Preserving occupations for the elderly

Everyday I come home from work and tell Pathik about my day. What a lucky guy, he gets to listen to this during dinner and sometimes all throughout the night. Today I told him about how touched I was by the elderly couple I had the opportunity to work with over the past couple of days. The husband of my patient wanted to be so helpful to his wife ( and to me during therapy) that he would jump out of his seat to adjust her chair so she could participate in therapy, remind her of what she needs to do with the adaptive equipment I was having her practice using, and was always punctually waiting for her when she got back to her room from physical therapy. Sometimes when family is so involved, I get really annoyed because it interferes with therapy, but this wasn’t disruptive at all. I just felt like there was something so sweet about it; I think it was because I could tell that they’ve been together and caring for each other for many years- and they haven’t tired of it.

It made me think of the idea of “growing old together.” It’s something Pathik and I have talked about wanting to do in a very superficial way, but we’ve never actually planned for that far in advance. We’ve planned for Europe in the next couple of years, and started thinking about kids in the not so near future, but haven’t really paid much attention to how we’re going to ensure quality of life when we’re in our “9th inning.”

I know many times both people in the couple don’t make it to the 9th inning, but I’m going to assume everything will be peaches and that both of us will make it there. I mean, it’s written all over those billboards sticking out over the 294 expressway- ” Plan your retirement to live to 105″ or something like that. That sign actually makes me really nervous, because then I start thinking how I’m supposed to live more than three quarters more than official retirement age. I guess I should also plan to work until I’m 80 :/ Great. Just about….. 65 more years to go.

Anyway, I didn’t want to write this post to dive into financial management (although, I have been doing some research and do have some things to share in a different post.) I wrote this post because :

1. I really miss my grandma
2. I started thinking about how elderly people (like my grandma) lose many of their occupations they’ve had their entire life like mother, wife, their job title, etc. because of decreasing¬†performance skills due to age related changes (bone mass loss, decreased eyesight, decreased vision, etc.) and time-related changes

I know not everyone who is elderly is sick and facing health issues, but I also know that mild, moderate, minimal age related changes are inevitable,because that’s just what they are. If you are living to that age, you will face certain age-related issues. This is a problem because these changes can affect every day occupations, from hobbies to the ability to socialize.

Diwali is just around the corner, which makes me think of my grandma’s awesome¬†nankhatai. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t have childhood diabetes with the amount of sweet stuffs she always fed me, especially nankhatai. She probably had to make so many extra because I would always eat them hot out of the oven .

Making nankhatai is something she has done for years, but when I asked her for her recipe, she said she didn’t remember anymore. I don’t think she would have been able to try and recall from procedural memory, because even if I set up all the ingredients in front of her, I don’t think her hands would automatically recall what to do, let alone her being able to see/hold all the items. Making sweets, especially during the holidays, was a key component of her personal role. Now she can’t even recall a recipe to pass it on to me. Doing things like cooking, knitting, walking to friends’ places is not a part of her daily occupations anymore. She mostly sits and reads, but that definitely did not have a place in my grandma’s former active lifestyle.

Her occupations have changed, but I don’t think her perception of her role in the family or the idea of what is meaningful to her has changed. She still loves to give advice which causes my parents/aunts and uncles to roll their eyes of course; I’m sure it’s frustrating to have someone tell you what to do when you’re 50 and older. However, if she cannot pursue her familiar occupations, and cannot hold on to meaningful roles, what provides good quality of life?

If I actually do live until I’m 105, I want to make sure I am living happy years, not just whiling away my time. What pre-emptive measures should my generation take to age well? According to some articles online, maintaining meaningful relationships and living mindfully are just as important to aging well as physical fitness, exercise, eating well, and healthy habits. I’ll be following up and sharing on this idea soon.

These are just some things I have been wondering about lately. Anybody have any thoughts?


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