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Acceptance and the Aging Process

Acceptance and the Aging Process

Greetings one and all…

This morning there is a definite nip in the air. Fall officially arrived last week and in Denver, we are enjoying a little preview of the coming season. Fall—my favorite time of the year. So, I am feeling incredibly blessed as I sit at my desk contemplating my schedule for the day. First on the agenda is a little chat with you. As I consider the possible topics for reflection today, a chance encounter with a wise and compassionate soul came to mind. I met a gentleman last week who enriched my understanding of acceptance—the concept and the process of embracing people for who they are and where they are in life.

Last week I had the opportunity to present a program at a long-term care community that I have visited numerous times over the past few years. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting those who opted to attend the program. Prior to the program, I conversed with a gentleman who had some interesting observations about living in a retirement community. He noted that by definition a retirement community is comprised of people in decline—physically and cognitively—as a consequence of the aging process. He wasn’t complaining. Rather, he bravely named the reality of the situation. Furthermore, he said it is a blessing to live with people who realize decline—incremental as well as dramatic—is an inevitable aspect of getting older. As a result, people are accepted for who they are and where they are in the diminishing process of aging. According to this gentleman, acceptance of the eventual decline and acceptance of the diminished person is reflective of a compassionate community.  

Initially, I was somewhat disturbed by this brief conversation. I typically don’t describe the aging process as one of inevitable decline. Granted, I am fully aware of the biological consequences of aging. However, in my mind, I balance the physiological losses with the potential for emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual gains. To perceive aging as a series of losses that ultimately diminishes a person is not my experience to date. Nor does this depiction of aging align with my observations of family, friends, colleagues, and clients who serve as my mentors of aging. Consequently, I have been struggling with this rather “dark” depiction of aging.

But guess what? Although we perceive and describe aging quite differently, the gentleman and I arrived at the same conclusion. Every day—every moment—is a gift to be embraced and to be enjoyed. Every person—regardless of ability or disability—is worthy of respect, honor, and kindness. So, an important lesson learned. Every person experiences, understands, and describes aging uniquely. By sharing and discussing our different perspectives of aging, we have the opportunity to find common ground. Perhaps from that foundation of mutual respect and acceptance, we can compassionately companion each other as we age. Certainly an invitation I hope we will all accept!   

I look forward to the ongoing conversation. If you have specific questions or concerns related to your caregiving experience, I would love to hear from you. Until the next posting, I wish you and yours countless blessings…jane  

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