Abstract: The Gift of a Long Life Survey
Increasingly people are living into their 90s and 100s and beyond. This is a fairly new happening sometimes referred to as “pioneering again”. The Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) Communication Committee decided to ask the (200+) Century Club members (must be 90 to join) about pioneering/living into the 90s and 100s. Thirty (30) members responded to the survey. The survey was looking for evidence of pioneering, breaking new ground; what it found was strong evidence of positive aging.
SCOA’s Vision is Positive Aging for All. Positive aging involves a view of aging as a healthy, normal part of life. Those who age positively, tend to live longer, healthier lives and enjoy a better quality of life. The object is to arrive at our older years with a positive attitude, feeling good about ourselves, making our own choices, feeling in control, keeping fit and healthy and maintaining social networks. Obviously this also takes good genes, adequate resources, an age-friendly environment and a bit of luck!
Responders to the survey offered a variety of thoughtful comments, but essentially most are continuing their life journeys to the best of their abilities. Most responders have accepted their life stage although some expressed regret. They identify as alert, active, engaged individuals who are mostly maintaining the lives and interests they have always known. Many noted that despite the advancing years, “I am still the same person!” They are motivated live a well-balanced lifestyle in order to remain well and mobile. Of those who have health and mobility issues, most do not dwell on the physical inconveniences that aging brings and appear satisfied with their quality of life. A few noted they need to prepare for the future, to have their house in order. A positive attitude is probably their greatest strength.
Concerns centered largely on losses: loss of independence (giving up the car, the home), mobility, family, friends and opportunity. The loss of the ability to care for self is most significant because it results in the need for care and support. A few expressed financial worries. Those living independently now wish to remain so for as long as possible. Many respondents live in senior residences. Daily contact with other residents and staff is mostly appreciated. However, some find congregate living quite difficult at least at the beginning. Having a lot of people around who are mostly strangers with lots of ‘coming and going’ takes some adjusting.
Thanks to the members of the Century Club who responded for giving us a glimpse of life in the 90s and 100s and to remind us that a long life well-lived is truly a gift. As one respondent noted, “Life is good!”
Members of the Saskatoon Council on Aging’s Century Club were surveyed for their thoughts about growing older. The Century Club is a special club for older adults 90 and over who are determined to live as full a life as possible.
The following are the thoughts they shared.
How are you pioneering/ living life in your 90s and 100s?
- Most say they are doing well, carrying on as independently as possible and doing their best to live a ‘normal’ life. It’s Important to be happy, to enjoy what you do, and what you still can do on your own to the best of your abilities. There’s more time now to appreciate family. Also, there’s freedom to do what you choose, not what others say you should. It’s okay to slow down, to not participate in everything but should keep up your interests. Use mobility and other aids available to remain independent.
- Dealing with loneliness, coming to terms with loss and accepting help is difficult.
- This is a time of transitions: from home to senior’s residence, from being fully independent to needing support, from good health to failing health. Being reconciled to possible future needs makes it easier to move to support accommodation.
- Living arrangements vary. Some live independently in their original home or a condo. Moving is a most significant event. Others say they are living ‘independently’ in a senior’s residence which means they look after their own needs, usually make their own breakfasts and lunches and take the dinner the residence offers. Senior residences offer a wide range of activities that seem popular and keep people up and about, active, and making new friends. People contact is mostly appreciated.
- One respondent noted difficulty in finding wearable clothes – the ‘new’ styles are “not easy to adapt to”.
2. What new challenges have you encountered, both positive and negative?
- On the positive side, being able to look after own affairs, not having to do heavy physical work and having fewer responsibilities for yard and home.
- Finding productive ways to use the free time that is available now, keeping active, learning new games, exercising, getting out and doing things are some positive challenges. The positive attitude of support staff is appreciated.
- On the negative side, getting used to congregate living is a huge challenge; With so many people around, coming and going, especially when you don’t know their names is difficult.
- Some express frustration with so much technology; e.g. have difficulty ordering the taxi/access bus.
- Regarding transportation: giving up the car is a huge transition and the major cause of loss of independence. The inconvenience and reluctance of having to depend on others for transportation and being unable to travel at will is mentioned often.
- The fear of loss of mobility, becoming a burden on others, is on many minds as is the challenge of adjusting to physical and mental limitations – preferably without complaining! Finding the right size and style of clothing seems a common problem,
3. How are you adapting to a longer life and what if anything are you doing differently?
- Respondents described how they have adapted – some examples:
- I cut down on a few of the many things done for years but basically continue with most of former involvements
- Doing things I enjoy, also enable me to exercise to help with my health. I do what I can. I don’t expect to do as much as I did when younger. I keep busy and happy. I love company and I try to do the best and take care of myself I really can’t think of any major changes I have had to make
- I have developed a fitness triad of trying to spend one hour a day in exercising each of my physical, mental and spiritual dimensions.
- Finance is of great concern, outliving resources. (Actually, finances were seldom mentioned in the survey responses.)
4. What have you changed about yourself?
- Not much change was reported, rather continuing as before and accepting themselves as they are now. Some feel they are more tolerant, others more outspoken but the common response is that “I’m still the same person as always”. Much more appreciative of all things around us like our country, medical care, friends and family, etc., and doing things to please themselves more often.
5. What new goals have you set for yourself?
- A few new goals were reported, but most want to continue with what they are doing now – exercise, healthy eating, remaining positive and improving technical skills. Goals mentioned seem to depend on past living- more of this or that, carrying on, but keeping in mind the need to be prepared for the future including writing own obituary, getting affairs in order, culling and making order of possessions, helping friends and family, and being grateful for many blessings.
6. What advice would you give to someone in their 60s or 70s about living into the 90s?
Here is some of the advice shared:
- Establish a healthy life style
- Enjoy the life you are living in now. Remember old times and keep in touch with other old friends and family of course!
- Do not stash away miscellaneous items that accumulate more and more until you find out you are becoming a hoarder
- Enjoy each and every day
- Enjoy your independence and don’t take it for granted, things changes.
- Firstly, develop and maintain a positive outlook on life- you’ll find everything about life more enjoyable. If you have been an active volunteer, keep doing it. Don’t give up any hobbies or other activities. In other words, stay active, get lots of exercise, and you will certainly enjoy your retirement.
- Life is sooo short, so prepare now!
- Keep enjoying the day, socialize with good friends, enjoy the outdoors, keep mobile, watch your diet and celebrate every birthday and anniversary! Avoid people who are negative or make you feel unworthy. Embrace friends who are happy, reliable, and resilient.
- Save money for your retirement – you can’t save too much.
7. What do you like about your life now?
The life now is the life they have made for themselves. The resources that senior’s residences offer are welcomed and used. The support, whether from family or the staff of the residence, is needed and appreciated. It’s most important that family visits and those relationships are maintained. Many like not having responsibilities and being free to do whatever they wish, and especially, being alive and well and able to participate in activities and being with friends.
8. What do you not like about your life now?
Some typical comments:
- Too often, after I’ve met new people and after they find out my date of birth, they act as if I’m totally incapable of any activity, mental or physical!!
- I struggle with the loss of independence. Things I used to take for granted now demand so much more energy and/or the assistance of others.
- Still miss my car!
- I’m not as strong and agile as I used to be and my decreasing physical power.
- Taking my age into consideration – nothing!
9. Life is for living. What do you do to live to the fullest?
Respondents shared some ways to keep themselves alert, active, interested and engaged:
- I surround myself with people. Always interesting!
- I seek out good books. I enjoy happy music and I subscribe to Turner Classic Movies. Best of all I look for happy people who bolster my self-esteem and make me laugh.
- I have developed a fitness triad of trying to spend one hour a day in exercising each of my physical, mental and spiritual dimensions. And, I spend more time at computer learning how to use it and expanding my world of interests. Keeping in touch with our expanding family adds joy.
- I keep in touch with my five children and their mates. As the grandchildren grow older, our friendship and love grows stronger. I’m getting to see some of my grandchildren getting married and working hard for their futures.
10. Anything else you would like to share?
Enjoy living, keep a sense of humour, don’t allow yourself to get lonely, cultivate the happiness habit, do what makes you feel good, offer thanks for living where we do, and remember that Life is Good!