older womanGrowing up in a rural area of Texas I was taught as a child that living to a ripe old age was a true blessing.  From my perspective, having my great-grandparents, grandparents and many great aunts and uncles around to enrich my childhood verified this fact.  Although not highly educated in the formal sense, they imparted an incredible amount of wisdom and life skills that impact my life to this day.  As an adult, watching these same individuals age, and in some cases pass away, I realize that many of the characteristics that have made them such wonderful role models make their later years more challenging.  The best way I know to explain this statement is to tell you my “tale of two grandmothers.”

My grandmothers were raised in rural Texas communities on family farms.  This fostered a fierce sense of independence and self-sufficiency.  For the most part in those days, you grew or made what you needed.  They married men from similar backgrounds and started their families.  Both of my grandmothers have seen more in their lifetimes than I can ever imagine. They survived a world war, the great depression and natural disasters galore.  Now their focus has turned to surviving the later years of their life.

Over the years they have already addressed some of the challenges many rural elderly encounter.

The loss of the ability to drive is the thing that my 96 year old grandmother mourns the most.  She reluctantly relinquished her keys after she had totaled her second car. The loss of independence was a tremendous psychological blow.  Living in a rural area limited her transportation choices to basically friends and family.  She avoided going to medical appointments, the grocery store or other errands, sometimes to the point of doing without, because she felt she was being a burden on others.

Both grandmothers have been forced to move out of the homes they have lived for the majority of their lives to other locations due to health issues.  The stress from having to “move to town” cost my 93 year old grandmother the hearing in one ear.

Now in the final years of their journey they are working through new challenges.  They are now trying to address the increased need for medical care and the resources required to finance this level of care.  This is especially challenging for the grandmother who married a farmer.  Without a pension and very little social security income, she is once again forced to rely on her family to help navigate the expenses of residential care.  The grandmother whose husband fully paid into social security and has a pension, is still trying to figure out how long her resources will last as she has moved to a point where a higher level of care is required.

All of these challenges, along with health concerns, have both grandmothers starting to question the “blessing” of longevity.

Our Guest Blogger this week is Leslie Hargrove, MCHES, Executive Director, Texas AHEC East Coastal Region

Join us for a real-time discussion about the rather grave question raised by this essay on Wednesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.