“Use it or lose it” has always been the adage that promotes practicing skills with the fear of losing them permanently. There is an endless supply of research that recommends seniors routinely keep up on active exercise and activities or they will lose their ability to independently care for themselves.
Stretching daily, performing exercises that improve balance and even mental exercises like crossword puzzles are all widely practiced by dedicated seniors hoping to stay nimble both physically and mentally. Yet, keeping flexible in our ability to accept and adapt to change is often overlooked in all of these long-term practices.
Just like stretching any other muscles, it takes a concerted effort to keep emotionally flexible to changes in one’s community and daily routine. Unfortunately, change is not only inevitable, but there is often more change as we age. Changes in living situations, loss of family and friends and changes in the community only seem to increase in speed and frequency.
Coping with change is challenging and takes some mental flexibility to try to understand and accept. Meditation and quiet reflection often helps with accepting change. Another mental exercise to try is identifying a list of opportunities or good things that might result from a change. This allows the emotional focus to shift from the negative to the positive. However, like any other stretch, it might be challenging at first to be optimistic.
In the same token, it is important to embrace heritage and tradition and to see how change can strengthen those customs instead of detracting from them. Belonging to a strong, healthy community where personal memories and life experiences can be shared is an important way to not only keep those traditions alive, but also help deal with the changes that are occurring. Finding a community that you can depend on and be open with is another great tool for adapting. The experience and wisdom that seniors have to share with the upcoming generation is invaluable and should be used to help shape the future.
With all this in mind, add stretching your change-adapting muscles to your daily routine of staying healthy, happy and nimble.
Elisabeth Cassiday is the Sheridan County YMCA executive director.