'Grown Up' Means The Right to Live at Risk

Tuesday, January 24, 2012   /   by Justin Hoffmann

'Grown Up' Means The Right to Live at Risk

Originally, you exerted your will against your parents to get it. Eventually, you may have to fight your children just as hard to keep it. The right to live at risk is at the heart of being an independent adult, but its a right that we earned so long ago that many of us take autonomy for granted until it too is at risk.

The battleground for your next round of independence - asserting activities may be your home, particularly the kitchen, bathrooms, and stairways.

"We worry about you" is a powerful phrase and a destructive one when it is used to undermine the rights and will of others. Your children and other well-meaning adults may use it to get you to move out of your house or condominiumthe environment that nurtures you, that you know and love - and into "a home" that is alien to you, however beautifully decorated it may be.

Others may become so focused on their own fear of your death, and trapped by their own anxiety over aging that they feel compelled to exert their will on you to quell their inner concerns. They may gain peace of mind at your expense.

Dependency is not an inevitable outcome of aging. However, continued independence is no more guaranteed than keeping your waistline unless you make an effort. Just as it takes a concerted program of exercise and planning to stay able and fit no matter what befalls you health-wise, preserving your independence takes forethought, strategizing, and determination.

Most attacks on independence, no matter how benign or aggressive, arise out of neglect and unpreparedness by the party at risk. This can be just as true for adult children who boomerang back to parental homes as it is for those who describe time in decades. To preserve your autonomy, maintain a lifelong commitment to staying strong and in control by resolving accelerated-aging issues before they become problems:

* Premature health problems brought about by injury, accident, or neglect may trigger a pattern of dependency and lowered self-confidence. Exposure to our healthcare system and its professionals can undermine even the strongest resolve and leave you with feelings of failure and hopelessness even though most of the problems lie with them. Surround yourself with strong, positive, creative individuals to help counteract the decline often linked to medical problems. Ageism abounds in the medical industry and youll need all your resolve to fight it at every turn. Asserting your rights here will be good practice for keeping your rights in the future. Be determined with recovery regimes. Persist in searching out community-based resources like pain management programs that emphasize fitness and wellness, not medication, as pathways to recovery.

* Worrying about money can undermine your independence more than the financial problems themselves. Fretting and agonizing over finances can affect your sleep and take the fun out of life. Consult experts at a nonprofit credit counselling service to get ideas on how to manage the money you have and eradicate the debt youre dragging into the future. Theyre in the business of making debt manageable until its gone, and then making sure it wont be back. There is no shame in debt; however, it can be a shame to agonize over something that others have the skill to resolve.

* Put your home to work for you if income is an issue. Consider renting out part of your property or starting a homebased business that takes advantage of tax deductions and leaves more money in your pocket. There are legal and financial issues to consider when becoming a landlord or a business owner, but nothing overwhelming if you do some solid research. (There are many articles in this column "Decisions & Communities" and on this site to get you started.)

* Isolation undermines independence. Keep broadening your circle of friends and contacts. Intergenerational contact is vital for renewed vigour and to discover how diverse independent lifestyles are. Independence is strengthened by interdependence. If you feel you cant help yourself, find someone else to help first. Contact community centres and local nonprofits to find out who needs your help, and youll find solutions for your problems at the same time.

* Learn as much as you can about barrier-free and universal design so that you can remove the barriers to independence that are by-products of poor construction and interior design. This may be as simple as searching out cordless kettles and hands-free can openers, or it may mean exploring home renovations and alternate materials. Get excited about the prospect of making your home an easy, safe place to live, whatever happens.

* Exercise your brain regularly. Use it or lose it is as true for mental acuity and decision making as it is in any physical wellness program. Whether its cross word puzzles or joining the fight to save your corner of our environment, get involved. If mobility, transportation, or time is the limiting factor, move online or get on the phone. The only limitations to what you can accomplish lie in your mind.

As property owners, we can become so overwhelmed with physical maintenance that we forget how important maintaining personal independence is. Youll always find people to help you build dependency ("sit down and Ill get it for you," "thats too much for you, let me do it" "wouldnt you be safer in a residence?"). Search for those who want to help you preserve your autonomy and their own. Home may be the last battleground for your independence, but because you have the home advantage, its a battle that you can win.

by PJ Wade

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