Mastering Critical Thinking When Planning For a Quality Old Age

By Marilyn L. Pinsky

Author’s Note: This is the second interview with Joy Loverde, author of “Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? Plan Now to Safeguard Your Health and Happiness in Old Age.”

Think ahead,” says Joy Loverde.

“Looking at older people as if they just came out of a space craft and then telling yourself you’ll never be like them will not serve you. Today’s elders are living answers to planning for a quality old age and the possibility of aging solo. And by the way, ‘just shoot me’ is not a plan.”

Getting emotions out of the way is the first step in the planning process. Loverde suggests we do this by taking a look at some of the fundamental decisions we made in the past that are impacting our lives today.

“We can pinpoint cause and effect and decide if we want to keep making those same decisions. For instance, our relationships with others, how we manage our finances, exercising or not, and what we choose to eat. If our choices continue to work for us, good. If not, now’s the time to rethink how we proceed into the future,” says Loverde.

“Critical thinking has everything to do with the necessity to plan ahead and accept that sooner or later we are going to have to make decisions that seriously affect the quality of our life in the future. Because circumstances can change so quickly, making decisions can be extremely difficult as they may be based only on partial information.”

A few of the situations that we may be dealing with going forward into aging are:

• Should I retire or should I work?

• Should I go through with this medical procedure?

• Is this a good investment of my time and money?

• Should I move out of my house or stay put?

• Who will take care of me when I need help?

• Who can I designate as my power of attorney?

• What do I want for my end of life wishes?

“The time is now, rather than in a crisis mode, to employ critical thinking to address these and other important questions. The good news is we can teach critical thinking to ourselves; in other words, learning how to use evidence over emotion to make important decisions.”

“When making big decisions, we tend to talk to the same people about certain things,” says Loverde. “Instead, change your mindset and broaden your network. We do that by finding different people who will bring in ideas we might never have considered. For example, if you’re trying to decide on moving or staying in your house, find someone who is much older, or much younger to talk to. Explain your situation and ask, ‘what would you do if you were me?’ It could be a formal conversation such as asking your doctor or lawyer or as informal as asking someone at a bus stop, the gym or even your grandchild.”

“Based on their age, their culture or their profession, you’ll get many different perspectives on your situation. Then follow up with ‘why do you think that?’ ‘What are you basing your answer on?’ This is a really simple process. By asking questions of people outside of your usual circle, you become an investigator and this is what takes the emotion out of the planning process. True, talking to strangers forces us out of our comfort zone, but is that a bad thing?”

If you would like to have a more complete set of questions to print out, Loverde has provided on her website a “what should I do” worksheet that you can get by going to, click on “download II.”

Also you can write out and answer these questions:

• What is the decision that must be made?

• By when must the decision be made?

• What is making this decision problematic?

• What proof do I have that a problem exists?

• What about this situation is in my control?

• What about this situation is not in my control?

Loverde quotes Sirini Pillay, author of “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind.” Pillay views strategic thinking as a visual process. “When you program your car’s GPS, it figures out how to take you where you want to go. Similarly, your brain has the ability to map out your course to your goal once you clearly communicate to yourself what this goal is. In addition, visually imagining your journey helps to keep your brain on track, as it will constantly refer to this image and update your journey with greater ease than if you did not provide this information to it.”

“Another part of critical thinking is failure is an option and not a bad option either. If things don’t work out, failure teaches us what didn’t work and leads us to put our efforts in another direction. We often don’t do things because we are worried about failing, but we still need to move ahead. Learning from failure can make you smarter about your next decision. (I love that one because I always felt I never really learned anything from the things that went right, but I always learned from my failures, as painful as they were.)

Daydreaming is another Loverde strategy. “It allows for a fine tuning of the application of critical thinking. Sit back, relax into your thoughts and see how it feels. Ask yourself ‘is this decision I made serving me well?’”

And my very favorite of Loverde’s advice…self talk. As she says, “Of course I talk to myself, who else can I trust? When I would see someone walking down the street talking to themselves, I’d say, wow, that’s a problem. Now guess who’s doing it? An example of self talk could be, ‘I just don’t feel like taking a walk today,’ versus telling yourself, ‘I choose to walk today to keep myself healthier in the long run.’”

“Positive talk or negative talk has a real effect on planning for our future self so we need to pay more attention to what we’re telling ourselves; thoughts matter. When we plan, we’re working a lot of things out, whether we’re talking aloud or thinking things out in our mind. It’s common and it’s normal. But be careful, the cat knows more than you think.”