I remember when my first AARP magazine arrived eight years ago.
I was shocked – how dare someone assume that I was getting old enough for AARP? I had a son not yet in high school and a thriving business. My husband was 25 years into his career. My parents, both in their eighties, had moved from Virginia to less than a mile away from me five years earlier after my mother had some health problems, but they were still driving and living independently. Retirement was not part of my world. Aging was on a far distant horizon!
Segue eight years. With the economic downturn my husband lost his job and I lost my business. My father began to suffer small strokes and eventually lost his ability to walk and urinate properly. My mother fell coming home from the grocery store one day, beginning a decline in her overall health and the development of age-related dementia. We didn’t know until then how much she had been caring for my father. My son had finished high school and followed his dream of joining the Marines, got through boot camp at Parris Island, started the School of Infantry, developed health issues and was now home, about to turn twenty and looking for himself.
Is this a sad story? No, it is life and it is the journey.
It is a classic story of the “sandwich generation “, of the coming of age of Baby Boomers. It is about aging in America and facing challenges we didn’t think we would have to. It is about caring for elderly parents and dealing with Medicaid and money; about making career changes in our fifties, and lifestyle changes that blast us out of our comfort zone. It is about shifting goals and priorities to adjust to new realities. It is about learning the lesson of creating joy in our lives despite the challenges; of developing resilience, creativity, and the ability to be grateful, every day, for what we have and a vision for what we can create.
My parents, now in their nineties, have gifted me with the double-edged sword of longevity. Looking at the current political and economic climate, the likelihood of a system like the one that now helps care for the elderly, Medicare and Medicaid, being available in twenty years when I am likely to start needing it, is questionable at best. Certainly it will not take its current form. The Baby Boomer generation, by virtue of its sheer size, will not be able to be sustained by the subsequent smaller generations who will be charged with our care.
This socio-economic climate is not one that I as an individual have any control over. What I do have control over is myself. One of the things I have come to realize is the importance of maintaining my own health and well-being. Staying well physically, mentally, and spiritually is, for me the key to a future that is healthy and productive, and independently lived.
Follow my future blogs as I write about my journey and those of my friends, family and colleagues. Learn ways to stay fit and healthy as you age as I share practical information on diet, exercise and “well thinking” for Boomers.
Please share your stories too! I have a mission to help people of my generation be well, age well, and live full, productive and independent lives as long as possible. Sharing our stories, our struggles and our triumphs will benefit us all in ways we can’t imagine.
Myra Oney is a certified Health and Wellness Coach. Her business, Keys To Vital Health, is dedicated to providing information and services to people who are serious about creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She is available to speak and give workshops to community groups and businesses, as well as for individual coaching. For more information go to her website www.MyraOneyHealthCoaching.com or email her at Myra@MyraOneyHealthCoaching.com