There was a question:
What needs are important to senior citizens? A rather broad subject to be sure.
Because this site is focused on people over sixty, we set out to find the needs that might be unique to older people?
In Attempting To Research Possible Answers, A Couple Of Things Became Evident
- There is no shortage of experts offering advice to seniors.
- Some say that the needs are no different than younger age groups.
HealthyLivingAfter60.com has a different slant.
Seniors are not the only group with significant needs, but they are the only group in which the needs affect the majority rather than a few.
The answers seem to boil down to a three specific points.
Everybody needs strong relationships, good health and a purpose.
We’ll take them one at a time.
Let’s stipulate that having relationships with others is important to healthy living. Contrary to writers and poets, no one is a island.
While some like being alone, companionship is an important part of the human experience. Even if that companionship is an animal.
We wrote about man’s best friend recently. You can read about it here. Everybody Loves A Puppy.
When there is an absence of strong relationships we end up with loneliness. Seniors who lose a spouse, especially those who have shared decades together are unique.
Certainly there are younger people who lose a spouse from accidents and disease, but they have not shared forty, fifty or sixty years with the one they lost.
That is not to minimize the loss, but only to point out it is not the same. As tragic as it is to lose of a loved one, the sense of loss experienced by a senior is often much deeper.
There are multiple reasons, but one important difference is the age factor itself. Seniors are not likely to find themselves in a setting conducive to finding a new companion. The result is often loneliness.
In my own family, I was told that when my grandmother died, my grandfather became so lonesome, that he died within six months. It all happened before I was born.
The role of family
It is common with older adults to have less contact with families. There are a number of reasons.
Adult children often locate away from the family home and see or visit their parents less frequently. As time goes on, the bustle of the younger family results in visits becoming less and less frequent. The unintended consequences are fewer strong family relationships.
This is not to suggest that families become estranged. They do however, drift apart. The busyness of life gets in the way.
Seniors who are not particularly social, or adept at establishing friendships, fine loneliness to be an ever growing part of their life.
The solution begins with family and friends understanding the problem and stepping up to help.
Then there is the use of eldercare type social organizations that can aid in creating social opportunities for older adults.
If you are looking to government to fill the role, you will be disappointed.
Statistics point out that by 2025, Seniors will comprise 20% of the (United States) population. Government will not have the money nor resources to provide for this need.
The role of family and faith based organizations will be increasingly more important in providing social interaction for seniors.
Here is a true story to make the point for the need of relationships.
I learned of a group of siblings who rallied when their ninety something year old mother suffered a stroke. The adult children and their respective spouses, having admitted the mother to hospice, arranged a schedule assuring the dying mother would never be alone in her final days.
Hospice workers were astonished at the efforts. Even knowing their mother was in a coma, they made certain she was never alone. The significance of the effort was not lost on the hospital staff.
The hospice setting had other patients who were alert. They understood their fate. Health care workers disclosed that many of those other patients never had a visitor. They were destined to die alone.
Strong relationships are an important need for seniors.
Health care is widely recognized as the most urgent need of most seniors. It is simply a part of growing old. Stuff wears out. A lifetime of doing things, both good and not so good, takes it’s toll.
Having said that, perhaps we can better understand the needs of seniors if we drop the word health and talk about care.
The needs vary widely and can change rapidly. They are, none the less, needs. Rapid or sudden changes often have us circling back to health.
Increasing needs for care
Care in managing the homestead. Those still living in their own home will eventually find the need to contract out such tasks as snow removal, lawn care and building maintenance. Jobs such a painting, changing windows and screens, gutter cleaning, are all tasks most will eventually have to farm out.
Hopefully those who come to the aid of the seniors, will be their children and grandchildren.
As health issues increase, the need of assistance will also grow. The dilemma for many seniors is to find a balance of independence and assistance.
Managing prescriptions, driving, scheduling doctor appointments and other concerns affect the the needs of seniors.
We need to exercise caution as we discuss these needs. Like any other group, one size does not fit all.
There are ample examples of those in their 80’s and 90’s who live alone, managing life better than most would expect.
Normally there are caregivers filling in with certain needs, but a quality of life of a ninety year old widow does not automatically mean she should be living in a nursing home.
At the same time, there are seventy year olds who are unable to accomplish their most basic needs. Assisted living or nursing homes may be the only options.
A Life Of Purpose
After sixty, seventy or eighty years, seniors still want to know there is a purpose for their life.
It is easy to think of the public figures and their accomplishments. It is natural to think they will continue in a public role. But that is only a tiny fraction of the population.
Most seniors don’t want recognition. They want to know they still have value.
What about the father or mother? The scout leader or PTA member?
These aging servants still need to know they are needed. Their lives still need purpose. Where do they find it?
The chance to be in business never quite leaves many seniors. It may no longer be the profit motive that drives them. Often it the desire to help others get a leg up in a quest to build a prosperous company. The effort provides purpose.
Many turn to the faith based community. They volunteer to feed the homeless. They work with organizations such as the Red Cross. They pass out blankets and bottled water to victims of disasters.
Others find purpose working as election officials. They check us in and hand us ballots when we show up to vote.
Have you been to the hospital lately?
Where I live, virtually all the hospital volunteers are seniors. They’re wonderful people helping those who need their assistance. They have found purpose in growing old. Helping others will always be a noble calling and seniors do it well.
The opportunities to help others is limitless. Whether it’s mentoring younger people or standing ready to offer advice to those in need.
The need for purpose is vital to the health of older adults.
If you are reading this and are not a senior, take a moment a ask if you are doing what you can to aid in the needs that are important to seniors.
If you are a senior, there are many who will help you with the important needs of healthy living. Reach out to your senior centers or local church for help.
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