Endings and Beginnings

Is it a difference in philosophy or personality whether we think more about the year that is concluding or the new one about to start? Some of us seem to be focused on reviewing the past while others can’t wait for the calendar page to turn and the new year to be upon us.

As we watch December unfolding and January peeking around the corner, it is truly a time of endings and beginnings. The year plays itself out in review in our memories, with both the good and troubling, the small things and those “big” things that change our lives. We think about the year ahead, and when we ask people if they’ve made resolutions and what those are they give us the ones that you’d expect to hear—this is the year to lose the weight, to hit the gym, to find the job they’ve always wanted, to go back to school and so on.

When we talk with older adults, resolutions take on a slightly different perspective. Many of our older adults, when asked about what they would like the coming year to hold, are focused on simpler things and, I would suggest, more important things. Their hopes for the year ahead are for health, for the ability to continue to do things they choose to do, and, most of all, for those they care about. They hope for health and success for their families and they hope for connection. They want to see their loved ones, spend time with them, be a part of their lives in any way that they can.

Thinking about the difference in our resolutions led me to think about resolutions that might benefit both the older adults in my life—and me as well. Perhaps you would consider adopting some of these resolutions as well.

First, I resolve to listen more. Sometimes when talking with someone who struggles with words, I jump to fill the silence with words of my own. This year I will allow that older adult to answer, to give them the time they need, to be on their schedule and not mine.

Second, I resolve to be more patient. Although I may have a thousand (or more) other things to do, nothing matters more than being present in the moment and keeping my attention with that individual.

Third, I resolve not to mourn the past. It is easy to think about people as they were and not as they are. This year I want to remember to value them as they are and accept them without wishing things were different, without letting myself dwell in that place.

Fourth, I resolve to be sensitive to the words I use and the way I say them. Perception is reality and I want to always remind myself to think about the impact of my message, not to me but to the other person.

And a fifth, and final resolution. I resolve to remember, and to remind myself and others, that we are all “doing the best that we can.” None of us are the person we were a year ago, a decade ago, a lifetime ago. We have to remember that about our older adults and find peace with it.

If I can make all these resolutions a reality in my life, perhaps I can model them for others and change the way we interact with other adults. Wouldn’t that make for a better 2017—for all of us?

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is chair-elect of LeadingAge and past chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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