Clearly I’m beating the drum here in this third post on the issue of “life” planning as it affects the very much later years. I do admit, I’ve been walking my way into new terrain, contemplating and anticipating my old/old years, and musing about my journey in public space.
Life planning for the over 60 crowd is still planning for the “life” we want and hope to have. Although I once assumed that “death” didn’t ever need to be part of my planning portfolio as it was way too far off, I’m clearly finding the idea to have become less of an abstraction. Our dying, my dying, deserves some serious and practical attention.
I want to “live” until the end with peace. Perhaps you share that goal. To me that means that life planning is still about unlocking possibilities for the life we want to live, as best as we can, for as long as we can (Why Not Do What You Love – my book – is still a good resource for those with denied possibilities). It means planning to do more of the activities that bring us joy, despite a slower pace. It also means whatever else that matters to us, e.g. making a contribution despite physical limitations, addressing the “bucket list,” and determining the care we wish at the very end of life.
Sure, I want to do more of the things I love to do while I still am able. I have my flexible plan for that.
Sure, I want to practice healthy habits to support the life I’d like to live. I’m reaffirming my commitment to that.
In addition, my newly formed intention is to see the inevitable stage of “life near the very end” as deserving much more advance planning than I have thus far given. For instance:
- I’d like to lay out my wishes with clarity so my doctors can cooperate with them. (No heroic brain surgery at 85, for instance.)
- I’d like no friend or family member to be burdened with the need to make decisions for me, without knowing my wishes.
- I’d like to assure that my siblings have access to my papers, my passwords and know what to do with my “stuff” to the extent my advance planning has left a few loose ends.
- I’d like my wishes for my send-off, whether it been a funeral, or a celebration, to be known.
This is no one shot deal. Reflection is necessary. Conversations are essential. So far I’ve noticed that things become clear over time. I look forward to more of both with the goal of assuring friends and family a graceful “departure”.
That hour, on Sunday afternoon, with Lisa Ahbel, RN initially sparked all these reflections. Thinking about the future and about the need for advance directives was a real gift. It wasn’t the “dark” topic one might expect. It was a good introduction to what’s so and the planning necessary make “the inevitable” as calm and as peaceful as possible.
One participant acknowledged how “life-affirming” was the conversation. For me, it was “freeing” being able to talk so openly and creatively, in ways that make it easier for everyone involved.
And so, as my own life journey meanders further into elderdom, I continue to muse and share. So far, I can offer two conclusions:
Taking time to plan ahead is essential.
End-of-life issues are way too important to leave to the end of life.
Resource: The Conversation Project’s website offers a way to a) start having the conversation with yourself about this additional element of “life” planning, and to b) enter the conversation with your significant others.