Enjoying the Golden Years with Our Loved Ones

    The clear lake water laps gently against the dock where you and your father stand in silence. He gazes across the water toward the setting sun. He appears deep in thought. “A beautiful, golden sunset to kick off my golden years,” he says.

    You smile. It’s a moment out of a Robert Frost poem. “Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold,” you recite from memory. Dad smiles back. Everything in life has led to this exact moment, and now, in his first day of retirement, the family can begin focusing on enjoying the golden years together. You feel at peace. 

    Sounds almost too perfect to be true, right? OK, so you may not have an iconic lake scene from a movie to usher your elders into retirement. But the feeling is genuine, and there are ways to help your elder live each day with meaning and purpose. 

    Here are Some Ways for Everybody to Enjoy Your Elder’s Golden Years

    Steps come with responsibility. It’s worth it for a life well lived and thoroughly enjoyed.  

    Engage the Mind

    Your loved one may have been a very busy person in their working years. Daily life, work, kids and everything else keeps the mind naturally active for many decades. You don’t even think about it, but a busy mind is almost constantly getting exercise. 

    Then kids grow, retirement comes and suddenly the mind has so much less to keep it occupied. The brain is like a muscle. It gets weak without activity. Harvard Medical School recommends regular mental stimulation to prevent cognitive decline later in life. 

    Find something stimulating your loved one likes to do. You could always build a puzzle together or even take up learning a musical instrument. Perhaps they already like to read, draw or paint. Encourage these activities as your elder grows older.  (And remember, natural cognitive and memory regressions with age aren’t always proof of dementia. Be vigilant, of course, and have fun promoting great brain function!)

    Story Time

    Many elders have gathered a lifetime of interesting stories. Often, they’ve raised children who are now raising children of their own. They’ve experienced career successes and failures. They’ve cherished love and endured loss. 

    Elders tend to grow reminiscent in their golden years. Pleasant memories comfort everyone. They may even tell cautionary tales as teachable moments. Relish these opportunities to get to know their life’s journey — even if you’ve heard such stories a thousand times before. Honor their legacy by truly appreciating the narrative built upon lived experience.    

    Build a Life Care Plan

    Preparation is an important part of enjoying later years alongside your elder. Golden years aren’t always sunshine and rainbows. Your loved one and family face important decisions from managing declining health to complicated legal and financial issues.

    Have early conversations involving:

    • Care partners – Who will be included in certain tasks (cooking, cleaning, driving to doctor’s appointments, etc.) when your elder’s capacity for self-care diminishes? 
    • Comfort care – Which resources will be mobilized to ease pain, discomfort and illness (hospice agencies, death doulas, etc.)? 
    • Legal and finances – Are your loved one’s assets in order to be eligible for Medicaid and a long-term care facility? Who has power of attorney to execute decisions at end of life and beyond? Are life celebrations and other final arrangements finished?
    • Home atmosphere – How will you create the most comfortable atmosphere at home or in assisted living? Do they have any musical, spiritual or other personal preferences?

    It’s best to draft a life-care plan that stipulates how your elder wishes to live their final years, months, days and hours. Have these discussions early enough so everyone can discuss these realities calmly and rationally. Knowing these matters are decided, your elder and care-partner team can relax and enjoy many wonderful remaining memories to come. (Helpful hint: You can always revise a life-care plan to evolve alongside changing wishes and circumstances.) 

    Connect (and Reconnect) 

    Golden years are an opportune time to strengthen relationships. Elders may desire to connect more deeply with loved ones. Their hopes for quality time may include more rounds of golf, more trips to the movies, or simply holding hands at their bedside. Roughly one-third of American seniors feel lonely, potentially resulting in negative mental and physical health effects.

    They could desire to reconnect with old friends and memories. They may even want to re-establish platonic friendships with old flames to mend wounds and learn to laugh again. 

    Good Diet & Exercise

    It’s never too late to start eating well and exercising. Good nutrition and activity can improve quality of life in the golden years. When possible, try to cook or influence healthy food decisions. Join your loved one on a short walk. Who doesn’t like getting out for some fresh air in great company?

    Express Gratitude

    Life is a beautiful gift. Celebrate it alongside your loved one at each stage, no matter how difficult it may be. Your loved one may still have many great years left to enjoy family dinners, kids’ soccer games and walks around the park. Or they may be quite sick with only a few days left.

    Give thanks for the happy years they’ve lived and the love they’ve given family and friends. The golden years are more enjoyable while expressing gratitude for all of life’s blessings.

    The Golden Years: The Last Piece of a Life Worth Living

    The final stretch of life should be lived with joy and dignity. The golden years can bring many great memories and experiences. Your loved one and their care-partner team can enjoy them to the fullest with a little preparation and perspective.

    If you need help, Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC has over 25 years of experience with all aspects of life-care planning. Email info@caregiversupportandresources.com to set up a free consultation.