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Accept the responsibility of making decisions

Stories for Positive Aging is a semi-monthly column


The flood of mail that swamped many of us before the election has subsided only to be replaced with the cascade of mail requesting contributions to various “good causes.”

Some are organizations that I always support, some I have no interest in supporting. But one of the items in my mailbox cries out for comments that are directed at those of us who are seniors.

The letter requesting contributions came from the board chair of Parrot Creek, the program in Clackamas County that provides child and family services diversion programs. I’ve known of those efforts for years, but certainly hadn’t expected advice from a teenage resident.

The resident, Amber, 17, was arrested on an alcohol charge and is quoting as saying, “I learned there are consequences for my actions and that my choices don’t just affect me, but my family and my community, and can affect my future. Though I might not always make good choices, with every bad choice comes a valuable lesson.”

It seems to me that some of us who are age 60 or more are unaware of that wisdom. Problems often come not from individual choices but from the choices that some seniors refuse to make for themselves. They prefer to have a medical professional, law enforcement official or a member of the family make the hard decisions rather than to make decisions for themselves.

If someone else makes a major decision on your behalf, then that person is responsible. You can point out that “unhappy results aren’t my fault.” Of course, blaming someone for bad results logically calls for praising someone for what goes well — the credit is not yours. Right? I like to feel that some success is my doing, but how does that happen?

I resorted to my reference library for answers and found some in Al Siebert’s book, “The Survivor Personality.” There the chapter on thriving includes “Thriving During a Major Life Disruptive Change” and “Gaining Strength From Adversity.” Siebert wrote, “People who thrive will get upset about disruptive change but expect things to turn out well. Among questions they ask themselves is, ‘Why is it good that this happened?’ They experiment with learning a better way to do something, remain flexible and ask questions.”

In a conversation with my daughter about accepting the consequences of decisions, she agrees that I do accept results, but she pointed out that I ask lots of questions. She cited as an example putting my house up for sale and deciding to move to Mary’s Woods. That happened only after I’d visited several retirement facilities, talked with residents and questioned various experts. I’d gained information from many people over several months.

The Parrott Creek letter reports that over the course of 12 years the program has an 85 percent success rate. I think that those of us who accept the responsibilities of making our own decisions will recognize that even bad decisions can turn a negative choice into something positive.

Stories for Positive Aging is a semi-monthly column on senior issues written by Lake Oswego author of “Facing Age, Finding Answers” Ardis Stevenson. She can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by regular mail at 17440 Holy Names Drive, Lake Oswego, OR 97034.