5 stages of grief applied to aging

With each day that passes, our population is aging as it always has nothing new, no surprise there. However the magnitude of those entering the ranks of senior citizens is truly impressive. With 10,000 of us reaching the age of 65 each day, by the year 2030 for the first time there will be more over the age of 65 than under the age of 17. A tsunami of gray haired baby boomers is just starting to hit the shoreline which for the next 20 years will show no sign of letting up.

This monstrous wave of retirees-to-be cannot be escaped by simply heading for the hills. The entire world is being impacted and none more so than those individuals who are now entering and populating the ranks of the 65-and-older crowd. We baby boomers are not known for merely taking life at face value – we want to have our unique say – and I think it is safe to say that accepting aging will be no different.

Recently, I was reading an article on the 5 stages of grief when I realized that this model was directly applicable to what boomers and members of our aging population may go through as we come to grips with our inevitable aging. Since recognizing where you are today and having some insight into what lays ahead may be helpful in navigating the retirement jungle,  I took a trip through this model to create a 5 stages of aging analogy.

Where do you think you might be today?

Denial – how can I be getting old? Just yesterday I was graduating college with the world at my feet, nothing too impossible, dreams just waiting to be realized. Sure some years have passed since then but old? Not me. It just doesn’t make any sense. It cannot be – I won’t let it!

Anger – screw this! I don’t deserve to have to endure the weight of the years, the aches and pains, the challenges faced in what were once basic, simple endeavors. It’s not fair and I am mad as heck.

Bargaining – I am going to work out four days a week and eat only healthy food. I am going to get my rest, avoid stress, see my doctor on a regular basis, and give up drinking. I am willing to do all of this in the hopes that I can delay my aging. Okay? Will that work? I am committed to doing whatever it takes. Surely I can beat this thing.

Depression – there is no avoiding it, there is nothing I can do, I am doomed.

Acceptance – although I am aging with potential physical and mental challenges waiting around every corner, I am still alive. I can experience a good quality of life living within my limitations. So I will no longer be the fastest on the tennis court or able to bench press twice my body weight – I accept that. What I can do is live my life as it is to the fullest possible extent. I have learned wisdom with age and will gladly share my worldly knowledge with those seeking my advice. I appreciate the beauty of a song, can revel in the wonder of a sunset, marvel at the excitement a baby shows experiencing life’s moments for the first time, genuinely share the pain felt in the loss of a loved one, and appreciate my spouse for each and every detail, quirk, and habit that have been such a vital part of my life. I accept me for who I am. Old age – bring it on!

Getting old is not for sissies. But we are not the first nor will we be the last to negotiate the journey. Knowing that we are in a particular stage in a progression may give us hope as surviving each elevates us to the next, eventually ending with our acceptance of life as it is.

Not everyone over 65 is in stage five and some may never get there. But a quitter never wins and a winner never quits.

Whatever stage you are currently in, hang in there and have a little faith that things will get better. You have made it this far.

Senior travel destination Cabo San Lucas

The temperature in February averages a warm but not too hot 75 with cooling breezes in the early afternoon. Pink, purple and orange Bouganvilla bloom in abundance while palm trees reach upward to the ever blue sky. Locals are smiling and friendly and fellow resort goers forever shine a happy smile your way aware of their good fortune as they share with you this bit of paradise. Cabo San Lucas in Baja California has everything it takes for an inspiring and relaxing tropical escape. And  although known worldwide for crazy spring break antics, local resorts have long catered to senior citizens not missing a beat as growing numbers of baby boomers reach retirement age.

As I write this I am sitting in the Hacienda del Mar in Cabo on my deck overlooking the ocean having just returned from some hours sitting under a cabana on the beach. We spend a lot of our time there reading, resting, looking and enjoying waves and sand and peace. Around me I notice the average visitor is leaning toward the “well seasoned traveler” category with an age closer to retirement than not.

What is it about Cabo and the experience that attracts senior citizens? Is it something in the water? Or is it in the way everyone is made to feel a little bit special? And more importantly, is Cabo San Lucas somewhere that you personally would enjoy visiting as a retiree?

Hacienda Del Mar

There are many hotels and time share units in Cabo some catering to the younger crowd while the others focus on the rest of us. We stay at Hacienda Del Mar as part of a time share but the location also includes a full feature, multiple roomed hotel. The resort is four miles outside the town of Cabo San Lucas and truly self-contained with multiple pools, restaurants, a complete spa, golf courses, and plenty of beach front. Golf carts are ever ready to wheel visitors to destinations anywhere in the complex. And the elevation is gradual from the beach to the farthest rooms with elevators to get you to floors other than ground level.

The location is ideal for us as we prefer to stay on the grounds the majority of our one week trip, typically making one day trip to a local attraction such as Todo Santos (home of the Hotel California), and spending one day in town (making sure to wind our way to The Office restaurant which is in the sand overlooking the harbor and makes what I consider to be the best fish tacos anywhere). Staying four miles away, we are not caught up in the hoopla that is downtown – unless we choose to be!

Keeping busy

We are pretty good at entertaining ourselves but should one require a little creative guidance, look no further. Different hotels offer various options but here is a sample schedule from our visit.

Activities schedule

9:00  Stretching in the activities center

10:00 Water Aerobics in the activities pool

11:00 Blackjack Game where you can learn the finer points of wagering and bluffing

12:00 Ping Pong

2:00 Mexican Bingo where you learn to howl like a Mariachi and imitate the sounds of local wild life as you match your card with the Spanish words called out by the hostess

3:00 Zumba class

4:00 Beach volleyball for the adventurous

Happy hours are staggered throughout the day with different restaurants stepping up to the plate with snacks of all kinds to compliment that perfect margarita. Afterward, eight restaurants offer a variety of fares to tantalize your palate ranging from beach side munchies to all you can eat spreads of local delicacies to a more formal but not too formal dinner atmosphere at Pitihaya on the sea.

Cabo San Lucas town is about four miles down the road and readily accessible via shuttle or taxi. Visiting the town allows you time to wander the harbor where impressive yachts owned by the rich and famous are anchored as well as visit the local hot spots where the spring break crowd cut loose – Cabo Wabo, Giggling Marlin, and of course Squid Row. If you are like us, you may choose to visit these during the day just to say you have been there. But if you are still a little crazy at heart, after hours is when the action really happens.

World renowned for it’s fishing, you will find plenty of boat owners willing to take you out and set sail for a fishing adventure of a lifetime. Or if you just want to take a tour around the harbor, you can visit El Arco with it’s  view the Pacific Ocean from the safety of the Sea of Cortez, set foot on Lovers Beach and walk the 100 yards to Divorce Beach, and see the south most part of the continental US all in a 45 minute jaunt in a glass bottom boat. And if you are looking for a romantic evening there are sunset cruises and dinners made to order.

As you can see, options to entertain are many, the weather is temperate except in summer months, the natives are friendly, and in such a beautiful surrounding you cannot help but feel a little younger. With special attention given to baby boomer visitors and what makes us tick, Cabo San Lucas is a senior travel destination worth considering.

Adios Amigo!

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.