Merrily Orsini's Thought Leadership

Continuing the Climb Together

Life is about experiencing many things, achieving multiple goals, continuously learning and conquering a variety of adversaries. Many years ago I took (twice) a course on Priority Management. My friend Niels Ewing taught it, and it was a great way to organize so as to meet greater goals. The premise was that most people spent their time on low priority but immediately needed tasks, and that if you spent an allocated amount of time on the high priority and low immediacy tasks, like strategic planning and thinking, the results, over time, are astonishing.

That holds true for life and work. Planning is really one of the key essentials to implementing successfully. Now, a blind squirrel does get a nut every now and again, but the real rewards go to the strategic and thoughtful planner who sees the project as a series of steps. And, I find, that if I can break things up into steps, that I can accomplish one “floor” at a time, and even take a breather on the landings.

That is not to say that new ideas and creative projects do not reap rewards, but, that it is in the planning of the execution that helps gain success or almost guarantee, if not failure, at least a bumpier path to success.

Aging is also a series of learning how to accommodate for the multiple losses that occur, while celebrating the attainment of new skills, experiences and opportunities. When a loss does occur, in order to continue a state of most happiness, it is imperative to figure out how to conquer and move on.

Hearing loss is one of those age related issues that is far more damaging than it appears. It comes on slowly, over time, before the reality of the depth of change it wrought, sets in. And, once the damage is done, and the issue is recognized, a goal to build back must be sought.

For, you see, communication at its core is about hearing what the other person is saying. When it becomes too difficult to communicate, then, the communication ceases, or, at least changes significantly to accommodate for the lack of ability to effectively communicate. Having to repeat everything and then still not be understood sometimes does get irritating. Getting the other person’s attention prior to speaking does work, but it certainly removes the spontaneity from the conversation.

Companionship is many times about sharing experiences, thoughts and/or dreams. The closeness of friendship comes from the knowing more about someone, and continuing to learn new things about them, their experiences, their past, and their hopes and dreams. When “pillow talk” becomes impossible, and sharing immediate thoughts or observances while driving or traveling becomes cumbersome and irritating, then those shared moments fade into memories rather than easy comfortable ongoing conversation. Ah, one of the perils of aging that no one really talks about how to overcome.

So, how does an older couple continue to communicate when hearing loss is an issue? Plan for venues that have less ambient noise, so conversation is easier. Upon finding yourself in a place where conversation is impossible, agree ahead of time NOT to discuss things, and just enjoy the music, or watching people, or spend time tasting the food to its ultimate. Touch each other under the table. Hold hands, and use body language to talk rather than words.

Always turn toward the person when speaking. Get conscious of when it is best to converse, and get their attention before talking. Pay attention to when conversations are possible and maximize those times. Plan for time together in quiet venues where talk can be spontaneous and not strained.

Try listening to music when you would normally have conversed, and just enjoy the music and each other. After all, getting old together is a blessing. It is up to you to climb those steps together and enjoy life as much as possible at any age. It is up to you to set the goal of continuing to enjoy life and then to implement the plans so things are, indeed, enjoyable.