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Rightsize Your Expectations as You Age

By September 20, 2020June 9th, 202414 Comments

I believe that most of us are under the impression that if we are in good health; physically and mentally fit, that whatever it is we are able to do now, we will always be able to do. These are my expectations. My grandfather lived by himself up until he passed away at 94 years young. He played golf regularly and even went skiing from time to time. That is how I expect to age.

No one I know ever envisions themselves as old with creaking bones, arthritis, and other medical and/or mental problems but it can happen. Aging is inevitable and I believe that there are ways to anticipate this inevitability that make it easier for us and our families. Sometimes we have to make concessions and rightsize our expectations as we age.

Being Mortal

Recently I read the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. I rarely review books in my blog, but this book made a huge impression on me. Dr. Gawande is a surgeon. He talks openly in his book about healthcare for elderly patients and the fact that sometimes doctors seek first to fix the medical problem and then take quality of life into consideration.

Interesting Stories

Dr. Gawande seamlessly wove stories of patients into his book which makes it a pleasurable read in addition to being informative. He frequently referred to different patients and their stories as the book went on. This book deals with medical issues elderly patients and their families encounter and the long-term care industry. Dr. Gawande talks about how such facilities came to be as well as how they have evolved over time. It is a fascinating read.

I read this book while I was visiting my son in Lake Tahoe. He and I had many a long and interesting discussion as I revisited several of the scenarios presented in the book. These were valuable conversations as I shared my thoughts with him regarding which concessions I would be willing to make to have quality of life as I age.

Of course, as I already told you my expectation is that I will be like my grandfather and be physically and mentally fit into my 90s.


Have you thought about which concessions you are willing to make? What are your expectations now and how will you rightsize them as you age?  Understand that as life goes on and things change the concessions you may be willing to make necessarily may change. Your health may change causing you to alter your expectations.

As Dr. Gawande indicates in his book, some things are out of our control. Organizing your thoughts and informing your family is one way you can be in charge. There were some stories in his book where the patient or elderly parent felt one way and the family members were taken completely by surprise.  

Here are a few things to consider while you contemplate rightsizing your expectations as you age.

Safety First

I’m always talking about safety. Let’s think about this in terms of aging. As I mentioned, my grandfather was very active throughout his life. The important thing to note here is that he continually exercised. I am also physically active. Think about what you do for exercise.

Fear of Falling

Are you steady on your feet? Do you have good balance? You can maintain or improve your balance by working with a trainer. If falling is a big concern, are you willing to use a cane or a walker? I’m a stubborn person and sometimes have difficulty accepting limits. If you are this way too think about the complications that may arise if you fall and break a bone or hit your head. Instead of insisting on walking without a cane or a walker rightsize your expectations and accept help.

Teen girl helping her grandmother cope with a walker.

If you have lots of stairs in your home and get tired easily going up and down stairs you may want to move into a single level home or apartment.

One of my client’s moved into an apartment last year. The building has a fitness center, a pool, and a concierge who helps with a wide variety of tasks. A place like this may work for you, too.

Begin investigating places you may want to live before it becomes a necessity.

What’s Important to you?

Think about what you need or want in your life to be happy. Are you intent on staying in your home? Are you willing to rightsize your expectations as you age by accepting a live-in companion or moving to an Independent or Assisted Living facility? Here’s an article that talks about aging in place.


Is your independence important to you? Do you want to go on errands or perhaps to the library on your own? Maybe you want to be in a location that is near to shops and the library so you can walk to these places.

Is privacy, managing your own schedule and some alone time important to you?

Answer these questions for yourself and share your feelings with your children. If it becomes necessary for you to move, they will want you to be safe but, I’m sure, they will also want you to be happy. Let them know the things that are important to you so they can take them into consideration.

My son and I talked about these questions as I shared parts of Being Mortal with him. Do yourself a favor, read this book and then discuss it either with your children or your parents. Share your thoughts, even if you think they will change as you age. Letting your family know your thoughts now gives them a place from which to work.

I promise it will give you peace.

After you read Being Mortal, let me know how the book’s message impacts you.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization..


  • All these tips are very important when you want to live alone. I have a bunch of posts that talk about this in our Downsizing category ( The Adult child needs to ask straight forward practical questions to the elderly parent and help them find solutions that are safe and easy for them to do. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  • I liked the way you put it, “rightsize our expectations as we age”. We have done small things like hire a cleaning company for our house and I’m trying to talk my husband into letting someone else cut the grass. This, for us is a good place to start. I’m a planner so I have a plan for later in life if we need more care. But my husband doesn’t think about these things and when asked he’ll say that he’s going to stay in our home forever. We need to find a happy middle.

  • My brother gave me this book shortly after my father passed away. We went through a lot with him. I just wasn’t up for reading it then. About a year later, things started to deteriorate with my mom’s health and cognitive abilities. I still couldn’t bring myself to read it. I was living it. So the book sits. After reading your post, I may just pick it up sometime soon. These are life issues that my husband and I have spoken about with each other and our kids, but I’m sure there is more to consider. There are so many things my mom did right that has helped me at this stage honor her wishes as her guardian, POA, and health care proxy. I’m so grateful to her.

  • Sheri Steed says:

    Thank you for this. This is something my husband and I are struggling with our parents over. In both cases, their expectations are less than realistic, either based on their physical condition or their financial circumstances, and it has been difficult coming to a consensus. We want them to get the most out of the life they have left, to be happy and comfortable and safe and as independent as possible. They want to live the life they have always lived without the ability to do so, and it has led to injury and other difficulties. Definitely checking out the book!

  • Though I know how very important this is, I’d much rather read about RBG, an op-ed or funny jokes. In full disclosure, I have started to give thought to what I want and don’t want as I age. I have to continue that conversation with myself first. Then, read Being Mortal.

  • Melanie says:

    Thanks for sharing. As my parents get older, my husband and I are already planning how to help our family transition to their next phase comfortably and gracefully. Our parents all pride themselves on independence so we want to have space for them to be with us when they need extra help. They want to keep up with regular activities instead of being in a facility where they have less personal responsibility. I’d be really interested to read this book!

  • Seana Turner says:

    We read this book in my book club and had a wonderful discussion. I thought it was so valuable that I passed it on to my parents and children. I think everyone should read it and discuss it with family members. It is so important to be clear about plans, desires, and feelings about quality of life. The more we can normalize the discussion, the more comfortable I think we will be when the inevitable decisions arise.