Maria Andrade is 79 years old. She came to America as a Cuban refugee at the age of 20. She was raised by her grandparents in Cuba. She began working at the age of 14. When she arrived in Miami, she was able to obtain part time employment and immediately enrolled herself in ESL classes. Thereafter she attended community college for about two years. She then moved to Los Angeles due to being accepted to UCLA where she obtained a BA in Sociology and a Masters’ in Business Administration. She worked for a private bank for about 24 years where she met her current husband. She now works for the Department of Public Social Services where she has been working for about 25 years and is planning on retiring in the near future. She has been working for the past 49 years non -stop not including the years she worked in Cuba.
Maria got married at the age of 30 and has been married since. I recall Maria stating that although she is looking forward to retirement and loves her husband very much, one reason she is not looking forward to retirement is due to the fact that she will now have to spend the majority of her time with her husband. She feels that one of the reasons they have had a long successful marriage is due in part to the fact that she and her husband have not had to spend all their time together and have been able to have separate lives away from each other due to both of them having full time employment with different schedules. The reason I mention the marriage is because she has been working for 49 plus years and therefore, she will now have to adjust to a new life that does not include work.
Maria also stated that when she retires she will be able to spend more time with her grandchildren and close friends and family. She will continue to be active by gardening, walking, swimming and any other activity that her mind, body and soul as she puts it, allow her to. Maria understands the importance of maintaining an active life style “The new model for successful aging includes physical and mental well-being and contains three elements: avoiding disease and disability, sustaining high cognitive and physical function, and engaging with life (NIMH, 2002; Row & Kahn, 1997).
The reason Maria is able to remain active now is because she began taking care of herself as a teenager after both of her parents passed from severe cases of diabetes. She made a conscious decision to always eat healthy and remain physically active. She kept this way of thinking even after arriving in a foreign country. Although diabetes runs in her family, she has been able to remain free of diabetes and other major health issues that seem to plague older people. She feels that majoring in Sociology helped her to understand the importance of how living a healthy life style from an early age will help in the aging process, “In early childhood, the life cycle’s second phase, learning physical autonomy and control of one’s bodily functions, versus shame and doubt in not learning them, paves the way for coping with deterioration of the body in old age” (Hillier, Barrow, 9e, p76).
At 79 years old, since I have known Maria, she has not had been on any type of medical leave. She believes that her parents’ death served as a wake-up call for her. She feels that if it were not for both of them dying, she may not have lived to 79 years old because she would have eventually developed diabetes. Her mental well being was affected so much so that at one point while still in Cuba, she was starving herself in order to avoid eating the “wrong foods”. She eventually learned what types of food were healthy and unhealthy.
Maria feels that her perceptions, intelligence, learning, memory and personality have been affected but only because she feels that it is part of the natural aging affected process, “Normal aging includes stable intellectual functioning, capacity for change, and productive engagement with life” (Hillier, Barrow, 9e, p122). She admits to once in a while not remembering where she left items. Although her perceptions and memory have been slightly affected, she has been able to maintain a work load of 400 plus cases.
As mentioned before, once she retires, she will be spending a lot of time with family and friends. Maria and her siblings became even closer after her parents passed away. Together they experienced the deaths of both parents and they travelled together from Cuba and have not separated since. Therefore, she understands the importance of having family and friends in your life, “Given their shared experiences, siblings can be a major resource for life review among older adults”, (Hillier, Barrow, 9e, p153). She keeps close relationships with her brother and sister as she is the eldest and has always been protective of them. Maria and her husband will assume the roles of babysitters for their grandchildren. They volunteered to take care of their grandchildren as part of their plan to continue with their active lifestyle. Maria understands how important she and her siblings were to her own grandparents as they were raised by her mother’s parents.
Maria will continue to be physically active by walking, gardening and swimming and will continue with her friendships. Currently she meets with her friends once a week due to her full time work schedule; however, once she is retired, she is planning on meeting with her friends every other day. She knows how important friendships are; therefore, she understands that by maintaining her friendships so close to her, she will be able to turn to them for support as she feels that she may need it once she retires, “Friendship is extremely important in the lives of elderly people” (Hillier, Barrow, 9e p162).
As for her husband, she believes that he is a blessing because she understands that not everyone is lucky enough to live a long married life, let alone getting to an older age while still having your spouse by your side. Maria feels that he has been an integral part of her overall well being. He supports her with everything she does. They both maintain well eating habits and daily exercise although she states that he protests at times, “Marriage maintains health: married people tend to have higher levels of well-being and better health than unmarried people” (Hillier, Barrow, 9e p174).