One of reasons we write this column is to encourage our readers to seek the invitation inherent to the changes aging brings. It’s not uncommon to experience many of those changes as unwelcome, and maybe none is more keenly felt than the loss of sensation.
Have you ever experienced not being able to see the eye of the needle when attempting to thread it? Miriam loves to sew, but it’s become an expression of faith as much as creativity every time she sits down in front of the serger, because she can’t see well enough to thread the needle anymore.
What’s awe-inspiring and perhaps offers a teaching moment is that the thread still goes through. Is that the power of prayer in action or muscle memory at work? It’s hard to tell, but the fact that the thread does go through might provide us with a clue about how to shape the changes we experience with sensory loss rather than let ourselves be shaped by those changes.
That state of equanimity
There’s a wonderful word that describes taking a pause between noticing something and acting on what we notice. It’s called equanimity. Being in equanimity is to observe what is happening but with a certain spacious quality of not getting stuck in our judgment about what we observe. Why? Because this can shut the door just when we need it to open. We need to remain open to the invitation that is presenting itself.
Back to threading the needle: When Miriam’s reaction is to scrunch her neck muscles with annoyance and impatience, she is essentially closing the door. Instead, if she pauses, takes a breath, and tries again, that’s when she can pick up her project and start sewing, the needle successfully threaded. But it’s hard to remember to do this when we’re tired from working so hard to adapt to doing things differently through the various accommodations we make to the losses of keen sight or acute hearing.
Make the thoughtful choice
As far as practical tips in the realms of fitness and finance, we are promoters of assistive devices, which are tools for independence and self-esteem. In Janet’s work with her senior community, she has found that wearing a speech amplifier while leading her fitness classes helps those attending to hear her with ease, whether they are at safe distances from one another or “Zooming” in from their apartments. With masks muffling our voices and preventing those of us who rely on lip reading to clue us in to what we’re missing, we wonder why a compact, personal amplification system wouldn’t be on everyone’s gift list this holiday season!
One of the common places for a communication breakdown between adult children and aging parents has sensory loss at the root of it. One of Miriam’s clients needed to downsize and could no longer smell the pet odors that were sending prospective buyers away. Things got pretty tense when their children, carrying the load of maintaining the home their parents no longer could, insisted their parents discount the asking price. The difficulty is that the loss of one sense — in this case smell — can be a slippery slope, carrying over to impatience with other impressions or opinions because you’ve had to shoulder more of the load, or you wonder what else is being missed.
Our tip here is to strive for equanimity and to be thoughtful with one another. Honor what you notice and resist forming conclusions, before you take over more of the decisions out of concern for your parents’ or partner’s safety. And before sitting down with masks on and fans blowing, don’t forget to put on your speech amplifier!
Miriam Whiteley, CFP®, (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a financial advisor at Roehl & Yi Investment Advisors, and Janet Hollander (email@example.com) leads Nia Technique fitness classes as the owner of Moving Toward Health. They’re both passionate about inspiring wise practices for both lifestyle and money management.