What does “living your best life” really mean? Social media tends to be filled with the phrase, and most often it’s connected to people traveling, attending a party, having coffee with a friend, or enjoying an event all while creating happiness in oneself and others. As we go through life stages, we find it also means showing up every day and exercising our best efforts. But as we age, it can become more difficult.
I work with seniors and their families, guiding and helping them navigate safe senior care solutions: assisted living, memory care, and home care options. I’ve learned numerous stories through the years—many from people who think they can no longer live their best life. I understand the feeling because as we age, our lives evolve: we retire, our families create their own lives, family moves away, friends change, and our homes may change. What will our next chapter look like?
Some people experience loneliness, sadness, and anxiety. When my mom passed away seven years ago, my dad faced these emotions and more. What was his life going to look like going forward? We sat down and had a beautiful talk about the importance he has in our family and his happiness. I needed him to stay happy, but how? He just lost everything in his world.
My first profession was in early elementary education. I was a teacher for 20 years and had over 1,000 children and families touch my life. Each day, I set a personal goal to make a difference in my students’ school days. I provided a smile, a warm greeting, and energy to help them be excited to be there. A professional goal was set for me to introduce them to three developmental skills: social, emotional, and physical. All crucial. Introducing and practicing the skills led them to make a difference every day for themselves and each other. Learning how to live their best life was starting to form.
After I retired from teaching, my next professional purpose found me. I’ve worked in the senior industry now for over 10 years. I continue to set the same personal goal as I did in education, making a difference in people’s lives. From Brookdale Senior Living came my professional goal: the wellness wheel. It was interesting and familiar to me. If we were to draw the wheel, it would have six equal pie pieces, each labeled with a dimension: social, emotional, physical, purposeful, intellectual, and spiritual. They help us live healthier, happier, and longer lives.
When I thought about my dad’s happiness, I knew there was only so much I could do for him. It was up to him to create and live his best life. I told him about the wellness wheel and how it could help him to touch each dimension daily. He was interested, and we started writing down what he could do for each dimension. It wasn’t easy, and some days, he just emotionally couldn’t do what we wrote down. I understood and gave him grace with it. He’d then continue to try to do what his wellness wheel reminded him to do—never giving up on it. Today, he’s happily living his best life.
Consider making your own wellness wheel, thinking about how you enrich your life for each of the six dimensions. Then the hard part, start doing them. Once you begin, you’ll be amazed how easy it becomes. The good morning text I get every morning from my dad tells me he’s continuing to work to live his best life.
Kim Patterson is marketing director at CarePatrol of the Fox Cities.