If we are lucky, every one of us will one day be old. And aging, as they say, is not for the faint of heart. Obviously there is nothing that therapy can do to stop the aging process. We can remind you of the life choices and good habits that enhance your chances of aging healthfully, and we can talk though the many issues that emerge as we move through the final chapters of life. There are important things to think about, and often difficult decisions to be made. Matters regarding living wills, estates, unfinished interpersonal business, and personal needs can become distressing and overwhelming. Madison, despite its rigorous winters, has become a haven for older people, and offers a wealth of options for residence, activities, social, and intellectual engagement. We are very fortunate in this. Here at Westside, we hope to offer a haven where all things can be discussed without reserve.
Aging offers up a host of fears and challenges: Loss of autonomy, loss of friends and colleagues, declines in health, distance from family, loneliness, loss of work-related purpose and connections, and sometimes loss of a sense of meaning in life. We can offer a combination of practical advice about careful planning around many issues, and help sorting out what choices will best serve your purposes.
Throughout the lifespan, we invest tremendously in hope. As children, we hope for the gift that is our heart’s desire. Later, we hope to get into the college we select, to find true love, to have a successful career, maybe a house, family, friends, fame, and fortune. This focus on hope keeps us forward looking. We tend to be relentlessly optimistic that next year we will be happier, richer, and thinner (not kidding, there’s research!). What are we to do with all this forward thinking focus on hope as we begin to keenly know that every hour forward is one less hour remaining in this life. When the future holds the uncertainty of failing health, changes in capacity that make us dependent on others, the uncertainty of how to successfully navigate the challenges of old age, and ultimately, death, what are we to hope for?
Yet there is reason not to despair. Many wise life-travelers have learned and shared with the rest of us that knowing that the end of life is approaching can serve to sweeten every breath, enhance every sunrise, enrich every conversation. Perhaps it is only in beginning to face the ultimate finality of life that we have the capacity to invest completely in the beauty of now, facing the inarguable truth that all life is fleeting, that nothing is forever, that awareness of impermanence can embolden us to be here, in this moment, right now, with all our hearts.