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Continuing a sense of achievement in our senior years

Patricia Harrington
Patricia Harrington - Contributed

Resources available for seniors needing help

Healthy Aging

By Patricia Harrington

Some time ago I had a year when any extra time was spent with family and friends going geocaching. For those of you who may not know what geocaching is all about, I can only say that it is like a world-wide treasure hunt without an actual treasure.

You use a GPS and location coordinates to find boxes placed in all kinds of locations. The true treasure is the feeling of accomplishment when you find that little container and you get to sign your name (your geocache name) on the little piece of paper in the container. After searching through the woods, in a downtown area, or perhaps in a cemetery, you feel a sense of accomplishment when you eye that little container that could be a box shape, a small cylinder, a pill container or something else.

I was thinking about this sense of achievement that is created from having just pure fun and I wondered about people who may not be able to take part in such activities any longer. The feelings of achievement that we get through our work, through learning or through our hobbies may not be possible at some stage of our lives. Does this mean that we will not feel a sense of accomplishment at all? I do not believe that. I think that achievement is something important and can be found through everyday accomplishments like walking to the kitchen or bathroom. Perhaps we will need to use a walking aid at some point and when we use that aid, such as a cane or walker so that we can continue to safely move around our home, that is a true accomplishment.

When a person retires, a sense of accomplishment may switch from work to a hobby or time spent with family. Perhaps learning a new game such as bridge will give that special feeling of achievement. Some people go on to take on great challenges like running marathons or a second career. This can bring a great sense of joy and meaning as well. My point is that when a person no longer has the physical or mental ability to take on large tasks, the smaller, and perhaps routine, tasks can be the ones that bring back that sense of achievement. What was once so common becomes harder for us to do. Achievement can be as simple as continuing to make one’s own bed or brushing your teeth, and this is no less important.

Independence is a great achievement, along with asking for help to remain as able as possible. To recognize when everyday things are becoming very difficult to achieve, one goal can be to reach out for help or information – there is achievement is receiving help. I feel small goals are very important as we age, what appeared to be simple tasks at one time can become larger and larger as we age; the fact that people keep striving to meet them is good. Recognizing when help is needed is even better.

Disappointment may be felt as we continue to strive to do all that we used to and disappointment can help lead us to refocus. That refocussing on what is needed to reduce the feelings of disappointment can help us to aim for something else that will help us to achieve again. Since my family started geocaching there has been a cache that has stumped us. We went back to look for that hidden ‘treasure’ four times and eventually we found it. The disappointment drove us to keep looking and that ended with a sense of achievement in finding it after at least two hours of hunting for it. We needed to reach out for a bit of help by referring more and more to the GPS, and it helped us to reach our goal.

Please do not hesitate to reach out for help should you or someone you know need help with personal care, meals, housekeeping or if you have a question about safety. Call the Seniors Information line at 1-855-550-0552 and someone will be able to provide you with information for your questions and situation.

Patricia Harrington is executive director at Westford Nursing Home in Port Elgin. She believes it is important to share information on everyday concerns as we age and enjoys promoting these important aspects that will help our older population in aging well. She can be reached by email at executivedirector@westfordnursinghome.com or by phone at 506-538-1301.

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