Category Archives: Seniors and Happiness

Only Child and Senior Loneliness

Only Child's Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Only Child’s Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

When my father died from brain cancer at 66, life turned all downhill for my mother. She had lost her husband of many years and had to go it alone. This was the mid-1960s so changes for women were just getting started. And although my mother had me, I was a teenager and really not much help for mom’s loneliness and her health, which after Dad’s death went from good to worse than bad.

First, it was her arthritis in her hands and feet, which landed her in the hospital for tests, disfigured her hands (rheumatoid arthritis) and damaged her feet to the point of what resembled wounds. I remember coming home from business school and finding her sitting in the living-room, one foot bandaged and propped up on a footstool. Her two visitors were not friends, but the managers at the insurance company where she had started to work when Dad died. They were not there to offer her support, but to try and convince her to quit her job which she was having difficulty doing. She had gone from typist to proof reader because of her fingers.

Fortunately I was able to get a job as a secretary later that year and help Mom with expenses, including doing the actual grocery shopping. But Mom’s health continued to deteriorate. She also had scleroderma, which gave her puffy cheeks and changed her voice to almost a squeak. She died at age 63. Official cause was a brain aneurysm but really the arthritis killed her. Because of the arthritis she fell off her vanity bench which gave her a never-ending headache. She figured she needed her eyes tested and had booked an appointment for an eye test but never made it as she went into a coma and died in hospital.

I have passed both my parents’ ages of death and have mixed feelings about it.  Although I may have escaped some of the medical conditions of my parents (although I do have arthritis – in my neck and bunions and the like on my feet), I still feel very wary going through the rest of my life. Yes, I have had my own medical issues to deal with, but I’m learning that there are two factors that make life very hard to deal with for a senior – living alone and being poor.

I have covered the being poor before, but living alone to my mind, is not the best scenario for a senior and happiness. Apparently, some studies are showing otherwise. See Loneliness among the elderly  where  surprisingly the majority of lonely seniors are married or living with a partner.  But my many years living alone have proven otherwise. Living alone means not having someone there to help you, to support you, provide companionship, and help you deal with all the crap life shoves at you. I realize that not all duos are good – some are abusive; some provide no support.

However, when I observe my friends who have partners of some sort, I see a plus. Sure, they have problems, health, maybe financial, etc. But they seem more positive, have that support (and some even say that) and are happier – the latter just radiates from them. My take here is if you have a good partner, you can deal with life better.

Partners can mean many things from the traditional marriage, to living common-law, to not living together all the time (i.e., maintaining separate homes for whatever reason – often financial – pension laws you know).

One friend who used to live in my neighbourhood had a long-term relationship with a fellow. Their relationship and its setup worked worked very well for them. Both lived in separate houses – in fact he lived just outside Toronto. But they spent weekends together at her place and travelled together. Sure they argued and had differences of opinions – most couples do. But they were supportive of each other, not only with health issues but house issues. And boy, my friend had a doozie when her mean next door neighbour shovelled snow from his driveway onto her gas meter and the entrance for the gas into her house – the latter was blocked and she got gas fumes in her house. She phoned both her partner and me. Both came over here. He got on the phone to the gas company and organized everything there. I insisted she stay overnight with me, but in the meantime she went back home (outside) to supervise the gas company arriving. Her partner and I had another thing to do for her – get some important legal papers off to Fed Ex before they closed to meet a deadline for her.

True, yours truly had some part in this. But consider the scenario without her partner. And remember I don’t drive.

My friend’s situation does not have a happy ending. Her partner was diagnosed with brain cancer and died shortly afterwards. Yes, she was there with him, but has been alone since then.

I have to deal with the crap in my life alone. My son does help where he can but he has his own life. I also have no brothers or sisters.

So, some statistics be damned, I still say a senior living alone is not the happiest and healthiest. Read 10 Dangers of Seniors Living Alone. And I have only covered the tip of that iceberg.

What do you think? I’d like to hear from seniors living alone and seniors with partners. I won’t bite, whatever you say.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

 

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Filed under Aloneness, Happiness, Health Seniors, Life demands, Living alone, Mom and Dad, Mother dying, Older Women living alone and health, Only child, Seniors and Happiness

Only Child off to potential “death sentence” today

Only child ponders life, death and the root - bad health

Only child ponders life, death and the root – bad health

As mentioned in last week’s post I am off to the ophthalmologist today to get my eyes, particularly the left eye, checked for eye pressure and all that may be connected to that. I purposely left it to this morning to do an Internet search of eye pressure condition and all it entails.

Just as well I did. It is scary stuff. No cure but maybe can be stopped. The treatments – eye drops of varying kinds, laser surgery and surgery are some options. I definitely don’t want the latter two – they are connected with a specific type of this condition  of glaucoma, I presume. I hope I don’t have that particular type of glaucoma. And the drops – lots of side effects. As I suspected, my regular eye doctor, the optometrist’s answer to my question “what are the side effects of these prescription eye drops?” of “zero, ” was lies. I didn’t believe him even then. All drugs have side effects. Very occasionally an individual will not get side effects. When I had migraines back in the 1980s I was prescribed Inderol (a high blood pressure pill) to prevent the migraines. No side effects. And yes it decreased the number of migraines to once a month or once every month until I finally reached menopause. The latter is the only thing good about getting old. Also  I had no side-effects with an anti-fungal drug – Nystatin –  which I had to take a couple of times.

Those are the exceptions. The way my life has been going lately, especially my health in at least the last 10 months, is all downhill.

So, I am preparing for the worst. Quality of life is most important to me. But how to try to maintain it is also important. Taking action that make it worse than it is now, making life more difficult and scary,  doesn’t seem to be the answer. I have started (as they say) getting my affairs in order, including getting copies of legal documents to my son, letting him know what is happening, and clearing out/sorting the paperwork in my house.

Realistically I would like to live at least another 15 years – but my health must be good and better than it is now. If it deteriorates in ways unacceptable to me, if I have to take actions I don’t want to take, then I reiterate the ending of  last week’s post.  I will “pull a James Darren as in “Goodbye Cruel World” and I won’t be doing like Mr. Darren sang in his 1961 hit – “off to join the circus.”

Depending on the outcome of the ophthalmologist’s visit and diagnosis today. I would give eye drops a try and join a support group. I hope those are options still okay and open for me.

As for my regular eye doctor, the optometrist who didn’t follow-up last year – he is in big trouble, now much will depend on the outcome today.

Cheers.

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Health, Health Seniors, Life demands, Only child, Opticians and Optometrists, Problems, Seniors, Seniors and Happiness, Vision

Only Child celebrates birthday

Birthday_birthday_cake_3Today is my birthday. Didn’t the Beatles have a song that started out something like that? Which would be appropriate as I was and still am a Beatles fan. And yes I went to a couple of their concerts at the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and screamed my throat out – back in the mid 1960s.

Some people reflect on their year and what is ahead at the end of each year. I do some of that, but the annual birthday may be just as appropriate, if only for the “I’m getting older” factor. Birthdays are a reminder of that. When you are a senior, like me it is very mixed.

Yes, I would like to be  around 10 to 15 years later – if I could have my so-called wisdom and experience and my son would be the same age as he is now.  And be in good health and afford to live.

First the bad side of getting old and I will paraphrase my neighbour from down the street (also a senior). When I mentioned that I had been experiencing a lot of health issues the past five months, she said that this time in your life it is supposed to be when we can retire and enjoy life. She said it as if she didn’t believe it anymore.

She is right. Life in the senior lane can be awful. The body fails; the mind fails and for some people it can be very lonely. Add in living in poverty, despite all those glowing retirement ads and stories. Not all of us are rolling in money. Some (myself included) live below what Statistics Canada states is the upper level for singles (all ages) living alone.

Heck, last year when I had that dreadful boarder living here (I finally kicked her out and am glad I did), my net income was lower than the year before when she was living here only five months, not 10. Turns out she drained my electricity and water and that upped those bills.

And utility bills, with or without boarders, are high. So are property taxes and not just for seniors. Many of us live on a budget and certain things (like extra health coverage for health areas not covered by government health plans). Many of us don’t have access (via our or spouses’ retirement plans) to extra health plans, so we do without. We may have to choose one extra area to focus on. Eventually the others will fail us in old age.

And more things happen. So far my memory and forgetfulness haven’t worsened – I don’t think. On days when I have too much going on, too much bad being shoved my way to deal with, I wonder about that. That’s why I’m continually trying to prune what I do and also get rid of the clutter still left in my home. Right now I’m focusing on all the excess paper in my home office. The laundry room and storage there is next – but a lot of that is garden stuff dumped inside now that garden season is about over. I say about as there are still a few more things to do out in the garden and the weather might just be co-operating this coming weekend.

So, what do I give thanks for on my birthday? What do I still like in my life?

My outside garden obviously. In winter I try to compensate with lots of plants inside, but it’s not the same – so I do plan for next year’s garden.

My writing – particularly my Beyond mystery series and personal essays. And promoting my books. And something new I just started and enjoy – doing short skits as public presentations where I dress up as my main Beyond Blood character Dana Bowman.

Teaching writing workshops/running my East End Writers’ Group and helping and connecting with other writers.

Reading (and yes, print mainly although I do have an e-reader), walking, watching favourite TV programs and movies on TV. I’m old-fashioned enough to want to watch TV on a TV, not a computer, although I do watch short videos about the weather, gardening, health, writing and the like on the computer, also like cooking, and dining out with family and friends, going to street festivals, going into unique shops with crafts and the like (mainly “window shopping). And living in this house which I love (despite all the things that need fixing).

What do I want to do in the future?

Continue collecting info on my late father’s ancestry and reconnecting with cousins on Dad’s side of the family (particularly another one doing some genealogy research in that area), travel more – but not by plane. I don’t like all the excess security for those of us who are not security risks. I think my ex put it best when he said something about removing shoes was what got to him. But he and his current wife do still travel. Me, I want to travel more by train to Quebec province (where my dad was born), the train trip out west to BC through the mountains, and to my cousins’ in a medium-sized town in Michigan. One cousin has offered to pick me up at Windsor or Sarnia and I’m hoping to take him up on that later next year.

And more money to come in to pay for extras including house problems and travel.

I also wish for my health not to get any worse.

To tag on to the above two -house and health. If the latter gets too bad I don’t want to hang around. And I don’t want to go into a nursing home or even a retirement home. My next stop, I say, is the urn.

If I have 10 to 15 more good years (see above for what I consider good/not good), that will be fine. Living to an old age for most people isn’t worth it if you are sick in mind and/or body and are just wasting away.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Family and Friends, Gardening, Genealogy, Health, Health Seniors, Home and Garden, Old Age, Only child, Poverty, Reading, School reunions, Seniors and Happiness, Seniors Hobbies and Interests

Only Child advocates living with purpose

Only Child in one area of her purpose in life.

Only Child in one area of her purpose in life.

Studies show that seniors who have a purpose in life are happier and live longer. This information got me thinking: what is a purposeful life and am I living one?

Although the studies focus on older adults, the main theme can be applied to any age. If your life is constantly one of living from problem to problem, deadline to deadline – just going through the motions to get through another day with no thought why, no wonder you’re stressed, angry, depressed (fill in the word that suits you).

I’m not immune, although I do have a purpose in life. I get caught up in all the crap shoved my way each day – from bad weather causing water leaking into the basement, to overload in demands from others, to financial crisis, to health issues, to just plain too much to do.

Wait a minute. And while you  (and I) are at it – grab a minute…or more to re-focus. Why am I scrambling and rushing around doing all this stuff? Does any of it have anything to do with my purpose in life? Do I actually know or have a purpose in life?

Remember, your purpose in life can change with your time in life. When raising kids, that might be your purpose until they grow up and leave the home nest. Then what is your purpose? You may have become a doctor, lawyer, police officer, etc. because of your purpose in life. Maybe you want to help sick children have a better life, help those living below the poverty level with legal issues, or catch criminals – to simplify matters. But are you doing just that? We’ve probably heard about police officers whose marriages can’t survive the strain of police work. One of my family doctors years ago couldn’t take the stress of his life anymore and killed himself. Then there are the parents being driven “crazy” by their kids.

Often the surrounding activities and problems take over the purpose and you become lost in the ensuing chaos. For example, it might not be your kids per se driving you nuts – but all the activities you have to drive them to at all hours of all days. Ask any hockey parent.

To get back to our seniors and those studies, my mother is a prime example of not having a purpose in life because she figured she lost her purpose. From hindsight I can see that Mom’s purpose was twofold – raising me and looking after my dad, particularly after he got cancer (when I was 9) and his other illnesses. Remember this was the late 1950s to mid-1960s. When Dad died (when I was 16), mother lost one of her life purposes and the other one (me) was a teenager. Enough said on the latter although by today’s and even those days’ standards I was a “good girl.” After Dad died, Mom’s arthritis showed up; so did her scleroderma. She had to quit work (which she had returned to when Dad was in the hospital) and I had to hurry and finish my secretarial course and get out in the work world. Mom died at the age of 63 from a brain aneurysm.

I’ve made it past Mom’s death age, but not Dad’s (66)…yet. But I keep trucking on. Why? I have a purpose in life, although many of you may wonder about that from some of my previous postings. But like many others, my purpose gets buried in all the day-to-day crap. Much that I place in “delay” should really go into “delete” and get well, deleted from my life. I “should” delegate more, but what I want to delegate (my business bookkeeping and tax return preparation, weekly housecleaning) I can’t afford. Therefore, I have to “do.” So far doing job trades hasn’t worked out except for one instance currently being done – but that is keeping the trades in one area – writing and writing-related tasks. Any attempts at bartering across different areas haven’t worked. Appliance repair people, plumbers, electricians, want money and usually upfront.

We need to re-look at what we do each day (myself included) and be ruthless about what should go out the window (preferably an open window; can’t afford broken windows). You can’t throws all the hateful jobs out. But maybe they’re only temporary and telling yourself this can help you get through your day. We must also not forget our passion, our purpose in life. Perhaps we can do one little thing each day with our passion. Perhaps inspiring writers bogged down in diapers, toys and car pooling, can write – 10 or 15 minutes only daily – in a journal about how they feel, what is bugging them, etc. And are some of the things you do related to your passion?

You can probably guess what at least a part of my passion is? It is living my life creatively and helping others to do so. That encompasses writing, teaching writing to aspiring writers, and yes even editing (for now), gardening, cooking, and walking…by exploring different places –parks or city areas, etc. – I can create a walking adventure and often get more story ideas. (Couldn’t resist the latter).

I’ve known since age 11 when I came in second in an essay-writing contest what my life’s purpose is. Like many others I got and get distracted. So I have to make myself return to the four D’s in my life – Do, Delay, Delegate, and Delete, so that the Delay stops bursting at its seams and at least the Delete increases and the Do is more what comprises my purpose and passion in life.

What about you?

Meantime, check out the ginger tapestry website and the article “The Three Paths to Purposeful Living at http://www.innertapestry.org/articles/vol-11-3/1021-the-three-paths-to-purposeful-living.html I don’t agree with all the author’s ideas, but I am pleased that he isn’t a sheep follower of the Law of Attraction. Neither am I – and I’m not really a big believer in it either.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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Filed under Balance, Delay tactics, Delete, Family, Happiness, Law of Attraction, Life Purpose, Mom and Dad, Only child, Passion, Prioritizing, Seniors, Seniors and Happiness, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child looks (again) at seniors and happiness

Only Child in one of her happiness situations - the garden in summer

Only Child in one of her happiness situations – the garden in summer

Are today’s older adults happy? If so, what makes them happy, or not? The more I googled for information, the more widespread information I found. The one I heard on the radio earlier today (and it doesn’t seem to be online) is the one I’m going to talk about.

According to this one, older adults’ happiness is based on four areas – each one “worth” 25 per cent.  After considering the genetic factor for pre-disposition for happiness or unhappiness, the areas are: environment, debt-free, relationship, passionate about something.

According to that survey, I’m about 50 per cent happy in winter and 60 to 75 per cent from spring to fall. Here’s my breakdown (pun intended):

  1. Environment: This is the variable one. It’s practically 0 in winter because I hate winter – the snow, ice, cold, even the rain, but mostly because I can’t get outside and garden or attend outdoor events without freezing. In the summer it goes to 20 to 25 percent because of the outdoor/gardening factors. The fluctuating 5 per cent is if there are house repairs and the like.
  2. Debt- free: Not me. I live the proverbial “hand-to-mouth” no matter what I do. So far I’ve managed to pay regular bills – including credit cards as payment comes due (except for the line of credit one – it gets the minimum payment and a bit more when I can afford it), even some house repairs (for the biggies I’ve had some help from my ex-husband) and for some unexpected bills. I’ve told my son that my estate will have to pay off my line of credit debt after I’m gone,  but that’s what small life insurance payouts are for. Unless I win the lottery or my book(s) reach best-seller status or no. 3 below happens, that’s the way it is. So this category rates 0 per cent on this happiness scale.
  3. Relationship – also 0 per cent for obvious reasons. After a few years of online dating, in-person singles events, and yes, even the see who is available at groups sharing your interests, I’ve come up with less than slim pickings. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested; I’ve just given up wasting my time looking.
  4. Passionate about something in my life – definitely a full 25 per cent – with my writing, teaching writing, gardening, reading, and a few others, even watching favourite TV programs. I can get transformed out of my misery (albeit temporarily, especially if a telemarketer phones) when doing any of those things.

So there you have it. But the survey/study organizers forgot one big factor here, especially for us older folks – good health. Sure, some of that is genetic and maybe some could come under “environment.” But I think health should be a factor on its own, changing the happiness factors to 20 per cent each.

Comments anyone? What makes you happy or unhappy?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Debt, Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Happiness, Health, Health Seniors, Hereditary, Money, Only child, Passion, Seniors, Seniors and Happiness, Sharon A. Crawford, Zoomers