Color & Control:

What Colour is Your Outlook on Life?

“I’m very bored and depressed.” These words came from an 80-year-old widow who lived alone in an apartment with a full-time, live-in caregiver...

Finding your rose-tinted glasses

There are many ways in which we can view the same world and either be bored or excited by it. We can take a passive “woe is me” approach to the difficulties and challenges in life or a “so what do I do now to solve this problem” approach, searching for new possibilities. 


By Dr. Michael Gordon


“I’m very bored and depressed.” These words came from an 80-year-old widow who lived alone in an apartment with a full-time, live-in caregiver. “When the weather is bad, I can’t go out and there’s nothing to do.” On further questioning, it was clear that true clinical depression was not the issue, but rather a loss of purpose and direction that provide some semblance of satisfaction in her everyday life.

The key to success, however, rests with the person and his or her ability to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses, rather than those of a dark hue. Occasionally with my patients who have balked at a potentially suitable seniors’ program, I have written a prescription: “Rx = seniors’ program three times a week for three months.” When I give it to them I couple the prescription with, “Try this. If it were a medication that I said might help you I am sure you would take it. I am giving you this with the same belief that it
might help you.” I follow with, “And, if after three months you don’t like it, you can stop if you choose.”

• For the person “stuck” at home, the following suggestions might open new doors:
• For reading—audio books can be a wonderful substitute for a person who can no longer read. I have known many people who have fallen in love with this medium, even when they could still read. Hearing a good rendition of a fine book often adds new dimensions to the story.
• For music—rather than trying to find a suitable station on the radio, try listening to CDs. They are free if you or someone in the family can get them from the local library.
• For movies—a number of my patients who loved opera would get DVDs of whole opera productions. Of course, you can either rent or borrow movies from the library rather than being forced to watch whatever is being shown on television. For this, you might need help from someone to get the DVDs and tell you what is available. The cost of a DVD player is likely minimal.

The eyeglasses that we physically wear might be a combination of a fashion statement and a means to see better. The internal glasses through which we view the world is beyond fashion, and can determine how meaningful we can make our days and lives. If the inner glasses you have are not doing the trick, it may be time to change the prescription—from dark to rosy.

Dr. Michael Gordon is Medical Program Director of Palliative Care at Baycrest Geriatric Health Care System and co-author of Parenting Your Parents: Straight Talk About Aging in the Family.


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