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On Aging with Dr. Roger Branch Sr.: Making resolutions
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Dr. Roger Branch Sr.

The new year is upon us. For some, it is the time for making resolutions to change bad habits or character traits or to launch new projects or to become better people.

For us seniors, making resolutions might be different than is true for younger people. Some of us find fewer problems with misbehavior and bad habits because of increasing disinterest and/or disabilities. What's to resolve here? Reduced energy, ability and resources can force us to abandon new ventures before we even begin. We always have been limited in what we really could do, but now the walls are closer and higher.

It is true that the most dramatic venture of my life came on Jan. 1, in 1955 to be exact, when Annette and I were married. However, I have not been guided by the calendar in making resolutions.

Growing up on the farm, I learned that seasons more than calendar dates shaped plans and actions. Late winter was the time to prepare the land and springtime was for planting. Weather was a huge variable, but seasons guided cultivation and harvest. Regardless of date, spring could come early or late, as could other seasons. Farming ventures were seasonal. These days mechanization, irrigation and chemicals have loosened but not abolished seasonal restraints on agriculture, but the past is still inside the heads of some of us.

The time to launch new ventures is when opportunity knocks. That sometimes comes unexpectedly. Careful examination is advisable, but the opportunity can be real and the time to act is short. January 1 is irrelevant. More often, the idea for something new in our lives will come and then we must wait for planning and finding resources. Then is the time for resolution, for a decision to act. More than once, I have decided to act on the idea or inspiration, leaving details about plans and resources to be solved later. Whether they were foolhardy but fortunate of faith supported by grace, the outcomes have been golden.

The time to abandon bad habits or pursue a new and better self is always now. Almost 40 years ago, my longtime dentist, Dr. Hubert Darby of Vidalia, declared, "You have precancerous cells in the roof of your mouth where the hot smoke from your pipe hits. You can lay down that thing and live or keep on smoking it and die. Your choice."

(Hubert did not specialize in gentle bedside manners.) I put the pipe away, "cold turkey." Nicotine is deeply addictive. It was awful, but the time to act was then and eventually it was done.

The time to act is now at the point of religious conversion. There are also other times when people realize that there are possibilities and challenges within their reach. The time is now to go back to school and change occupations, to adopt a program for healthier living, to join a grief support group or start one, to get involved in community service groups, to visit the elderly at home or care facilities. There are always reasons to put off such things, but in every case, there comes a time when there is no tomorrow. The time to make resolutions and act on them is now.


Roger G. Branch Sr. is professor emeritus of sociology at Georgia Southern University and is a retired pastor.

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