Sure, it is true that getting old “ain’t for sissies” as Bette Davis famously put it. There are a myriad of challenges that confront us. Nobody would argue that! We know what those challenges are – all kinds of changes, losses of various sorts from little things to profound ones, aches and pains, the gamut.
But, you can also thrive in later years. It’s about your mindset, your emotional and spiritual practices and your strong support network. The kids called support networks these days, their “posse”. Your posse can be made up of old and new friends, your peers, support group members, family, pets, counselors, trusted doctors and spiritual advisors.
Generally, people like you have an assortment of healthy, tried-and-true coping skills that have gotten you this far in your life. Perhaps now, however, you are encountering an accumulation of situations that tax those skills. It may be time to remember your old skills and to learn new ones. It may likely be time as well to rethink your life’s purpose. Purpose is key to keeping your mood up and your heart content.
What stands in the way? Well, too many times, that old Shame rears its head and tells you that you ought to be able to figure this out on your own, that you ought to be able to just “tough it out” and do it alone or else you’re weak. You can’t burden your children so what to do? As the blue box here says, don’t keep it bottled up inside!
What people often don’t realize is that you are not alone in feeling challenged, stressed, confused, overwhelmed or anxious. These feelings surface when we are going through new phases and transitions in our lives. It’s during these times that it becomes so important to realize you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are many practices and tips for how to increase your enjoyment of life in older years.
The important thing is to not give up and figure that just depression goes with the territory. That may be what society tells you, it might be the prevailing attitude. But it is not true. Reach out for help. Counseling and support can turn your life around and help you reclaim your confidence, solid footing and peace of mind. Isn’t it worth a try? What have you got to lose!
As Mill Valley Commissioner on the Marin County Commission on Aging, in October 2009 I presented my annual report to the Mayor and City Council members on the status for baby boomers and older adults living in Mill Valley. Here is a link to my report presentation notes – I hope you will find it helpful to give you an idea of some of the opportunities and challenges for older people in Mill Valley as of autumn, 2009. Some things have changed – statistics, numbers, contact information perhaps, so do note that this report is from 2009. Older Adults in Mill Valley
Volunteering is often talked about in terms of benefits for society and for the volunteers themselves. Older adults who reach out to share their wisdom, kindness and service in their communities generally experience higher self-esteem, less depression, an increase in friends and less overall decline in health. One of our wonderful volunteer opportunities in Marin is the Senior Peer Counseling (SPC) program, managed for 20 years by Community Mental Health.
Peer counselors receive 8 weeks of initial training in issues facing older adults. These include aging, medical problems, isolation and family conflicts. Then, after being taught basic counseling skills and introduced to Marin’s extensive range of services for seniors, they are matched with one or more homebound older adults in need of counseling. Services are offered in English and Spanish. SPC’s next training will be held in April, 2010 in San Rafael.
SPC volunteers come from all walks of life: they are retired actors, directors, nurses, mental health professionals, professors, and computer entrepreneurs. Nan Heflin MFT, one of the coordinators of SPC, says, “Our volunteers are from diverse backgrounds, but they all have in common an interest in their own aging process and personal growth, and a belief that one can change at any age… Over and over I hear from the volunteers that they get as much from being counselors as the clients get from them.”
Peter Schmid of Greenbrae and Cynthia Wood of Bolinas are among the program’s 35 volunteer counselors. “Counseling is a chance to do something for humanity,” says Schmid, age 79, who has been a volunteer for 15 years. Adds Wood, age 77: “People are really appreciative.”
For more information on how to volunteer with Senior Peer Counseling and the next training, call 415-499-6802.