Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"Remember When We Couldn't Wait To Get Older?"

Think back to when we were young - very young. For some of us that journey has a few more miles on it. Do you remember wanting to be old enough to start school - not preschool, which maybe didn't even exist where you were living at the time - but actual kindergarten or first grade? Those first two or three years of childhood leading up to the first day of school seemed to last a long time.

Then there were a few other ages that were important for us to attain, such as being old enough to play youth sports or joining scouts or going camping. After that, the biggest one we probably looked forward to attaining was becoming 16 and being old enough to drive and get a driver's license. That signalled an independence so important that people hang onto well into their later years.

Along the way, there also was being old enough not to need a babysitter anymore, being able to stay up later, being able to go out with friends, and being able to get that first job that provided real spending money. Being old enough to start college was in the mix also.

There was being old enough to get that first apartment or home, register to vote, and reaching legal age. Being 21 was a big deal, as I recall. Among other things, it meant that childhood - for better or for worse - was behind us, as well as those awkward teenage years.

The point is, that each year as we have gone through life, there always seemed to be something that was just a little beyond our current station. We needed to be a little bit old or more experienced - to get married, to get a better job, to get a promotion, or to move into a better home. We needed to wait a year or two to get a different car, to get that first boat, or to take our first big vacation.

It wasn't long before we were saving for retirement, paying for insurance of one kind or another, and thinking of college for our children.

At some point - whether you've attained that age yet or not - the prospect of retirement and collecting a pension or social security comes up, even when working past traditional retirement age of 65 is planned.

Before hitting that retirement age, there is (or was) looking forward to being eligible for senior discounts - on a number of different activities and purchases.

Then, there comes a time when really anticipating getting older - when not being able to wait until that next birthday or holiday or important event on the calendar to happen - does not matter so much if at all. As long as those birthdays continue to come, it's not as important which number they represent.

Aging-in-place - remaining in the home that we have somehow found along the way that comfortably meets our needs and is the one that we are fine to continue living in - brings a satisfaction to growing older. Getting to next age milestone or threshold because something important was about to happen or it held the key to being able to do something else that we hadn't been allowed to do previously becomes less important.

As we go through life, it seems we are impatient - always looking to be just a little bit older or getting to a certain age when we are allowed to do something more. Then, one day, we realize - or will realize - that it's time just to live life where we are without looking ahead to what could be or might be.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.