Aging Our Way

Lessons for living, from age 85 and beyond

13 Lessons for Aging Well—Lesson 5

Ask for help & mobilize resources.

Lesson Five: Ask for Help & Mobilize Resources—Aging our Way

Do you ever find yourself thinking about who might attend your funeral?

I had occasion to think this way a few weeks ago, at Alice's memorial service. As I greeted mourners coming through the door, I realized that I was finally meeting Alice's extended network of loved ones. Everyone that she talked about, including the key people she relied on, were finally in the same room, together.

Here's the list:
her pastor
her former housekeeper
her driver—for shopping trips and picnics
her helper—finances and mail
her volunteer helper—from local association for the blind
friends who took her to lunch
friends who ran errands
step-relatives of all kinds, who would visit from afar
former colleagues
former neighbors
her god-daughter who brought her books on tape
her cousin—who always brought flowers
her brother—who visited annually

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This list says several things to me:

1) Alice needed assistance, especially when her eyesight deteriorated. Alice also knew about local resources; or knew who to call to find out. Although she relied on many volunteers, she also had the ability to pay for services.

2) Alice was a pro at delegating. "Once a manager, always a manager," she'd say, as she directed movers, or discussed her health with doctors. Alice was as committed to independence as one could be, having lived her life as an independent (except for 10 years of marriage in her 50s). But she also knew when to ask for help. Perhaps ironically, asking for assistance helped Alice to protect her autonomy and control.

3) Alice, at 94 years of age, had lost a lot of friends. But she also made new ones all the time. And those people, I would bet, loved that they were needed by Alice. Over time, they became her social family. Or that was the sense I got at her funeral.

Funny how the extent of one's personal networks sometimes only becomes apparent at funerals.

NOTE: those 90 mourners in attendance were only a small segment of those in Alice's web; those who could come at a day's notice to a funeral home in the middle of the day.

So here was Alice, 94 years of age, no children of her own, and her network was vast. (Her kindness, humility, and dignity actually strangers to her; I can attest to that.) Here's the truth: Alice's network kept her going, and vice versa. She was a pro at mobilizing resources.

Alice's lesson: ask for help; make a new friend.

Your turn: when was the last time you asked for help?

This is the fifth in a 13-post series on living well, adapted from Aging Our Way: Lessons for Living from 85 and Beyond

Related articles

* 13 Lessons from Alice (agingourway.wordpress.com)

Copyright Meika Loe


Meika Loe is Associate Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Colgate University. She is the author of Aging Our Way: Lessons for Living from 85 and Beyond.

 

Meika Loe, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Colgate University.

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