Outwitting Your “Senior Self”
by Dr. Florence Lieberman
Dr. Florence Lieberman (1918 - 2011) was a pioneer of clinical social work. Professor emeritus at Hunter College School of Social Work, she wrote Social Work with Children, Before Addiction, and other books and established the Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal. When the National Academies of Practice was formed to honor distinguished figures in health fields, Florence Lieberman was elected the first president of its Social Work Academy. (excerpted from The New York Times, May 14, 2011)
Many people become impatient with the slowness and fumbling of older people and their ignorance of current technology… But no group is more impatient than the Real Self of the older person. The Real Self is your basic identity, accumulated over time and solidified in maturity. It is wise and understanding, adept at thinking, quick on the trigger, and fast on the feet. Your body is jaunty. Your cheeks are plump. Your buttocks are pinchable. And your memory is fantastic!
Your Senior Self recognizes that it has some problems… such as losing things and wasting a lot of time trying to find them or sometimes making mistakes because names of people and things are not remembered. Also, it may be difficult for your Senior Self to make corrections or connections, so current ways of doing things are easily dismissed and some forms of technology are seen as encouraging people to avoid reality and human contact. Computers, TVs, and replacements for many household gadgets , for example, present difficulties as they wear out… On the other hand… there is some evidence that your Senior Self accepts some slowing up, such as always coming early to appointments to ensure being on time. What to do? How to manage?
ACCEPT the fact that for the remainder of your life, you will have to ouwit your Senior Self… Using the high intelligence you have built up over the years, make your Real Self study this new self: Where did it move? What might it have done? How could it have thought? etc. etc. etc. Be patient! Do not rush! With practice it will become easy to figure out the shenanigans of your Senior Self. Remember: we are expected to be polite and helpful to old people.
Here are a few tips for outwitting your Senior Self when it comes to losing things:
• Develop a compulsive personality: Put everything in a particular place every time and make yourself feel uncomfortable if you do not.
• Record in detail where everything is to be put, and put that log in a safe place.
• For further security place a notice on the refrigerator of where you keep your log!
• If there is an accident and something is misplaced, keep a broom handy to sweep under the bed and sofa (use a whiskbroom to find objects lost in the sofa or lounge chair).
• If you are not successful in your search, call in a helpful person who is able to find things that are hidden in plain sight.
These measures will enable you to lead a happier life as you outwit your Senior Self… There is one thing of which you can be sure: Your Senior Self is going to get seniorer, and the whole process may become very tiring. Don’t give up! Keep your chins up even when you are fed up with living with “That Old One!”
Dr. Lieberman’s advice is tongue-in-cheek. But preparing for the future is no joke! Research shows that people who reflect on their needs and goals for later life do better planning it and living it. Isn’t it better to acknowledge it today than receive bad surprises tomorrow?