Ideas to cope with living on your own as a senior or caring for a senior on their own. by francy dickinson
Dear Francy; I just left my mom’s place, we are on our way out of town for a long weekend. She seemed so lonely, but did not want to come with us. Should I push her to join us?
I have been dealing with my own loneliness lately and I wanted to chat about it and share my thoughts. I personally have gone through lots of changes in the last few years, I lost my husband, I lost my home and I moved out of my home town area. I still live close, but its a highway- drive of about an hour to visit old friends and family and I am not really enjoying that drive. So, I have tried to make my new experience more comfortable for myself and keep myself busy with new things.
My mother always told me to live my life like I was going to have company that day. She was a woman that lost her husband at 62 and she kept working till she was 70. At 71 she moved out of her very large family home to live above my sister in a newly constructed upstairs apartment. She was there until she was 83 sharing life with her daughter, Charline. They had loads in common and were not just family but dear friends. They both lived alone and they shared their time working in a wonderful garden area they had created. They often shared dinners, they drove around to specialty nurseries on the weekend and mother had a life-long group of friends that she did things with…like play cards.
My sister shocked us all at the age of 55; when she found out she had cancer and in just a short few months passed away. At 83 my mother was crushed and totally alone. Not only did she lose a daughter but she lost her dearest friend. Not only did she lose her, but the house was in Charline’s name and went to her sons. So mother was left alone and without any investment money to make changes in her life. She was lucky to keep living in her upper apartment area free, because her grandson was kind and generous to her. But it was always a stress for her to know she had no where to go. She had a very small monthly income and her older age and health challenges really started to add up to problems for her. I was her care giver in those days and I really worried about her emotions when loneliness seemed to over take her. I would visit every other day and take her around to appointments and do things like shopping and eating out. But basically she was at home on her own.
It took her a couple of years of grief and then she started to work out of her sadness. What I noticed is how organized she stayed and how cheerful she then faced life. Lately, I find myself in her position. I have a small monthly income and my change of circumstances and having no children of my own has given me a lot of time on my own at home. But I have tried to remember mother’s tips for her lifestyle that continued until her death at 100 years.
- Keep your home cleaned as if you were expecting guests. Keep coffee and tea with treats ready to share with them and air out the house so it smells good to anyone stopping by. Just those little things make a difference in your day. I put things away at night to allow myself to wake up to a home clean and happy looking. No piles of magazines or pop cans, I put things away. It makes me feel free of stress when I do that daily.
- Keep a pet, it allows you to have someone to care about and talk to and it brings your spirits up. I have a little Bichon, named Missy and a cat, named Dottie. Mother always had a small dog…but you know a bird or fish are just as enjoyable. Adopting senior pets is a kind and loving thing to do…give it a try. It will pay back with love a million times.
- Keep your hair and your body as well kept as you can. My mother was not into grey hair, she had been a lovely auburn hair girl all her life. So when she aged she kept a light strawberry blonde on her graying hair. It kept her happy to see her hair look good in the mirror. She used to say her aging was really quite surprising to her. She would walk past a mirror and not know who that person was. So, I get my hair done and I get my toes and fingernails done, too. That way I feel in the swing of things and ready to hit the grocery store looking together and enjoy my appearance.
- Keep your clothes up to date. You don’t have to over do with buying new clothes, but the idea that you are alone at home and do not need anything new to wear is not a good one. You need clothes to make you feel happy–man or woman and they should fit well no matter what shape your body is in, so make a budget for at least one piece of clothing each month. Shop around to buy something with color and on sale. It gives you a challenge.
- Keep a calendar by your TV chair and write down your weekly “To Do’s”. Just because your days are your own, should not mean you are not planning for full days. Even if its a note for a TV show you don’t want to miss. Write it down. If its a family birthday, even a text message is a welcome, if not a card or a gift to shop for and deliver. If its a holiday, there can be a little baking to take to the family event. If you have to drive far, then get a family member to pick you up. Or decide to drive and then stay-over and come home the next day. Your family will make room for you and enjoy the visit.
- Don’t just think you need to eat a little and not worry about food. My mother lived to 100 years, she did that as a healthy woman. That was because she always made sure she ate well. She did not eat a lot, she just planned her meals. She would make stews or soups and freeze some for a dinner later and she ate salads with fish or meats on top. She had her favorite treats and she was in the kitchen because her dog, would not let her forget their dinner.
- Keep something green around you. Even if you only have a small apartment, you can have a few house plants or a pot of herbs, by your kitchen window. Watering plants and keeping them healthy is a good pass-time. If you are lucky enough to have a patio then summer pots and winter greens are a must. A nice chair to sit and good book to read…now that is what living alone allows you, time to spoil yourself.
- Move. Mother always exercised each morning. It does not matter what that means to you…make it easy but make it a daily requirement. I remember one of my great aunts had terrible arthritis and she told me one day, that if she did not stretch out her arms and legs every day, even if she was not feeling well, they would freeze and she would lose the ability to use them. Stretching is the most important of all…but walking around your house or down the street is a gift you give to yourself. Its a personal choice how well you are in your senior years, so it takes a strong commitment to loving yourself to be well for year after year. The alternative is losing your independence …so its worth your personal investment.
- Do things that make you happy. I have some British TV that I like, so I make sure I watch it..it makes me happy. I also enjoy our local Seahawk football team. August is a joy to me….football comes back. I take note of the game times and I watch them with gusto. I like to go to concerts in the park and listen to jazz. I like to see movies when they strike me as fun, I love to walk around museums and have lunch with my friends. What is your enjoyment? Is it time with your grand children, is it holidays with family, is it sitting in the sunshine? Make time for your own joy!
- There is a difference in having a sad day and having a very sad week after week. If you find that you are immersed in feeling alone; go to your doctor and talk to them about your emotions. You know your brain can get out of order and chemically be off? Medications can help you get back in the right mood and keep you feeling up and ready for action. So if you feel you don’t want to bother doing things…get into the doctors office and have a chat with them…let them help you. Its as important as having heart issues or sugar diabetes…its a chemical change in your brain and you need to get it attended to as soon as possible. Keeping well, taking your medications, drinking water and eating real food…is how your life will take a turn to enjoyment, not just days following days. Live like you are going to have a guest that day, clean up your home, and your own body and be ready. You deserve having things in order and a delight for your eyes.
Remember no one makes you happy. You make you happy. You have to work on finding things to make you feel joyful and loved. Don’t think you are too old to fuss…because in a few months you will be even older. It is not age, it is your life…live it one day at a time and enjoy the ride. Life does not have to be a non-stop fun fest, but it should be a lovely ride that brings you feelings of safety and joy. Blessings, francy