February is the month of love.
I am going to give you some tips to keeping love a main focus throughout your entire life. Not letting the challenges of aging get in the way. Keeping in mind that love is the most important factor in the lives of millions of people everywhere. When I ask new clients what gives their life meaning and value, it is usually the love of a family member or partner. Love is important to keep at the center of any challenges that life might put in your way.
Think of older couples making the hard decision to sell their home of fifty years and move into a retirement community. It means that they have to discard many of the treasures that they have collected, all with meaning and memories. However, if you keep the focus on “what do we need now?” and “what is most important?”, the letting go will be just a little easier.
You committed to love in “sickness and in health” many years ago, not thinking that “sickness” didn’t just mean a sore throat or a broken leg. In the aging process, it can become total dependency. Dependency brought on by a progressive illness like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease to one or both partners. Or maybe the burdens of living with diabetes or pulmonary illnesses for you or your partner have taken over as a central theme to your daily living.
The goal is not to let that aging or health-related diagnosis get in the way of your relationship.
The goal then becomes making sure that there is always a priority for joy and fun, balancing joy with the extra care time it takes to manage some of these age-related challenges.
I recently met with a couple who had just moved into an assisted living community. They were talking about how to arrange the furniture and the supportive medical equipment. What was most important was not how the room looked, but where they could have their two easy chairs side by side, so they could hold hands while watching television – that is love.
Tips for keeping love in your day:
Start and end every day with “I love you!”
Sexual activity and touch are important to human health; it improves the immune system, reduces the risk of prostate cancer, contributes to better cardiac health, and more. If medication or functional ability is an issue for you, talk to your medical or mental health providers for ideas. Those deprived of physical touch are often more sickly. For more information about the benefits of intimacy and aging CLICK HERE.
If you have to provide care for your partner, find time every day for just “you time”. A walk with a friend, time alone in the garden, go to a movie, play a round of golf, go for a swim, etc. Never give up all that you enjoy just because your love pulls you to care 24/7. If you do, you will not have the joy or energy to give your partner what is needed and your own health will suffer. Unfortunately, it is often the well spouse/partner who is the first to pass away because of this problem. Join a support group to keep yourself in check. We offer a support group once a month; it is free and might be just what you need so you can “self-care” without guilt.
If the “stuff” in your life prevents you from getting the level of support you need it might be time to seek some help. Bringing in a professional counselor/care manager can work with the two of you. Making a challenging decision to move to supportive living easier. That would mean moving with what you value most for the best quality of life, letting go of the “stuff” and focusing on the important aspects of the here and now.
This journey we call life is a roller coaster with joys and challenges. The gift of love is most precious and needs to be nurtured and never taken for granted.
Happy Valentine’s Day