsification of the older face on public view.”

One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them ~ Virginia Wolfe

Appreciate Your Aging – Stay Young on the Inside

There are no magic elixirs to return those youthful rosy cheeks and tight chins, but that does not mean we should not live retirement to the most. Our outside is not what we are about but instead, just like an Oreo cookie, the best is inside. And the reality is that if we feel good on the inside, we will look good on the outside. People respond to positive vibes so tune up and turn it on.

Attitude – it is essential for our sanity to accept the fact that aging is a part of life. Over the years, our bodies are being used and used up and the results cannot be disguised indefinitely. When we look in the mirror and see that face that is so unfamiliar compared to memories of our earlier years, accept it. This is my face – some people will like it and some will not but it is my face and I will live with it! I have earned these wrinkles and I will wear them proudly. Woe to you of youthful smooth faces who have not yet earned such distinguished badges of courage.

Participate versus observe – live life rather than watch life go by – how many times have you heard that age is a state of mind? I have seen 80 year old women in Switzerland heading up steep mountains for their daily activity. They may not look as spritely as they did at 25 but I would not want to try to keep up with them and their mountain-climbing-pace. We read regularly stories of amazing physical feats performed by the elderly. I believe that with medical advancements extending average lifetimes and seniors living more active retirement lives, what was perceived as “amazing” twenty years ago is going to become common place. This is our time to do as Mr. Spock said, “live long and prosper”.

Make a positive impact – no one has time or is interested in humoring an old grouch. Complaining and finding the negative in everything is not how senior citizens want to be characterized. Do not fall into the trap of negativity. A smile on our face goes much farther than a growl. Active involvement in discussions brings us closer to those around us. We all WANT to be with intelligent, engaged, positive people no matter what their age. Who would not prefer hanging around someone who makes them laugh versus someone who makes them cry?

Exercise and diet always play an important role in how we look and feel. Regular, safe, interesting activity is a must. And we know what we should be eating to make ourselves healthy inside and out.

Appreciate aging and be thankful for all that we have become over our extended years. The smooth-skinned crowd have a long road ahead and changes along the way may not all be to their liking. We however have arrived safely and intact. If the price of the journey is a few wrinkles, don’t you think it a fair exchange?

Make What Matters Most First

Bob is a fellow retirement blogger who I have known some months now and frequently go to for advice and to discuss our mutual interest. He gave me some good suggestions just the other day but I noticed something upon reviewing his email once more. In my focus on his suggestion for my blog, I overlooked a single line in his message where he mentioned how sick his mom was and how that was the real focus of his life right now, as it should be. Yes my blog is important to me but not as important as what matters most, namely the people in our lives, our friends and family, the ultimate reality series that we live each day. I sent a follow-up message to Bob apologizing for my oversight and making it clear that there are things that matter most in our lives and that I was a human being first, blogger second.

Being the fanatic Sharks fan that I am and having a roommate from days-gone-by who is similarly afflicted, we had scheduled an evening to watch the game against the evil Detroit Red Wings over a little BBQ and some beers. The date had been saved on our calendar for some time and both of us were looking forward to some serious checking on the ice and high-fiving in front of the TV. The day of the game, I received an email that his mom was not doing too well and could he come by for just a beer and to watch a little of the game since he did not want to leave her alone for long. My immediate response was that there are many more games in the season and he should “take care of your mom” – what matters most. Being a good son, he quickly agreed.

A friend of my Aunt shared with me her recent move into retirement. Her official retirement date was December 31, 2009 but she was able to go into semi-retirement in May to get a feel for the landscape before taking the final plunge. She had her concerns and was afraid that it was going to be “really, really difficult to go from working a fulltime job everyday to suddenly doing nothing. Even then, I was very nervous about what I would do as I did not feel very passionate about anything.  I was afraid I might not get up, since I had no reason to, and that the afternoon would roll around and I would still be in my robe, never really having gotten up. And then, I would feel really bad and guilty.” But she was committed and ready to head down that trail to a new life and new adventures. Then in January 2009, her husband died unexpectedly, three months before her plans to ease into retirement. Her best made plans were suddenly changed and what matters most in her life – her spouse – would not be a part of the new ones.

Our journey through life is an ever-changing, unpredictable experience with a dash of surprise thrown in for good measure. What we experience forms us into the people we are with our good habits and bad, our shortcomings, our insecurities, and our passions. Along the way if we are lucky we begin to understand what is important and to realize what really matters. And if we are wise, we learn to prioritize our lives with those most important things sitting high up on the list.

We never know what is in store for us. Life is lived one day at a time. Dreams can come true or they may not. Our heart may feel it is going to break but eventually, slowly we heal. It is not easy but it is what it is.

My Aunt’s friend had to deal with a tragic and unexpected loss which will impact the rest of her life. But she realizes what matters most and is living the best way possible. Among her many interests, travel is a priority. Here is how you identify what matters most and do something about it – how does her travel schedule for 2010 strike you: twice to New York City…Spring and Fall (theater, jazz clubs, good restaurants and friends); once to Washington D.C., twice to Southern California, once to Ashland, Oregon (theater again); a great trip to South America (the Amazon, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands), a trip to Colorado and Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico,  a high school reunion north of Chicago, once to Houston, Texas (don’t even ask why!)

Know that although in the eternal scheme of things you are small, you are also unique and irreplaceable, as are all your fellow humans everywhere in the world. ~ Margaret Laurence


Living a happy, satisfying retirement life is about prioritizing so that you are doing what matters most first with the limited time each day holds.

The bottom line, what matters most is living.

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