Morgan Hill Today 2014 03 Spring - Page 48

{ } AGING with an Attitude By Dorie U. Sugay Dorie Sugay is the Executive Director of Visiting Angels, a company that provides livingassistance services to seniors and adults-in-need who wish to stay in their own home or receive oneon-one care within a facility. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It was written independent of Visiting Angels. It Really Is About Simple Pleasures In graduate school we are required to engage in a lot of reflection – what constitutes the self? What is the authentic self? What gives life meaning? In this article, I want to engage you in a simple reflection that I hope will help put a spring in your step because with simple acts, you can actually make a big difference. Nothing is easy these days, you say? Read on, my friends, because this one is as easy as can be. Originally, this column was to contain information for and about seniors. It has since evolved into a vessel for my mission to promote “aging with an attitude.” And, being happy gives you that attitude! For this exploration, when we talk about “being happy” let’s talk about moments –— short moments of joy experienced when seeing someone you love, to longer strings of happy moments that may last minutes, hours, days, weeks…even years! I am not talking about that sense of joy or inner peace that the Dalai Lama preaches about. I am talking about moments that can be strung together. Simple, happy moments. What makes you happy? Is it looking out of your window and appreciating the hills that surround your backyard? Or do you have to be sipping coffee at a posh restaurant in London? Could you be happy just watching a child marvel at a lizard? Or do you have to be navigating the ski slopes in Aspen? Could you be happy spending time with a parrot who can only utter two words or do you need to be in the company of someone you love to be happy? Do you appreciate snippets of joy or do you need to be feeling that adrenaline rush all day long? I took the time to talk to as many people as possible to find out what makes them happy and their answers included both “ordinary” and “extraordinary” experiences. I also did some research at the university and came upon a number of studies conducted on this subject. One study, in particular, required people to rate a happy event. The researchers wanted to know whether ordinary or extraordinary events make people happier. The results revealed that as people age, what makes people happy changes. Younger people tended to find more joy in extraordinary experiences; in many cases, not giving ordinary experiences much thought. Older people, on the other hand, though appreciative of extraordinary experiences, seemed to derive more joy from ordinary moments they perceive as special. “Ordinary experiences produce as much happiness as extraordinary experiences when individuals have limited time remaining,” wrote the study authors, as published in The New York Times. This explains the lament of one of our clients at Visiting Angels: “Mom can be confusing, we took her to Hawaii, which was a trip on her bucket list, and yet when we returned, she talked more about my little girl stringing flowers pulled from a bush and making her a lei. Go figure, I didn’t have to take her to Hawaii it seems.” In truth, her Mom appreciated seeing Kauai. But the gesture of her granddaughter tugged at her heart. As the study suggests: as we age, we learn to appreciate simple, ordinary pleasures and we find joy in moments that tug at our heart strings. Think about it - the level of adrenalinerush seems to correlate with a young person’s enjoyment of an experience. A 22- year old may find a trip to the aesthetically beautiful city of San Diego to attend a wedding boring, but his parents who are with cousins they have not seen for a while would rate that experience a nine, even if it were held in a not-so-desirable setting. Readers of this column tend to be 40 and above. Some have parents 60 years old and above, with relatives and caregivers who are under 35. We now know that we don’t necessarily need to do anything 48 M O R G A N H I L L T O D A Y S P R I N G 2 0 1 4