Health challenges are an ongoing part of the experience of getting older for the majority of women and men. A few people with happy genetic legacies and the good fortune not to have been in any bad accidents and never to have contracted any severe diseases can brag about how healthy they are and that they are (fill in the age) and have never had surgery, been in a hospital or had to take medication on a long-term basis. Sometimes they say this as though it is an achievement purely brought about by their own effort, will power, and because of (or in spite of) their food and exercise choices.
Yet, by this stage of our lives, most of us have known people who became ill or perhaps died, some of whom are younger than us and some of whom probably even made healthier lifestyle choices than ours. We have all heard of young athletes that fall down dead on the playing field due to an undiagnosed heart condition, a healthy, accomplished person who dies swimming a marathon or is hit by a car during a bicycle race, or a healthy, robust, physically active woman friend who develops MS or cancer, becoming profoundly disabled in a short time.
Wherever we happen to fall on the spectrum of health at this point in our lives, it is rather certain that most of us have been somewhere else on the health spectrum in the past and will be elsewhere on the health spectrum in the future. Sometimes we tend to distance ourselves from those who are ill, perhaps because we feel helpless to heal them or don’t want to look our own mortality in the face. Sometimes we judge ourselves or others for bad health, feeling that people who are ill have brought it on themselves. As we get older, it is useful to examine our personal health histories and our attitudes and judgments about health. Others may be more or less healthy than we are and it is useful to examine our attitudes and develop attitudes that are more compassionate and less judgmental.
1) Where do you see yourself on the health spectrum during your life up until now? To what have you attributed your good or bad health?
2) Over time, have you come to feel more in charge of your health or less in charge of your health? How much time and energy do you spend on health maintenance and health-enhancing behaviors and activities?
3) Are you currently experiencing any personal health challenges or dealing with major health challenges with a loved one?
4) How much of your health do you feel is within your ability to influence and control?
5) How do you cope and try to have the best possible quality of life when you are dealing with serious health challenges?
6) What is your attitude towards others who are ill? Do you relate to them or avoid them? And how do you want to be treated by others when you are facing serious health challenges?