Living life to its fullest means living ‘purposefully’ each day of our lives. A major fear of residing in a ‘nursing home’ is that of isolation, loneliness, and lack of significant and meaningful activity. Unfairly nursing homes can be thought of as warehouses for the elderly. This is very sad and a very inaccurate description of our church-related nursing homes and senior care centers.
Take for instance, the story of Ellen. Ellen is an 86 year old retired farm woman, whose husband died a few years ago. Ellen lived in a large rambling farmhouse, where she raised her family of eight children and was actively involved in running the family farm. After Ellen’s husband died, the eight children took turns ‘checking in on Mom.’ Clearly, Ellen was experiencing memory loss. She did not dress well. She went to the mailbox many times each day seeking letters. This became a major activity for Ellen as she became more and more debilitated both in mind and body. Safety and security, also became a concern of her children. With busy days and lots of responsibilities, the family was stretched to care for Ellen and their own family’s needs.
With angst and fears, Ellen came to live at Cedar Community’s Friendship House, an assisted living memory facility driven by a commitment to ‘resident-directed’ care and specialized programming. Ellen was obviously distraught in giving up her home and farm. The family was feeling guilt and trust issues with moving their beloved mother to an ‘institution!’
Within a few weeks, Ellen became engrossed in life at Friendship House. She dressed nicer; she became
interested in all that surrounded her; she enjoyed food again; she participated in group singing and found the
exact words to songs that others assumed were lost to her; and, participated in every activity offered.
While Ellen’s life was changed, the lives of her family changed! The weight of responsibility, guilt, and mistrust were lifted. Quality visits between Ellen and family became very pleasant and more prolific. As the family said,
“We have seemed to get our mother back.”
In the summary of a recent study of life expectancy for seniors, the simplified conclusion stated, “Longevity for those age 65 and older will increase 89 percent over the next 20 years, and the age 85 and older popula¬tion will grow 74 percent during the same period.”
With 10,000 U.S. citizens turning 65 years of age each day, and their life longevity climbing at high rates, the demographic impact of the numbers of seniors will have dramatic effects on society. The effects first and foremost apparent will be on healthcare, followed by economic concerns, housing, family dynamics, political ramifications, and spiritual needs.
Our seniors today are dissimilar from those in the past in several aspects. Seniors today tend to be more highly educated; they likely have worked in a variety of venues and careers; they are more sophisticated investors; they are less involved with the day-to-day lives of their families; more are single; they are far more likely to use computer technology/smart phones; they are more likely to exercise; they are generally more healthy; and, they are likely to live out their lives longer and in better health.
The question then is, if seniors will live healthier and longer, will they live ‘better.’ Better is defined as higher quality life, not in the superficial, but in personal relationships and spiritual growth/maturity?
There is not an answer to this en masse! It’s deeply personal. What several studies find is that there is generally little correlation between perceived happiness (a better life) and things like money and possessions. There is however a correlation of happiness with close ties with spouses, family, and friends. Also, the correlation goes to a strong and growing faith/spiritual awareness. Finally, many claiming to live a ‘better’ life have found happiness in helping others. Active volunteers are the most satisfied!
Living longer and living better means caring for others! Who would’ve ever thought this?
With January 2014 upon us, the United States is focused on further implementation of its’ National Health Reform or Obamacare. Related to the reform is much discussion regarding its’ benefits, issues, concerns, costs, and coverage. The news permeates nearly every aspect of the media. But what we don’t consider is the ‘bigger picture’ and that is about the need for ‘Global Health Care Reform.’
Concepts included in our Health Care Reform such as ‘full health care insurance coverage for children up to age 26’ is not a topic even remotely considered in most of the world! It is not discussed, considered, or even conceptually understood in much of Africa, India, Middle East, Pacific Isles, and beyond. Health Care concerns goes ‘far more basic!’
The need for ‘Global Health Care Reform’ should be a vibrant social concern. Health Issues (Author: Anup Shah / Sept. 22, 2011) Wrote of a variety of global health issues. The issues included are:
• One billion people lack access to any health care systems.
• 36 million deaths are from non-communicable diseases as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and lung disease.
• Over 7.5 million children die of malnutrition.
• Over 6.7 million people die from infectious diseases.
• Aids/HIV continue to spread rapidly throughout the world.
• Tuberculosis kills 1.7 million people a year.
• 1.6 people a year die from pneumonia.
• Malaria causes 780,000 deaths annually.
• 164,000, mostly children under 5 year, die of measles.
Other alarming increases in world health problems include: Obesity, use of tobacco, Alzheimer’s disease, contaminated water, and use of dangerous ‘street’ drugs!
Any good news? Yes, most of these diseases and unhealthy lifestyles can be readily addressed! But ‘hope’ is not ‘strategy!’ Many organizations such as: WHO – World Health Organization; the United Nations; and even private organizations such as the International Rotary Club, the International Kiwanis Club and most major Church denominations have stepped up to take positive and specific actions. What might be missed is to more effectively coordinate those actions; report on the positive accomplishments being made; and to garner massive support and interest throughout the world!
The media is quick to report on the negative such as terrorism, bombings, mass murder, but slow, if ever reporting on citizens of the world helping citizens of the world. Global Health Reform is a great place to start effective reporting. Maybe we also need Global News Media Reform?!!