Hope is the key to living and aging well
Posted with permission. Originally published in the Parker Chronicle
We all know that Douglas County is growing. One of the best things about this growth is that very soon adults over the age of 60 will account for nearly 25% of our population. The members of this age group have so much wisdom and experience to share. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, older adults also volunteer in their community more than any other age group. Wow, think about how this will positively impact our community!
However, there are also some issues that this age group may face. The National Council on Aging reports that 92% of the older adult population has at least one chronic health issue and 77% have at least two. Add cognitive decline, sensory impairments, affordable housing and transportation to the list of concerns and it’s no wonder some adults over the age of 60 may be struggling to live and age well in our community.
Although those statics seem overwhelming, the potential solution may actually be quite simple. What those statistics cause is disconnection. Just one of them has the power to take a member of our community out of the life they are living. Add a few of them together and the impact could be devastating. Social isolation further compounds this disconnection, which can lead to despair and feelings of hopelessness. Sadly, this scenario is all too familiar for those of us who serve the senior community of Douglas County.
Now for some good news! Although we may not have total control over our health issues, affordable housing, transportation or other circumstances in our life, for most of us it is in our nature as humans to be hopeful. When we look at hope as an acronym and divide it into four parts, it becomes a powerful tool that can be used to help overcome the challenges that many adults over the age of 60 may be facing.
Human connection is where hope begins. It’s the first step in breaking the disconnection created by the challenges mentioned above. The need for human connection is actually part of our DNA. Newborns are an excellent example of this. They must connect with their mothers as a matter of survival. Although our physical and emotional needs change as we age, the drive for human connection remains.
Opportunity is what helps hope grow. When someone is facing age-related challenges in their life, we need to provide them with the opportunity to speak their minds, be angry, grieve, and sometimes just to agree to disagree, without any judgment on our part. Most of us are eager to offer advice during these events. Many times what people need most is to truly be heard.
Participation is what strengthens hope. We first need to be an active participant in listening. This will help us better understand what our role needs to be and what the expectations are for the other person. When it’s our turn to speak, we need to clarify what we expect, as well. Look at participation as an action agreement that both parties agree to. When we participate and support the participation of others, we again connect as human beings.
Empowerment is what sustains hope. When we are connected and making the most of opportunities as active participants, we naturally become empowered. Empowered people can face any challenge without fear because they know that anything is now possible. They also understand the importance of empowering others. When an entire community is empowered there is no challenge that cannot be overcome.
As we look forward to our future community full of vibrant residents age 60 and older, there is so much to celebrate. Their wisdom, life experience and ability to give back to our community will benefit all of us. Add a healthy dose of hope to that and the future of all generations living in Douglas County looks very bright.Enter your text here...