Autumn in the northeast is a time when once green leaves change color — first brilliant and then muted shades of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns — and drift to the ground. Autumn seems a natural time to think about aging.
Here in Western Massachusetts, October and November are marked by maturation and change, especially for plant life. But also for people.
I find myself thinking about how the “colors” in our lives can shift as we mature, through this season and beyond — during years of seasons. Apparently, I am not the only one thinking about the ways that change already does or could show up for us.
Last winter and spring I conducted a few group discussions with women here in Western Massachusetts, because I wanted to learn more about which issues were on their minds.
The topics that came up most often surprised me. They had to do with illnesses and challenges that we typically associate with aging. And these concerns came from women of different ages – not just those with greying hair.
I hadn’t anticipated their preoccupation with aging-related issues. But the more we talked, the more I realized how common and understandable their concerns are. In fact, I also realized that I share some of their worries, questions, and desires for answers.
Will That Happen To Me Too?
I’ve found myself thinking about my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents and the serious health challenges they faced during their later years: heart disease, cancer, arthritis, cognitive decline, cataracts, osteoporosis, and more.
I began pondering about which, if any, of their issues might show up in my body. After all, we’re related!
You and I each know family members, friends, or people in our communities who have struggled with one or more life-altering problems as they’ve aged. It’s nearly impossible to observe and not wonder: Could that be me one day? Am I already on the road to similar challenges?
Sound familiar? Regardless of age, most of us worry about what getting older is or might be like, especially with respect to our health.
As the women in my discussion groups reminded me, common fears about aging are many. They include losses in such domains as: stamina and balance, cognitive function and memory, bone density and joint mobility, dental health and vision, digestive integrity and sleep, social networks and loved ones.
As well, our aging fears cover potential unwanted “gains,” especially in the form of aches, pains, chronic illness, and loneliness. Some of us fret about whether we’ll even be able to take care of ourselves as we grow older.
That’s a lot to be concerned about! If that partial list overwhelms you, I relate.
Is it all inevitable?
Even though I believe that each of us has the power to impact the course of our own health journey, I’ve been thinking about the common assumption in our society that problems we associate with aging are inevitable. Which leads me to these questions:
~ Does disease come in a package deal with the privilege of growing grey hair? ~ Do we have any say in how we age? ~ What makes the most difference for quality of life as we age?”
I’ll be addressing questions like those in my next blog post. So watch for that one soon.
As well, I’ll be focusing on aging well in an upcoming workshop at River Valley Market, in Northampton, MA, on November 15th.
If you’d have aging related concerns you’d like to talk with me about privately, please contact me.