How do you determine your self-worth as you age? Do you already know your assets and how to manage your resources? You may be thinking I am talking about finances, but I am not. I am talking about three key beliefs that aren’t typically explored when it comes to planning our futures. These beliefs are:
- I am enough
- I have enough
- There is enough
I Am Enough
Knowing you are enough at any age is important, but it is foundational to how you experience yourself as you reach 60, 70, 80 or 90. How you measure your self-worth dictates the kind of old age you experience. It affects every area of aging including how engaged you are with life, your capacity for dealing with illness and loss, your memory, your spiritual and religious practices and beliefs, your concerns and worries about your loved ones and your fears about dying.
I am not talking about pride or egotism here. I am talking about seeing yourself as an important contributor to your friends and family, a legacy-builder for those who will come after you, and a curator of the beliefs and values of those who came before.
Being “enough” is not a static goal. It requires constant adjustment to the needs of those who depend on you. It requires re-calibrating based on changes in the world you live in. It requires insight and reflection on the consequences of decisions made sometimes in haste or without sufficient information.
I Have Enough
What does it mean to have enough? Fundamentally it means that you have access to sufficient resources to keep you alive, housed, engaged, and participating in your community, and when you are dying, it means having sufficient resources to adequately house you, manage your pain, and pay for medicine and hospitalization (if and when it is needed). Where those resources are located is not limited to geography, time, or ability. They are anchored in your awareness and willingness to take stock of yourself and your surroundings.
Having enough is a measure of security and belief. If you have always had access to resources, “enough” for you will be different from someone who has had to manage with less. For example, if you have always had access to food, clothing and shelter and your community is devastated by a flood, you may find that your definition of ‘enough’ changes as you reclaim your life afterward.
There Is Enough
Believing there is enough sounds quite simple, yet I cannot tell you how frequently patients share their fears with me that they will end up on the streets or will run out of money before they die. What if there isn’t enough to go around? This concept is based on notions of abundance and scarcity. What you believe about these concepts is based in how you were raised and your experiences with money, choices, and ability to exercise your will.
For many of us there are intense and negative feelings associated with having or not having money. Shame, a belief that money is evil, fears associated with poverty, and life experiences where you either gained or lost status through having a certain level of income or things, all combine to heighten your hopes and fears about aging.
I know at some point I will need the help of strangers and friends to keep me functioning. I will need to be more careful with my money because I don’t know how long I will actually live. I will need to take action to insure that the things I need such as Social Security and Medicare will be available to me and others.
I know these things because I have seen them unfold with family members and friends, and I have listened as many of my patients tell me about how they wished they had planned better. Not all of us are planners. Most of us though, prefer not to be surprised! What is needed is a map and tour guide showing you how you can benefit from what others just like you have learned. That way, if something similar comes up, you won’t be as surprised.
It has been my privilege to work with aging adults for most of my life. I have gained insight into the challenges that aging brings because my family members, patients, and friends have shared their journeys with me. What they taught me was, regardless of my background, education, religious/spiritual belief, unless I value myself first, others will not value me in the ways I need to be valued. And that has important implications as I get older.
In the face of loss of loved ones, loss of hearing, sight, mobility, and memory, I have learned that it is essential that I believe there is enough available to me. This belief centers on knowing there is enough love, enough care, and enough support to carry me to my end.
Loss is part of aging. Coming to terms with this can be challenging. Given that, how do you hold on to the belief that there is enough? Do you think there will be enough for you as you age? How do you manage your concerns if you are sure there won’t be? How do you manage your hopes, if you think there will be?
For most of us, getting older is a process of letting go of people and things. We may downsize our living situation, we may attend more funerals, we may find ourselves changing our beliefs and expectations about what we are capable of doing. In letting go, we are creating space for other things.
Letting go often feels frightening. Yet, until we release, there usually isn’t enough room for what is wanting to replace the void. So instead, some of us accumulate and squirrel things away in hopes that should there be a need in the future we will have what we need. We make plans for all kinds of contingencies and hope our plans will be enough.
While this strategy is generally a sound one, if you end up buying four and five of the same item but have no place to store it, you will end up with not enough space. Or, if you hold on to resentment, hurts, and negative feelings, there will be little room for joy, happiness, and hope.
My wonderful mentors have shown me that believing I have enough is key to the quality of aging that can be mine. Having enough friends, laughter, quiet time, having enough faith that things will turn out not as I will them, but as I adapt to and accommodate remains the best formula for growing old well. These mentors have given me a rough map to follow, and while I will need to explore territory on my own and perhaps even blaze a few new paths, I have reassurance that I have been prepared well and can adjust to what may lie ahead.
These are the valuables that I believe you should collect and invest in.