In this fourth post in my seven-post series on conversations about aging based on the book Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, here are some questions to guide conversations with your loved ones about finding meaning in old age.
What does independence mean to you? What is your definition of independence?
Has your view of independence changed as you’ve aged?
Is it possible to maintain independence in a facility, without being able to drive and do the things you were once able to do? How so or why not?
What are some things you still have control over? How does that feel?
What are your thoughts about nursing homes? Are you afraid of them? Can you tell me what that fear is about?
Is there a way that a stay in a nursing home could be less scary/isolating/hopeless? Talk to me about that.
How do you define autonomy? How do you experience autonomy in old age?
How does your family support your autonomy? How does your faith community support your autonomy?
What are the threats to your autonomy right now? How do you feel about that? What are some things you can do about that?
How can I be supportive to you in facing/addressing threats to your autonomy?
If you had to move out of your home, what would this mean to you? Have you thought about this? What does it feel like to think or talk about the possibility of not living out your entire life in the place you call home right now?
Talk to me about that.
How would you make a new place feel like home to you? What kind of support would you need to make that transition well? Does your family know what would make you feel most at home?
Does your family know what kinds of support would be helpful and meaningful to you in this kind of transition? Is this a conversation you have had with your family? If yes, how did it go? If no, is this a conversation you think you could have with your family?
How does it feel to think about having this kind of conversation with your family? Would you like to say more about that?
What is your current support system like? Who is included in your current support system? Is it enough? What additional supports, if any, would be helpful for you?
What does your support system mean to you?
What makes you feel most alive?
Are you resilient? What does resilience mean to you?
Who is someone you admire for their resilience? How are you like them? How would you like to be more like them?
What role do you think resilience plays in your life physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
Does being resilient help you have hope to face the things aging minds and bodies must face? How so?
How do you define courage? What does courage mean to you?
What gives you courage when you think about facing the end of your life? How do you access that courage when times are especially tough?
How does having courage impact how you think about the way you want to live out your life?
How can I support you in finding/maintaining courage?
These are questions to get the conversation going. You may find yourself asking one question and talking for an hour about, around, over and through it; and spouting off mini conversations from there and that’s ok. In fact, it’s wonderful.