Many years ago when my daughter Tracy, now 26, was in elementary school she loved to do the hidden pictures puzzles in the Highlights for Children magazine. One morning we were doing the puzzle together and we couldn’t find some of the pictures that were supposed to be there. We became more and more frustrated until one of us had the brilliant idea of turning the magazine upside down so we could see the picture with new perspective. I don’t remember if we ever found everything we were supposed to, but I do remember that all of a sudden Tracy exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, the bus!” We’d gotten so wrapped up in the puzzle that she missed the school bus that morning. It’s given us something to remember and laugh about for years.
The puzzles in life have changed, but we still face challenges. Suppose we pledge in this new year to see life from a fresh perspective? Suppose that instead of beating ourselves up for aging, for being less strong or energetic than when we were younger, we look at what adjustments can be made to the systems and environment around us? We aren’t failures. We’re human beings who need support. Perhaps the environment that surrounds us and the systems that order our lives are at fault. Instead of deciding that we can’t continue to live in our homes because we have trouble with stairs, for example, why not decide to modify the home? Replace the front walk and steep steps to the porch with a nicely landscaped walk that gently slopes up to your front door. Are you worried that one day you won’t be able to get around without a wheelchair or a walker? Instead of just freshening up the paint in the bathroom and maybe replacing the old vanity, take a good look at your bathroom. Could you fit a wheelchair or walker through the doorway? Perhaps you’d be best off using a contractor who works with a designer who specializes in functional design for those who need assistive devices.
Take it easy on yourself and get tough on your environment. What modifications does your community need to make to support long life? What solutions can you come up with to help create an environment that serves the aging population rather than punishes or demeans this growing group of people?