July Reading for Chalice Elders: Choices

At our monthly Elders Lunch (held on zoom the second Friday each month from 12 noon to 1 p.m.), Rev. Sharon shares a reading from the book In Later Years: Finding Meaning and Spirit in Aging by Bruce T. Marshall, a Unitarian Universalist minister. The following are excerpts shared at our July Elders Lunch. The theme of this chapter is “Choices.”

A professional who works with the elderly offered her observation of what distinguishes those who age well from those who do not: “I really think it’s about attitude, which you can do something about.” Yes, “stuff happens.” But then we claim the right to determine what we will do in response to stuff.

Barbara L said, “I think the more resilient we are, the better we handle these challenges that life confronts us with.”

I asked her to elaborate, asking: “Do you see resilience as a quality that is innate, or do we have the power to become more resilient?”

“It’s a choice,” she responded. “The more willing a person is to think, ‘OK, this hurts–whatever has happened—this is hard, this is really, really hard. What do I need to do here to take care of myself?’ And I’m not talking a five-year plan; I’m talking one step. ‘What’s one step I can take right now to help me deal with this ?’ The more one-steps we can take, then the steps get bigger, and we can do more.” (p.114)

[One man observed that] men have a harder time making positive adjustments to aging than women. He speculated that perhaps it is because women are more proficient at forming relationships with each other, while men are more likely to be competitive. (p. 116)

The attitude these seniors identified is not a perpetual optimism that expects everything will turn out for the best. It also need not be a belief that all things happen for good reasons, even if you cannot see them in the present moment. This attitude, rather, involves deciding what you need to do in order to address the problems and the challenges that confront you. It’s the determination to look realistically at the available options and go with those that support the life you choose as yours. (p. 117)

As we age, our sense of personhood seems at risk as we lose the power to participate in what have been normal everyday activities. With choice, we assert our power to stay involved. We claim our right to be human beings. (p. 123-124)