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Aging — The Shared Journey

Aging — The Shared Journey

Greetings one and all….

On this lovely fall morning, I hope you are doing well and loving life. It seems as if the pace of life has been ratcheted up several notches over the past few weeks. So, it’s time for a moment of reflection, a cup of coffee or tea, and some food for thought. As an educator, the fall season is a very busy time—conferences, symposia, classes, and workshops. The various venues afford me the opportunity to meet amazing individuals and learn invaluable life lessons. This past week, I attended and presented at a successful aging conference hosted by a long-term care community. The age of those attending ranged from late 50’s to mid-90’s. Listening to the various presenters and chatting with attendees, my belief that we age best in in the company of others was reinforced. Human beings are relational beings. We not only need each other to age well, but we WANT to share the journey with family and friends. Aging in the company of others enhances, enriches, and illuminates the adventure.

Over the past decade, I have studied the work of various experts in the field of aging. Most researchers agree that aging well requires some basic ingredients: cognitive and physical well-being, a sense of meaning and purpose, life-long learning, and a supportive and sustaining community of family and friends. Hence, the recipe for aging well requires the blending of the basic ingredients. Aging is a unique experience for every person based on the measure of each ingredient added or subtracted over the course of the journey.

Lately, I have been contemplating what I believe is the essential ingredient to age well—traveling companions. This year, two of my traveling companions died—my beloved brother and a dear friend. These were two people I had imagined getting older and weirder with in the coming years. But sadly, that is not to be. Consequently, I am reassessing my situation and my support system. I am the sole survivor of my biological family. I am a childless, single woman. And, I am blessed with fabulous friends and colleagues that support and sustain me. However, if I choose to assume that my life will unfold favorably in future years, I am figuratively and literally risking my life.

As with any journey, a bit of planning is required to ensure an enjoyable jaunt. Furthermore, my travel plans may have to be tweaked as various factors change over the course of my lifetime—health, wealth, and companions. Today, I must imagine getting older without the company of my brother and dear friend. A sad thing indeed. But their absence motivates me to invite others to share the journey—friends with whom I want to share the twists and turns of life. As traveling companions, we will care for each other every step along the way. Such an incredible blessing in life is not to be taken for granted. I must be invested in the journey—invested in my friends. Sharing the journey with my friends demands my intentional attention…and profound gratitude. I am blessed indeed to share the journey with such amazing people.

So, I leave you with a couple of questions to ponder. Who are your traveling companions? With whom do you choose to get older and weirder? Consider your answers carefully. The company you keep makes all the difference in the journey. Bon Voyage!

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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