Gerontologists and psychology of aging experts say that “aging well” in your 60s and 70s is about preventing and delaying disability. It’s also about maintaining a high level of cognitive and physical functioning and remaining socially engaged. But aging well in your 80s (octogenarian) and 90s (nonagenarian) means something else entirely. By then, the chances are pretty doggone high that you’ve aged into disability. Aging well at this stage has a new layer: How to preserve your personal freedom and decision-making (that is, your personal autonomy) in the face of your increasing disability and care needs. This is no small thing for research finds that elders’ perceptions of control are associated with better cognition (thinking), health, and longevity.
Because age-related disability means that many “super-seniors” rely on their adult children for support and assistance, family caregivers play an important role as far as their parents aging well. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. My father is in his mid-eighties and my mother a few years younger. The ravages of age and Parkinson’s disease stalk my father and my mother has her own health concerns. Their world is getting smaller and the tasks of daily living more challenging.