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Archive for June, 2012

Aging/Learning

I am the primary support person for my mother, who lives at the Arbors assisted living facility in Amherst. She had lived in Boynton Beach, Florida until she had a small stroke, then a serious fall, then the death of her brother (a neighbor).

She found herself not able to drive in an area that it is very limiting to not be able to drive, with shrinking primary support and friend community, distant from me (only child), no contact with my two boys.

Really isolated.

Over the past few months, I’ve been running a small sub-business providing financial management services (day to day, not investments, etc.) for elders that want to remain independent but their kids largely don’t trust their judgment anymore, or at least sense the need for help.

Its a lot of contact with the elderly, after none at all for most of my life, and none with any sense of “that could/will be me”, direct source of empathy.

I’ve learned a few things.

The most important insight is that being old is NOT a period of time when one just settles in, runs on habit only, set in ways.

In contrast, like early childhood, it is the time of most frequent and most radical changes in one’s whole world, requiring learning entirely new skills to navigate the new set of capacities and workarounds.

When one loses the ability to drive, one has to reinvent one’s whole world, whole social support systems. When one loses hearing, or eyesight, similarly, AGAIN. Then, ability to walk, new whole world, way of getting through, AGAIN. Then, when one begins to lose ones memory, not only having to learn to navigate a new setting, but without the tools to do so. Like an infant has to learn what legs are for, that severe a change, requiring that radical a learning capacity.

And, finally, the action of preparing for dying and the process of dying is entirely new world, requiring learning.

Its the periods of 10 – 20 years without significant change, that people get stodgy. The elderly have to be and mostly are learners more than stodgy.

All when tired, more and more and more work-arounds, and not thought of highly.

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