Time for the Swan Song?

Jul 9th, 2015 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Hanging On Gets Embarrassing

One of the experiences of aging that creates emotional distress for senior citizens is figuring out when to stop a life-long activity or behavior. Driving, climbing ladders, walking without assistance, cooking, cleaning, living alone… are all common issues seniors have to make decisions about.

In addition to those, there are some that are specific to lifestyle and earlier career choices. I remember the evening Jerry came home from performing a wedding service saying that was his “Swan Song”. When I asked him about it, he reminded me when Frank Sinatra gave his last performance, many critics said he needed to give it up. He just couldn’t sing and perform well anymore. Jerry reported he learned that about himself that evening.

He was doing weddings for a local B & B venue near our home. That evening, he was at the point where he pronounced the couple ‘husband and wife’ and introduced them. The man’s name was similar to Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith Show) and Jerry introduced him as ‘Andy Taylor’ rather than his actual name. He recovered immediately and made a joke, saying, “Of Mayberry RFD.” Then he re-introduced the groom and everyone had a good laugh. That was his last wedding, and he remained embarrassed for days.

Giving It Up

We usually hang on to treasured activities until we become embarrassed with our behavior or someone gets hurt. Either one is a major emotional assault on our system. We are devastated. Emotionally bereft…  find it difficult to understand how we made such a huge mistake.

The life experiences we hang on to are habits and treasured routines we enjoy. They help define who we are. Many of us seniors continue to do things we enjoy and participate in activities long after we might (should?) have considered giving them up. We climb ladders until we fall and break bones. We drive until we have an accident and someone gets hurt or killed. We continue trying to do things that our brains and/or our bodies can no longer handle well or safely. We find it difficult to stop a life-long activity or behavior. Such life experiences help define who we are. Giving them up is a milestone we would rather avoid.

On the other hand, there is no magic rule that guides us in making decisions about these issues. How do I know I shouldn’t climb that ladder? I’ve never slipped or had an accident. So why should I give it up now? We continue to do what we want to do until we get seriously embarrassed or someone gets hurt or we just get tired of doing it.

Today might be a good day to take stock of your activities, and ask yourself questions about whether or not you might consider changing or stopping an activity or routine because your body or mind is changing. Talk with dear friends or family. Ask them if they are noticing anything that you might be missing.

Remain open to making tough decisions gracefully as you age.

Dr Sharon Shaw Elrod



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