You cannot speak wishes of a Happy New Year without resolutions coming to mind. They are linked and inspire a sense of a better life each person is seeking to create for themselves and their family. These resolutions frequently are about appearance. They are made with hopes of having a house that is organized like that of a magazine shoot (or would it be more relatable to say Pinterest board), and they are made so that we, our bodies, might look a specific way, from the way our hair is done, to the percentage of body fat we carry. It is about beauty, and all too often outer beauty, social status beauty. While there is nothing wrong with wanting an organized home or a healthy mind and body, in fact, they are quite necessary, our resolutions fall short and put back up on that pedestal, youth and the young. These resolutions come with the impression that we will live a full year, and that life is still young and many decades are in front of us. This is not always true. As I have shared my thoughts on resolutions with others, their responses only dig the anchor deeper, as I am told I am, “acting a bit like a crotchety old lady trying to beat up the world we live in today.” We see resolutions, growth, and health only for those who are still living within the first 2/3rds of life. Never have I heard anyone ask someone who is older if they have made their New Year’s resolutions yet. Or, ask them how the resolutions are going at the end of January when most of us have long given up or moved on from our own. Some of this could be that with the wisdom only gained through age, they are beyond resolutions and don’t need them. What I think has greater accuracy is that this is yet another way our society has put a negative image on aging, a word that is moving closer and closer to the “Words That Are Inappropriate To Use” list. There are thoughts that because someone is old, they cannot make resolutions for themselves, they could not possibly think it is realistic to grow and improve their lives all because they could not keep up with the latest fitness and diet trends. We have too many negative images of aging for me to believe our society thinks otherwise.
While I am in fact young, and on paper, I do have decades to live, I work with many who are not young or don’t know how many more breaths they will take, and don’t know if they will make it to tomorrow. Some of these individuals have given up on life, others are trying their best to get up each day with a smile. When I have asked the question, “Do you make New Year’s resolutions?” I find they don’t make resolutions about having the perfect home or the perfect body. They make resolutions about trying to improve their outlook on life, or staying active, social, and staying connected with family, or finding ways they can continue to learn. In listening to their resolutions we learn how to find joy in the imperfection of life, and how to have hope through fear and the unknowns. So, as loved ones, as caregivers, as medical and non-medical professionals, as therapists, as creative arts therapists, artists, and community members, our resolutions this year, and all the years to come should be this:
This year my resolution is to live a joyful, dynamic, peaceful, creative, and giving life. To help others do the same regardless of their specific challenges, dreams, age, or time left on this earth. Regardless of the presence of dementia, or the struggles of caregiving. We can do this. To live a life seeking the beauty and the good in one another, and in ourselves. Our resolution is to love, to be hopeful, to seek the Truth. To judge less and dream more.
This resolution is ageless and looks more at the beauty of our world, our inner self, our society, of life itself, and less at the appearance of our home and our bodies. Here is to another year! Another Breath! Another moment to live our dynamic lives.
As always, we are a community of diverse individuals, each one of us has our own experiences with aging, health, community, and dementia. This is my experience and just one experience. If you would like to share your story of dementia with us by writing a blog post, commenting, or sharing directly with me your experience please feel free to do so. The more people that speak up and share, the greater our knowledge can expand.