A Formula for Personal Success

“I’m working to build an alternative model of aging in place for older adults who can’t afford or don’t want to live in a managed continuing care community.” That’s what I told a friend who’s feeling a bit bored and recently asked how I spend my days. I know, you thought I was retired. True (I also paint and read and hike and….) Do I really think it’s possible to accomplish my goal? That’s a definite “maybe.” So what? Will I wake up tomorrow morning? That’s a definite maybe too. How are you using your 86,400 seconds each day?

Bringing an Aging in Place Project to Fruition Effectively

Below is the basic formula I’ve used throughout my life for “getting from where I am to where I want to be.” Honestly, it is my own expression of a personal process. But it’s also the same steps you’ll read in books, scholarly articles and popular magazines. Because it works. Right now it’s the foundation for progressing my dream of aging in place in my current home.

How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, by Sharon Lamhut Willen

May I recommend that you can keep a copy of my illustrated little book, How to Get From Where You are to Where You Want to Be, handy as you execute your own plans for a golden old age?

The Effectiveness Formula: Step by Step

Get Ready

  • Awareness – Know who and where you are today. What strengths, attitudes and assets are already working in your favor?
    • In 1979 I was frustrated by the bureaucracy of the public school system and desperately wanted a career change. I spent months taking stock of the skills that made me a good teacher and exploring information about careers in which those skills would be “transferable.”
  • Motivation – Allow yourself to picture your future living situation in detail. Visualization creates desire. Desire creates readiness. Readiness for what?
    • Long before I met my husband I was journaling about the attractive and objectionable details of men I was dating. You might say I dreamed my soul mate up in the pages of that journal. By the time we had our first date, I knew what kind of person I could comfortably partner with.

Get Set

  • Commitment – This is the pivotal point in your journey. It rests on personal responsibility. Commitment is a decision, made in the head, but felt in the heart. Will you get into motion to move toward your preferred old age? Would you do it if you knew you couldn’t fail?
    • I’ve written much about all the research Michael and I did on senior living communities. Oh the supposed ease and security they offer. But we refused not one, but three different residences offered by the one community we’d deemed best for us. Why? Because I knew how much I value long-lived relationships, a beautiful environment, and economic sustainability. I was committed to making aging in place a reality for us.

Go For It!

  • Planning – Goal setting, prioritizing. How you do this depends on your personal comfort level. Start with the easiest – unclutter the “junk drawer” (everyone has one). Or go for the gusto – invite a group of neighbors (not necessarily friends) to your place for a conversation about “local resources for aging at home.”
    • The bad news: the necessities for aging in place aren’t totally available at your local big box store. The good news: We get to design “aging in place as we like it” – from the ground up. That starts with a plan and teamwork can make a strong one.
  • Perseverance – Mom was right, nothing great comes easily. After leaving my teaching career I worked freelance as a management training consultant, wrote teacher training curricula, was a life and career coach, was promoted from a corporate Assistant Manager Of Training And Development to Manager Of Organization Development And Communications, was downsized out of two businesses, authored four books. You’ve got to pull up your big girl pants and keep going. Here’s what life looks like. 
Life doesn't offer a straight line to success. You'll have your unexpected ups and downs.
  • Evaluation – For two years I worked with about a dozen people to establish “Screen Door Cohousing” in Asheville. The project was stymied by skyrocketing property and construction costs in the area, and I mourn the demise of the dream. But I consider the time and money spent, money well invested. I learned process that evolved my relationship with my husband, made new lasting friends, and further refined what I truly need for that “golden old age.” In Screen Door we used “good enough for now” as the decision-making criteria that allows continuous progress.
    • How foolish to think we can make plans that will suffice “forever more.” Rather, if a decision is good enough to try for a specified period of time, at which time it will then be reevaluated, we can continuously move forward. 

Aging in Place Can’t Be Accomplished Alone

Aging in Place - One hand helps the other

In June I used a SurveyMonkey poll to evaluate the first year of the “Got Your Back, High Vista” group I’m facilitating. Results were positive about the quality of information exchanged, relationships building, and personal value to participants. I also see members taking action based on the educational programming we’ve offered, which is something it was difficult to observe in my careers in education or business. Most important, my neighbors are encouraging me to keep us moving toward partnerships with the age in place service providers we’ve begun approaching. 

Aging in place shouldn't mean aging alone.

I can see myself at 93, finally truly retired. I’m living safely, well and socially engaged with professional care easily accessible. Because my “Effectiveness Formula” has helped manifest desired results for a golden old age: a participatory aging in place model, designed by seniors for seniors.