As LGBT elders, maintaining a positive attitude toward aging and finding ways to continue enjoying a satisfying quality of life is said to have great potential for extending our lifespans … some studies say as much as 7-1/2 years!
Like breathing in and out, Life is constantly seeking to engage us through enjoyment and expression, regardless of our age. Our interests and our passions are “what floats our cork” as the saying goes. Each of us is drawn to activities that connect us to ourselves and to our surroundings. However the way we express and enjoy ourselves may change over time. The activities we were drawn to in our youth may no longer be as enjoyable or as fulfilling. We may also have to adapt our activities to reflect anticipated and unexpected age-related changes. The key is to focus our creativity on finding ways to make sure our interests and passions are adequately satisfied. Ray and Gloria are inspiring examples.
Ray has always enjoyed nature and in his younger years loved to go tent camping with a group of his gay friends. Their plans often included strenuous hikes in isolated wilderness areas. Now in his 70’s, Ray has a heart condition that severely limits his capacity for physical exertion. While Ray initially found it hard to accept this limitation, he has since found he can continue to fulfill his need to enjoy the outdoors by taking shorter walks with friends on easily accessed trails in nearby nature preserves. At home Ray is surrounded by the beautiful nature photos he took in his youth and also enjoys watching televised nature programs of all kinds.
Gloria and her lesbian partner used to have a sizable ranch where they enjoyed keeping horses and they often went riding together. When Gloria’s partner died, she discovered she was no longer able to maintain the ranch on her own and moved to a senior apartment complex closer to the services she now needs. However Gloria still loves to ride when she feels up to it, so she maintains a horse named Jenny in a stable on the outskirts of town. Even when she isn’t up to riding, Gloria still enjoys just visiting and grooming Jenny and intends to continue keeping her as she feels this connection to her passion is important to her enjoyment of life.
How are you creating ways to maintain the quality of your life as you age?
Buz Hermes is co-facilitator of the Sonoma Valley LGBT Seniors Group and a former staff member of Spectrum’s Senior Outreach Program. He is currently a consultant on LGBT aging and can be reached at GaryDHermes@comcast.net or (707) 227-6935.