Not many like it, but, eventually, it happens to all of us, whether we like it or not.
We get older.
The aging process is long. Over time, we will experience several age-related changes. Some of us older adults may need long-term care, or assistance with physical activity. Others may have difficulty with everyday activities, such as laundry, preparing a meal or maintaining their home.
But physical changes are not the only problem as we age. We may experience emotional changes, such as feeling alone or estranged from family. Others may experience cognitive decline, becoming forgetful or being unable to cope with minor issues that may affect their behavior.
Experts generally break down the aging process into five stages:
Stage 1: Independence. For most senior citizens, this stage lasts through their 50s and 60s. Many handle the basic everyday care and needs on their own without much help from others or family members.
Stage 2: Interdependence. Most seniors enter this stage in their 70s or 80s. It can be a time when seniors tend to become stubborn and want to do everything on their own, although they know, deep down, they really can’t or would have a tough time doing so. They may be resistant to the idea of needing help. Many can do some things on their own, just a little slower.
Stage 3: Dependency. At this stage, age-related changes become more noticeable. Seniors may find it difficult to do everyday chores. Mental and physical activities become more challenging. Many will need to depend on others for driving or traveling to places they would normally take themselves. Adult children may need to step in to help their aging parents, and to assist in every aspect of their parents’ lives. A caregiver or a live-in family member may be needed to help monitor physical activity, prepare meals and manage medication.
Stages 4 and 5: In many cases, the Crisis Management and End-of-Life stages may intertwine. Many seniors need around-the-clock care, and assisted living facilities or hospice may be necessary. Often, it may seem like everything is OK until changes — which you have no control over — happen.
Each of us will go through these age-related changes in our own way. Situations vary from person to person. You need to learn to adapt to these changes with careful planning and adaptation to new situations as they occur. Certain stages come quicker and last longer for some. The idea is to be ready for whatever aging may bring.
Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Board.
This column was first published in the May edition of InMaricopa magazine.