My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Let me tell you a story about a woman I met a few years back. She was in her 50s, had been divorced for nearly 15 years, and had 2 children in their 20s. She worked as an executive assistant, and was highly organized, impeccably dressed, and fiercely independent.
When she had been married, her husband had functionally been nothing more than a paycheck. He contributed in no way to the family, emotionally nor organizationally, and her children hardly had a relationship with him.
When she had finally, through scrimping and saving, saved up enough money to leave him, she promised herself that she would never again need to depend on another person. She would be as independent as possible. She would value her autonomy above all else. She would never be someone’s burden.
Independence & aging: The uncomfortable truth
Independence can be more complex than people realize — especially when it comes to the aging process.
No one, whether they are single or in a relationship, wants to be a burden on another person. Also — it may sound obvious, but let’s just get it out in the open — nobody particularly looks forward to the aging process. Some people lean into it more comfortably than others, but it isn’t something that most of us are looking forward to down the line.
So when we’re inevitably faced with the signs of aging, we can all be very resistant to that process. Some of us are more used to day-to-day independence and autonomy than others. Although that is beneficial for many reasons, when it comes to aging (and, eventually, the end of our lives) this can create more troublesome complexities than most people realize.
Everyone’s aging process will look incredibly different. However, to break it down to just the brass tacks: your body and mind are going to decline. There’s just no way around it.
That means that the only way for you to live your long life safely and happily will be to give up some of your independence and ask for help.
There, I said it. Please don’t shoot the messenger.
Single womanhood and independence
For all the single ladies who are reading this blog, you are truly extraordinary. Many of you are/have raised kids on your own, purchased properties, maintained and thrived in your full-time career, and enjoyed your life and independence.
Autonomy holds a very particular place in your heart… in a different way than it does for women who are in long-term relationships. You’ve had to fight for your independence, and it’s taken monumental strength to do so.
It's easy to forget how far women's rights have come in such a short time: 60 years ago, Canadian women couldn't even open a bank account without their husbands' signatures. Those rights were hard-won, and many Gen X & Boomer women in particular remember very well how different the world used to be.
So it’s not surprising that when I meet with single women to talk about Viive’s services, keywords like “autonomy,” “independence,” and “resilience” come up again and again.
When I tell these women about how we can help support them in old age, often their immediate response is: “I can do this on my own. Why do I need someone’s help to do this?” And my personal favourite: “I do everything else without help, so why do you think I’ll need help when I’m older?”
I value the strength that single women have and the obstacles that they have overcome. But the harsh reality is this: whether you are single or in a long-term relationship, you will get older. You will need help, and you will not be doing this on your own!
It sucks. I get that, you get that, we all get that. But that’s life. And if you are lucky enough to get older and progress through your 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, then you need to view that time in your life as a treasured time.
All this being said, I’d like to put forward a suggestion: that autonomy isn’t just about being able to do everything on your own. It’s about being able to make informed decisions about your life that are aligned with your needs, values, and goals.
If we look at things this way, then asking for help when you need it isn’t incompatible with maintaining your autonomy. In fact, I would argue that it’s actually a crucial step in holding onto your autonomy for as long as possible.
Put another (perhaps more blunt) way: a time is going to come when you’re not able to do everything on your own anymore. You can choose to listen to that signal, and welcome sources of support into your life as the need arises for them; OR you can wait until you no longer have a choice in the matter, because you’ve exhausted yourself by pushing beyond your means, and now your need is so great that extra assistance is a non-negotiable.
Acceptance and conscious aging
The first step in all of this is simply accepting that aging is going to happen to you.
Easier said than done, I know. After all, we live in a culture that is hellbent on avoiding aging at all costs — while simultaneously denying that that’s what we’re doing. In this piece for TED, Ingrid Fettell Lee put it well: 
"Aging gracefully" entails walking a tightrope between a youth-obsessed society, which tells us that our value declines as we age, and a culture that says nothing is as uncool as desperation, the fervent desire for something we can’t have. Marketers stoke our desire for youthfulness as the ticket to remaining relevant, then shame us when our efforts to preserve that youth go awry.
But research has actually shown that acceptance reduces negative emotions (like anger and anxiety) in old age.  The more we try to fight the inevitable, the longer we cling to what we can’t have, the more miserable we make ourselves in the end.
People are starting to recognize this fact. That’s given rise to movements like the conscious aging movement, which is all about rejecting our culture’s myths and negative stereotypes about aging.  When we accept the realities of getting older, we’re more able to recognize the positives that come with age, without letting the negatives dominate our lives.
Aging is a gift
Not all people have the opportunity to get older and really advance well into their elder years. As much as our culture might tell you otherwise, reaching old age is a privilege — and this stage of life is full of opportunities.
But to unlock all of those opportunities, you need to meet reality head on. The best way to live as long and as independently as possible is to plan to get older.
Plan on the aches and pains in your bones getting worse. Plan on the stairs becoming difficult to climb multiple times a day. Plan on your hard-earned savings dwindling faster than you anticipated. Plan on involving your children in your day-to-day life more than you initially wanted. Plan, plan, plan, plan, plan.
What is great about the work we do at Viive is that there is no prescribed model for how to do this. There can’t be: every person, couple, andfamily, is so fundamentally different.
We want to get to know you: the person you are and the person you want to continue to grow into.
We can build an Aging & End of Life Plan that helps address your specific needs, desires, and priorities in old age. All the resources are at your fingertips to make this season of life just as vibrant and fulfilling as the previous ones. You just need to choose to accept that help.
- Fettell Lee, I. Aging is inevitable, so why not do it joyfully? Here’s how. (2022, October 16). ideas.ted.com. https://ideas.ted.com/aging-is-inevitable-so-why-not-do-it-joyfully-heres-how/
- Shallcross AJ, Ford BQ, Floerke VA, Mauss IB. Getting better with age: the relationship between age, acceptance, and negative affect. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Apr;104(4):734-49. doi: 10.1037/a0031180. Epub 2012 Dec 31. Erratum in: J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Oct;105(4):718-9. doi: 10.1037/a0034225. PMID: 23276266; PMCID: PMC3609879.
- Piedmont Healthcare. (June 14). Conscious aging: How to accept and enjoy life at every stage. Piedmont Healthcare | Real Change Lives Here. https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/conscious-aging-how-to-accept-and-enjoy-life-at-every-stage