Many older adults find their attention drawn to caring for the future. Age makes it clear that our lives are finite. We also recognize that there are things we can do to contribute, beyond our actual time here on earth.
A natural part of the aging process is to review one’s life. That usually involves looking at accomplishments. But it can also include looking at regrets and making amends. Some of us go further and share or invest in projects that will live on after we are gone.
Below are some activities you might consider as you think about your own legacy.
A life review can be done at any age. It simply helps to take a few steps back and put your life into perspective.
Public or private?
Some people wish to share their reviews with family or friends. Others view it as an immensely personal exercise. Making it a private project may allow you to delve deeper without needing to adjust your thoughts based on the expectations of others.
Many options There’s no “right” medium for a life review:
Writing. This can be done as a private reflection, or for others to read. The advantage is that you can do it at any time you are inspired to dip into your review process.
Audio recording. This medium allows for more spontaneous expression. You won’t get hung up on concerns like spelling or grammar.
Video. This can be very meaningful for sharing your thoughts with family, friends, and perhaps generations not yet old enough to have this type of conversation with you. At the same time, it does include an element of performance that can be limiting or distracting.
There are pros and cons to each medium. It’s your choice which one feels right for you.
One option is to create a memoir, starting at the beginning and moving chronologically through your life. You certainly can do this. And there are even online services that will let you upload photos and publish a small book. But people who write memoirs often get bogged down in detail. Or they hit a rough spot in their life and it’s hard to push past it. Memoirs can be fascinating to share. But they can also become overwhelming.
A review A review is a much shorter project. Consider thinking about the top 5 crossroads or challenges in your life
What were the forces at play in your life at that time?
What did you learn from the decisions you made?
What are your proud of?
What have you thought about in terms of roads not taken?
“Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.”
— Mark Twain, author
All families have conflict now and then.
Simply put, families are messy. And everyone has things they wish they had done differently, with family and friends. Perhaps in their work life as well. Part of the aging process involves reflection about the past, and sometimes regret for the way things turned out.
Lessons from the end-of-life
A staggering number of families have members who don’t talk to each other and haven’t for years. In the face of a terminal diagnosis, however, those grudges often feel small compared to never seeing each other again. Hospice professionals regularly witness families who forgive each other “at the end” and deeply regret all the time they lost as a family and cannot reclaim.
Asking for forgiveness Why wait for a terminal diagnosis? If in a review of your life, you realize there are things you would like to be forgiven for, consider these insights from the Stanford Forgiveness project:
Be vulnerable and truly acknowledge the action you regret. It is not weakness to admit that you did something you wish you hadn’t. It takes a strong person to admit an error in judgment.
Apologize with empathy. “I’m sorry” may work. But what truly creates connection is to express your understanding of the impact of your actions on the other person.
Ask for forgiveness and listen. An apology is a one-way communication. By specifically asking for forgiveness and asking how you might make amends, you begin to rebuild trust. This does not mean you have to do whatever they request. But if you can, that speaks volumes. Often simply listening without defenses is enough.
Say “Thank you.” Forgiveness conversations often end on a very sweet note. They usually involve tears and sacrifices or giving on both sides. Acknowledge that gift as a way to lay the foundation for a new reconciled relationship.
Extending forgiveness It may be that you realize you’d like to resolve an unfinished relationship. Perhaps you have decided that the burdens of the anger and hurt are keeping the injury front and present in your life. Forgiveness is a powerful gift, to yourself as well as to the other person.
You do not have to forget. Forgiveness is not excusing the other person’s behavior and sweeping it away. It’s a simple acknowledgement that the bad thing happened, but you want to stop carrying the hurt. You value peace in your heart over the harboring of the grievance.
Forgiveness is about reclaiming your power. You do not even need to communicate with the person who hurt you to forgive them. Instead, your forgiveness can involve your own focus on the positives that are present in your life despite the setbacks.
Acknowledge the courage it takes to forgive. Part of bringing that painful chapter to a close is to recognize that there is great strength in setting down the hurts from the past and walking forward. Forgiveness is an act of courage. Let that be the ending of the story.
If the person involved is not available Whether you are asking for forgiveness, or extending it, the healing is in your own internal shift. If the person involved is not available—through death or distance—you can still make the changes in your heart. Sometimes it helps to write a letter, or enact a conversation with them. Unilateral forgiveness is extremely effective in the process of creating a legacy.
An ethical will is a way to share your wisdom, giving the bequest of lessons learned and loving insights for those who will follow after you in the family. It can also serve as a way to let future generations know more about you.
An ethical will can be written, but like a life review, it can also be dictated or video recorded.
Thoughts to consider sharing in an Ethical Will:
Your happiest moment and why
Important crossroads and what you learned
Your biggest regret
Suggestions when they encounter hardships
Your definition of religion, spirituality or faith
Stories about your childhood and family life growing up:
Important lessons from your parents, or grandparents
A favorite memory of your mother, father, cousins or grandparents
How your childhood impacted who you became
Your professional life
Many family members may not know about your successes and challenges in the work world.
What is your proudest work achievement?
What was your biggest work challenge?
Who was your most important mentor?
Why did you choose the profession you were in?
Any other profession you considered exploring? What attracted you to that one?
Expressions of love
An Ethical Will can also serve as an acknowledgement to members of your family. To each one you might write:
My favorite memory of you
What I most admire about you
My deepest hope for you
I would like you to have my [personal item] because ….
Please forgive me for … and/or I forgive you for …
Thank you for [***some special quality they brought to your life***]
AZ Care Management Solutions sponsored a caregiver day of renewal on 5/6/23. A vendor fair, chair massages, and presentations along with a light breakfast, lunch and giveaways were included. Thank you!
After my mom fell and broke her hip, I was alone in trying to figure out how to best care for her in this maze of what is the senior health care industry.I had been trying to pull together what felt like 1000 pieces of disparate information......places to see, insurance companies, doctors to call, forms to be filled out, questions to answer. I was completely overwhelmed and under much stress.I am so incredibly thankful that I finally called Bonnie and scheduled a consultation. She was clear, knowledgable and so understanding. She immediately started making phone calls to find out the answers to some of my questions, and knew the answers to the other ones.I ended up asking her for further help and I will be forever grateful I did.She helped me move through a very difficult time with her knowledge, presence and help. She was there when I needed her and she knew exactly what to do. And she is fair, compassionate and has great integrity.My mom is now in a perfect place for her, and it all happened with as much ease as was possible.Thank you Bonnie, and everyone else we interacted with at AZ CareManagement.I don't know how I would have managed this journey without you.
Bonnie and Bob at Arizona Care Management went way above and beyond in helping me place my sister in a care facility to live out her last few months. Bonnie set up a medical transport from Newport Oregon to Arizona so that my sister could spend her final days looking at the beautiful scenery she cherished so much as a park ranger. The home in Cottonwood was well staffed and professionally managed and Bonnie and Bob made sure everything ran smoothly as I am on the east coast and care coordination was difficult to manage for me. Thank you both again for all you have done for my sister and our family during this difficult time.
I own two assisted living homes in the area and have worked with Bonnie, Bob and their staff several times. They always have the best interest of their client in mind when finding a long term solution for the family. It has always been my pleasure to accept one of their clients into my home. They continue to stay in touch with the family and assist them with any need they might have.If you are in need of an Elder Care advisor, I wholeheartedly recommend Arizona Care Management Solutions! If you live out of our area, you can count on them to fill in when you can't be here in person!
I live in Massachusetts and my 92 year old dad lived in Sedona. I was called in to take over his care because he could no longer live independently. I literally did not know where to turn. A social worker recommended Bonnie and her team to me. What a relief. They helped me get the necessary paperwork to handle his affairs while also finding him a safe and loving environment where he got the care he needed. He thrived there for nearly 6 months. During that time, I was kept abreast of his health and care by Holly. He enjoyed his visits with her and the treats she brought with her! I highly recommend Arizona Care Management to anyone needing help with their loved ones. They are excellent and I’m so glad they were recommended to me.
As the owners of GENERATIONS SENIOR LIVING LLC, we have the opportunity to work with Bonnie, Bob and the rest of the team at AZ Care Management Solutions with some frequency. Bonnie is absolutely the hardest working person we know! She has the knowledge base and the support team behind her to truly advocate for your loved one and they do a very good job! From assisting with POA paperwork, in-home care, assisting with MD appointments, or actual placement of your family member into a facility...... these guys can get it done!!! We highly recommend them.... Josh and Jamie Elliott
Most of us do not have any experience or training on how to make decisions or select assisted living accommodations. This group was a life saver in selecting a care giver, legal restructuring and finding a home. This was my first time dealing with dementia and I was guided down the path with their professional staff.
When I was having a hard time getting my dad's assisted living place to respond to his needs Gina stepped in with a firm hand and made things happen on Dad's behalf. She is kind, dedicated, tenacious, and extremely experienced and knowledgeable in this field. Bonnie has helped facilitate communication between me and a family member from whom I am estranged to make sure that all family members have access to the information about Dad that they want to have. AZ Care Management has been absolutely VITAL to me in helping me get difficult things done for Dad. I can't imagine navigating these challenging waters without them.
When our daughter was moved to Cottonwood for more extensive care, my husband and I were not able to travel for frequent dr. visits. We were not able, because we are both in our 80s, to visit as frequently as we wanted. AZ Cares takes her to appointments. They also provide very personable and capable assistants who take her on outings to provide social and emotional support for her in our absence. I cannot praise them enough for the support and help they have given our daughter and us. They are a blessing to us!
Arizona Care Management Solutions did a great job keeping my mom as safe as possible in her home for the last year. Once Gina came on board, she managed to do what I thought would be impossible - she convinced my mom to transition to living arrangements that would provide the care she really needed! Gina held her hand every step of the way, even through some VERY challenging situations. This lady has a heart of gold and can get things done!
As a Geriatrics/Internal Medicine specialist I relied on Bonnie and staffto find the best outpatient care for our patients. Her heart is passionate for the care of our seniors, and regards that as her mission in life. And I wasalways confident that Care Management Solutions would find the bestoptions for our families. God bless her! Dr. Paul C. Hanson of Cottonwood Internal Medicine
Bonnie, Bob and the team at AZ Care Management Solutions simply go above and beyond as advocates for seniors. Whether you may need assistance coordinating care, evaluating local facilities for placement, creating a plan for aging well or many other elder care services, you will find no organization more qualified or prepared to assist you than AZ Care Management Solutions. As a local Medicare insurance broker for several years, it is paramount that my clients have the right people in their corner. I have - and will continue to - recommend Bonnie and Bob and their team to any of my clients without hesitation.