Finding Adventure Later In Life

Adventure is necessary to mental health.  Don’t believe me?  Why do we read books?  Why do we watch movies?  There may not be extreme adventures, but there is almost always some bit of adventure that makes the story appealing to us.  We love stories, because we long for that adventure, even if we are simultaneously a bit fearful of it.

It is perhaps common as we age to notice that our sense of adventure fades a little.  We begin to think about the inherent risks in each activity we undertake more than when we were in our twenties.  We think about the repercussions if the risks were realized.  That may be good on some level.  With age wisdom can come to us.  But, there is a greater risk than those that we think of avoiding.  We run the risk of losing the sense of adventure.  Aging doesn’t do that, we choose that.  There are plenty of ways that we give up that sense as we age without realizing it.

- We start to drive only on paved roads.  Remember being young and taking your vehicle down some shady dirt roads that led to who knows where in a jalopy that was prone to breaking down?  Of course, I’m not advocating that you do that!  The only reason we did it when we were young is that we were short-sighted and could walk long distances without tiring.  But, as we age, generally, our vehicles become more dependable.  We almost always have a map of the area that we’re in.  We also travel with GPS and cellphones regularly.  With all these extra measures of safety, why wouldn’t we take a side route on a gravel road.  You can go slowly if you’re worried about your paint job, but you are much more likely to see wildlife, find hidden away pockets of culture and perhaps even an out of the way gas station or café that you’d love to frequent.  It’s a beautiful thing to have the time and freedom to do this, so take the opportunity and run with it!

It is perhaps common as we age to notice that our sense of adventure fades a little.  We begin to think about the inherent risks in each activity we undertake more than when we were in our twenties.  We think about the repercussions if the risks were realized.  That may be good on some level.  With age wisdom can come to us.  But, there is a greater risk than those that we think of avoiding.  We run the risk of losing the sense of adventure.  Aging doesn’t do that, we choose that.  There are plenty of ways that we give up that sense as we age without realizing it.
- We stay in temperature-controlled environments far too often.  When we were young, we’d go to the swimming hole or lake when it was dreadfully hot & sometimes even when it was dreadfully cold and made our lips turn blue.  We’d play in the snow until we were soaked through our outdoor wear.   As we age, we get a lot more particular about the weather that we’re willing to endure, and consequently, we see a lot less of the world around us and even appreciate our shelters a little less because we do not realize what they are protecting us from.  Start out small if you feel like you’re becoming a little too comfortable indoors.  When it rains next time, grab an umbrella, put on some rain boots or old shoes and go outside to stomp in the puddles.  Go wading in the lake.  Have a picnic at the park.  You do not need to go to extremes to enjoy your life more, little steps will get you there. And, the adventures will keep you young at heart.

- We give up getting together with friends.  Over the years of raising families, and then doing our own rounds of elder care, our friendships can get shoved to the back burner.  It’s far easier to stay home than to arrange to get together with people.  It requires less of us to socialize.  We do not have to worry about weather conditions, food choices or talking points.  But with this choice comes a great deal of monotony, loneliness and boredom.  Even if you go out for the night and spend time with someone who annoys you terribly, you’ll have something to think about the next day.  It’s more likely that you’ll go and spend time with someone that does not annoy you and you’ll have pleasant memories to carry with you later in life.  You’ll also feel your spirits lightened and maybe a few new jokes to tell!

Adventure does not have to mean that you set out to climb Everest.  It doesn’t mean that you have to swim the English Channel, although if you do, please let me know so I can cheer you on!  It only means that you need to keep reaching out, keep exploring, keep learning and growing no matter the season of life that you’re going through.  If you are house bound right now, your sense of adventure might mean that you ask for a laptop to learn a new skill like coding or speaking a different language.  If you are unable to lift over 10# perhaps you can begin learning piano and taking longer walks than you’re accustomed to.   Whatever you have as a limitation, work within that, but always keep growing in other ways to compensate.

We only have so many days here on earth.  Let’s not regret our use of them!

Change VS Remaining The Same

Nearly everyone on planet earth has a hard time with change.  Think about this it.  For every major change in your life, what kind of pressure did life have to put onto you to make you willing to change?  Sometimes a job gets so stifling that you finally make the big change to find something else.  Sometimes our health goes downhill so dramatically that we finally start making dietary/exercise changes or finally go and see a doctor.  Sometimes relationships become so unhealthy that we finally confront someone, walk away, or decide to talk to a therapist.  In each of these situations, it becomes blatantly obvious that change is necessary, but even so, it take much time to work up the courage to take the step toward change.

I think that this is sometimes because nostalgia is so strong.  There are things that should remain the same.  The traditions & celebrations that we enjoy with our families bring much needed stability to us and for those coming after us, down through the generations.  If we change careers every year or two, the lack of continuity can be harmful for the financial health of those who depend on us. Change is not always a good thing.  Sometimes perseverance & an old fashioned “stick-to-it” attitude is the best option for our situation.

Growing old is a sticky spot to find ourselves in.  On the one hand, our families often look to us to be the long-term glue that holds the past & present together.  As we age, we notice that they look to us for cues as to when we should say grace at the table & when we open gifts.  Our children & grandchildren start calling to ask about special recipes that we make at the holidays.  And often, it seems, that just as they are becoming nostalgic about the traditions we've held dear for years, we're finding that we need to move on and change in new ways.

Because our children & grandchildren are growing older, we might finally feel the freedom to do some of the things that we didn't think that we could before.  Maybe, for some, that means traveling during holidays.  Maybe it means that you've decided you're going to get healthy mentally &/or physically & it brings repercussions in your family life.  Maybe it's something as simple as saying “no” when you really do not want to do something.  So how do you determine when things need to change & when things should remain the same for the sake of stability?

  1. Consider yourself & others. Is the change that you propose something that is for the ULTIMATE health & well-being of you & the others involved?  Notice I did not ask if it would FEEL like it was for their ultimate good.  Oftentimes unexpected change does not feel fantastic.  Examine your motives, then talk openly & honestly to the others that will be involved & move forward.  If it is an extreme situation, or if there are addictions involved, seek counsel from a professional as you move forward. You may need their support in days to come.
  2. Consider the children involved. Very young ones do not need to deal with adult issues that are going on.  Do your best to ensure that their worlds remain as stable as possible even if changes are required.  Figure out how you can carry on a semblance of normalcy through the change & help them to have good memories.
  3. Keep important traditions. Determine which traditions are important to you & others you care about & keep them up.  When there are huge changes (as in living situations) it can be difficult. If, for instance, you're moving to an assisted living community, but Thanksgiving has always been held at your house, work through where that celebration will now be held.  You can keep the tradition while changing the venue.  It may feel awkward at first, but you'll find a new normal to work from very quickly.
  4. In everything, show love. Whether you decide that nostalgia or change is the way to handle a situation, be sure to emphasize that you love the other people that will be involved in the decision. When people are sure of your love it will make even difficult things go much more smoothly.   

Volunteering Opportunities For Seniors

  We have all heard throughout our lives that volunteering is a good thing to do.  “Giving back to your community,” is lifted up as something that the best people in the neighborhood are known for.  And, many people, while young, do take the time to volunteer in various ways when they have time.  The problem being that they often do not have a lot of time to contribute while they are raising families & working full time.

As we age, however, we have another problem that arises.  We often do not have a lot of strength and energy left to contribute in the same way we could when we were younger.  There are, however, still many needs which we can fill for our neighborhoods, churches & communities.  This will be a partial list to start you thinking about how you can help to make the world around you a better place!

-Community Flowers.  Many larger cities have landscaping companies hired to take care of boulevard plantings & corner flower pots.  If you are fortunate enough to live in one of the small rural villages that comprise many parts of America, though, you could volunteer to keep your town green & colorful by planting & maintaining these public areas.

-Hospitals.  Many smaller hospitals ask for volunteers to run their gift shops, libraries & even do some lighter front desk duties.  You could also volunteer to visit those who are terminally ill & liven up their day a bit.

-Thrift stores.  Many charities run thrift stores to try to offset the cost of the expenses incurred while they're doing their work .  A few that are very common throughout the country are: Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Disabled Veterans, & St. Vincent's.  There may be others in your area.  Normally they need help with sorting, cleaning, folding & hanging clothing, as well as displaying numerous other items that are donated to the shoppe.

-Parks.  Several pocket parks in small communities can use tidying up!  Oftentimes if you notice an area is neglected, others have noticed it, too.  If your town does not have a regular maintenance person to take care of this duty, you can go straight to your town board & ask if you can help.  If playground equipment is in disrepair & you know how to fix it, offer your services.  If there are items that need to be painted, volunteer to scrape & paint them if they will provide the paint.  Small things like this can do wonders to improve the atmosphere where we live & might even be a catalyst for others in the area to spruce up their properties.

-Nurseries.  If you love holding and comforting babies, you could volunteer at a day alzheimer care facility, or a larger pediatric hospital.  They are often in need of people that can hold & rock babies, and studies have shown that babies that are held often are better mentally adjusted as they grow up.

-Sewing.  Many shelters & hospitals are in need of blankets, baby hats, etc. Offer your services or get a group of sewers together to amplify your efforts.

-Cooking.  If you love to cook there are ample opportunities for serving.  Check with VA hospitals or nursing homes & see if you can bring a dessert of snack.  Check with other groups to see if you can provide them help with a snack once in awhile.  It may seem like a small thing, but it can relieve a great burden from others who are already doing too much.

-Libraries.  Volunteer to help with books, or reading to small children.  Some small town libraries operate fully with volunteer librarians.

-Food distribution.  Several areas of the country have food distribution sites for the needy.  They are almost always run by churches or charities that depend on volunteer help to be of benefit to the broader public.  Even if you aren't able to lift heavy boxes, there are often other ways to help.  Distributing produce or bread, or helping people sign in at registration tables or serving coffee to people who come through.  A couple of places to check into are Ruby's Pantry & The Salvation Army.  It helps a great deal to be able to help out those who are going through hard times.

If you are a little reluctant to volunteer in such an organized manner, just keep your ears open to those around you.  Perhaps you can volunteer to fill a need that they have that might free them up, as well.

Maybe you think that this will not make a difference to those around you, but I can assure you that even the smallest amount of effort will not go unnoticed.  It is becoming less common for people to do things as volunteers that it used to be.  Because of this, it is often appreciated even more as people recognize that you did not have to give of your time & energy.  The value is amplified & can make someone's day & benefit an entire community in simple, yet effective ways.