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Reflections April 2012

Age-Full Living

Assess and Refresh Your Life!

By Sue Ronnenkamp

If you didn't have to care for it, or pay for it, or carry it around, or service it, or spend time doing it, would you have more freedom and time to do and be what you really want right now?

Change is the most powerful law of nature. – E. Burke

Whether it's January 1st or the day after another birthday, I think it's important to reassess our lives on a regular basis. No matter your age, taking stock at least once a year and planning ahead for the future are worth doing. Why? Because there is one thing constant in this world and that is change. Not only will changes continue to come into our lives -- we also keep changing with our aging. Here are some ideas to get you started.

    1. Your Personal Belongings. Review all of your belongings -- from the items in your kitchen cabinet to the clothes in your closet. Ask yourself if each of these things still has a useful purpose in your life. If not, think about passing the item on to someone who can use it. My rule of thumb: if I haven't used or worn it in the past two years, it's time to let it go. Items with high sentimental value are exempt from this rule as long as you don't include everything in this category.


    1. Other Parts of Your Life. Take a look at the non-material parts as well -- your activities, your relationships, your responsibilities, and anything else that is filling up space in your life. Are there things you are holding on to for the wrong reasons? Is anything holding you back from living your life fully and completely? If you didn't have to care for it, or pay for it, or carry it around, or service it, or spend time doing it, would you have more freedom and time to do and be what you really want right now?

      If you find anything that feels ready to be released, let it go. Remember, just because something once met your needs, or served you well, doesn't mean it has to be a part of your life forever. Plus, every time you free yourself from the "been there, done that" stuff, you open up space for the new to come in. This includes interests, relationships, and even new directions.


    1. Your Time. Take stock of how you're spending your time, and give serious thought to where you want to put your focus going forward. Maybe you'd like to learn Spanish, take piano lessons, start an exercise or strength training program, volunteer for a cause you care about, create (or add to) a legacy for your family, or devote time to quiet and meditation. Bottom line, how do you want to use your time and energy in the coming year? The choices you make matter as much now as they did when you were younger.


    1. "Senior Friendly/User Friendly" Home Assessment. If you're an older adult, I suggest that you check your home once a year (at least) for any needed modifications or changes. As you age, changes to your living environment may be required to keep you functioning as fully as possible. Also ask yourself if your home still works for you and your current lifestyle. Different spaces do fit different phase of life. Here are some examples to get you started: Is the interior lighting sufficient? Are support bars needed in the bathroom? Would closed captioning on your TV help with a hearing problem? Basically check for anything that's a problem or issue for you, and then look for a possible solution that might help. With the growing aging population, more support tools and assistance devices are being developed every day to help older adults stay independent and active.


    1. Your Personal Records. Next up, assess and get your personal records in order. This one is important because should anything happen to you in the coming year, those left behind (your spouse, family or friends) will need to have access to your important papers -- trusts, wills, insurance policies, bank books, car titles, income tax returns, marriage certificates, and so on. Too often a person dies and this information is NOT easy to locate. This puts an additional burden on the loved ones who are trying to deal with their grief, along with bearing the responsibility for personal and financial affairs. If you've already done this, then the big job is behind you. Now all you need to do is to review this information on a regular basis to see if any updates or changes are needed.


    1. End-of-Life Issues. This is also a good time to review your will, durable power of attorney for health care and financial matters, living will, and other related end-of-life documents. I fully realize that considering these decisions, and contemplating your death, isn't that easy to face. But depressing and scary as it can be, the repercussions of not planning and thinking ahead to the end of your life can be enormous. Doing this work allows you to consider your options, make informed decisions, and communicate your wishes to those close to you. Taking this step also shows deep respect and consideration on your part for your family members and friends, and can leave you with a feeling of completeness and peace. Consult with an attorney as needed.


  1. Remaining Regrets and Unrealized Dreams. There is an added benefit to thinking about end-of-life issues -- it gives you an opportunity to identify any regrets you may have about your life while you still have time to release or correct them. Don't forget about all the small steps you can take: forgiving and asking for forgiveness where needed, thanking people, expressing your love to family and friends, and saying good-bye with each parting -- all things that can count BIG TIME for those on the receiving end. Also think about creating a Bucket List (i.e., all the things you want to do before you kick the bucket) so you can begin to fulfill your remaining dreams and wishes -- either directly or vicariously through someone else's experience. Don't consider anything off limits. Go for the gold with this list and dare yourself to make these dreams come true!

Doing an annual life assessment not only gives you a chance to set your house in order and plan for the inevitable -- it allows you to keep your life fresh as you continue to open up to new opportunities and possibilities. Do this NOW, and then schedule your own ritual for revisiting these issues once a year. Use this exercise as a wonderful reminder to live your precious life as fully and completely as possible.


Sue Ronnenkamp is a retirement living and transition expert. Her education and consulting work focuses on planning ahead, embracing change, moving forward, and living every season of life to the fullest. For more information, visit Sue's website at

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