Dr. Bill Thomas in his compelling book, Second Wind, explores the emergence of a new category coming after adulthood. When accomplishments and satisfactions no longer impel, when the person is feeling a different set of priorities setting in, and physical changes occur as chronological age increases, a person steps into a new part of life.
Thomas calls it elder hood, a time of life when life itself is re-imagined. People entering this stage could be seen as a resource in society (instead of an object in need of care,) if we open to the possibility of a different point of view.
This concept can be a powerful tool for us to create a new paradigm for senior care as well. Senior care can empower the aging individual instead of being a form of getting them comfortable for the inevitable decline and death.
If it is truly possible that neurological and other systems of the body can be repaired then it is fully possible for our elder population to remain viable to all generations.
Why not shift our viewpoint to embrace this possibility? Then we can work towards our seniors receiving care (my passion of Craniosacral is one such modality,) that increase health and decrease stressors and inflammation instead of simply medicating to a symptom.
In addition to introducing new types of medical care comes an invitation to look at alternative options for home and social life. Eric Klinkenberg in his book Going Solo points out that more and more seniors in both America and Scandinavia are living alone. It is an interesting observation. In his research there is some evidence that it boosts a sense of personal freedom, civic and social involvement, and mental health. My mom is a good example of someone who wished to stay in her home even though it meant living alone. This is radically different than considering a nursing home as the first and best option for those aging among us.
Many of our Scandinavian countries are coming out ahead because they have developed a way for this generation to have private dwellings that keep the local community close around them. This way the individual is not asked to give up their liberties but encouraged to redefine their lives on their own terms.
There are action steps we can take to explore this new paradigm.
First we can open the door of dialogue. If we have someone in our family who is senior we can ask them what they desire as they age? What would be their personal dream regarding health care, social life, and home? Second we can look at alternative forms of health care for our senior family members. The options abound these days and are increasingly more and more affordable. Third we can investigate what kinds of organizations and groups are supporting the emergence of elder hood described above. Perhaps there is a Meetup group where youth are paired with seniors as mentors, or others where seniors have formed initiatives to keep their gifts in the community.
When the inspiration for a new paradigm comes forward it is from seeds that have already been planted. We can trust we are not alone. Yes, we can find that budding initiatives might just be a click of the mouse away.