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How to face old age with dignity

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 18, 2021 3:00 pm

No other year in modern history has reminded us daily of mortality than 2020. Friends, relatives, and neighbors were dying or luckily escaped death from COVID-19. Those who perished didn’t even have loved ones by their bedside.

Old age and death are serious and inevitable matters that everyone should prepare for.

Do you know who will take care of you when you are old? That’s the important question author Joy Loverde asks us in her latest book, Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? 

You have no idea whether anyone you love and trust today will accompany you on your aging journey or be by your side up to and until you take your final breath.

Her personal advocacy on the needs of the aging population started in 1989. She has appeared on the Today ShowTimeWall Street JournalUSA Today and other major media outlets. This popular blogger, consultant, writer, and keynote speaker resides in Chicago.

And so what motivated her to write the book?

When Joy visited a nursing home as a 14-year-old high school volunteer, she realized a “disturbing gap in the process of preparing for old age.” She knew there was something wrong and immediately committed “to keeping people engaged and connected until they take their final breath.”

Joy wrote The Complete Eldercare Planner, now in its sixth edition, precisely to help people plan for old age.

While on the road for speaking engagements, participants told her how they were “downright terrified” and “scared of being old and alone.”

“Forty years’ worth of interacting with thousands of people — young and old — led me to a profound reality and critical need that is even more significant and complex than family caregiving: aging and dying alone. And no one cares. Solo, single or married, no one is immune to the vulnerabilities associated with living a solitary life in old age. My new book Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? aims to change all that,” Joy explained.

According to Joy, more and more people are living alone. “One in three baby boomers falls into the category of separated, divorced, widowed, or never married. As the numbers continue to escalate, millions of people over the age of 65 will require greater assistance because they are aging alone with no known family member or surrogate to act on their behalf.”

While Filipinos tend to live together with family until they die, taking care of the elderly is still something that requires a lot of planning. However, being a parent nowadays is not a guarantee that adult children will take care of you as you age. “They might decide to live abroad or they might come back with little or no resources,” she said.

“Simply put, you have no idea whether anyone you love and trust today will accompany you on your aging journey or be by your side up to and until you take your final breath. If you currently have a close network of family and trusted friends, and feel confident that they will be there for you any time of the day and night, then count your blessings. As your personal network evolves due to death or other extenuating circumstances, you can continue to use your relationship-building skills to develop new and rewarding alliances,” Joy added.

  Author Joy Loverde observes that more and more people are living alone: 'Solo, single or married, no one is immune to the vulnerabilities associated with living a solitary life in old age.'

Old age is not just a number

To prepare for the near-inevitability, Joy said you should be “completely honest with yourself about the fact that you are getting older.” She added that “60 is not the new 30.”

“Acceptance of your own aging paves the way for breakthroughs of all kinds — lying and deceiving yourself about growing old leads to the exact opposite. Instead of feeling powerless and a victim of circumstance, choose to face old age with self-respect and dignity. Plan ahead. Doing so will serve you in gaining better control of the situation at hand. You are the one and only person you can forever count on.”

“What I have learned from the old people in my life is that aging has everything to do with attitude,” she added.

The first section of the book offers insights on dealing with change and transitions, sharpening critical thinking skills, and thriving in times of uncertainty. Readers will find that every page leads them to self-assess if what they are doing today will lead them to a quality tomorrow.

“Everything I have learned from my wise elder friends is what I wish for you today— that ailments do not depress you, that you are quick to laugh and even quicker to forgive, and that you are happiest of all when you are on the receiving end of tokens of love and kindness from others who genuinely care about you. You’ve got a friend in me,” Joy promised.