20 Sep 2007

Just a few thoughts about aging. I'm not talking about a few wrinkles or greying hair but proper aging.

My parents are in their late 70s and early 80s. Until the last few years they have enjoyed good health and independent active lives. More recently my dad in particular has been forced to be more dependent because of health issues. What I see happening to my parents is that they are becoming more vulnerable. You can see it in their faces and in their reactions to small and large set backs. Once they seemed able to cope with anything , they were my parents , they could help me with any problem and keep their own lives moving smoothly along.

They have come face to face with their own mortality, that their ability to live in the world as independent adults is reducing, ever so slightly but it is changing. I think they are going through a stage of mourning, their physical bodies are beginning to let them down, not just with a few creaks and aches and pains, but in ways that affect their independence and they don't like it. Probably it just a period of adjustment and they will figure out a way to go on and maintain their self esteem. My dad in particular seems to feel worthless because lately all his responsibilities have fallen on mum. And mum, the coper, has started to show some cracks under the strain.

They are fiercely independent, they hate asking for help and don't like to accept it when it is offered. I'd much rather not have to help them because it seems so painful for them though they have always forced their help on us whether we wanted it or not. I guess it is the reversing of roles that they find so irksome, it is another reminder of their aging. Don't get me wrong, my parents are still leading relatively independent busy lives but it's beginning to be a struggle and part of that struggle seems to be having to admit when they need help and be willing to ask for it. I am seeing little changes in attitude and I'm forever grateful they they are not continually asking for help. Its a fine line to tread, becoming a nuisance by asking for help or being a nuisance by not asking.

This path lies ahead of us all, aging gracefully is not just about accepting grey hair and wrinkles. It is about learning to accept that you are human, that your body will slow down and maybe let you down. Its about finding a way to let go of how you used to be and still enjoy how you are now. Its about looking real old age in the eye and seeing that you have become a wise old person. Perhaps it is easier to accept old age if you live in a society that has great respect for the wisdom of experience rather than for the revelations of brash youth. Those of us in our middle years who are lucky enough to still have our older generation with us need to find a way to let them know that they are worthy of our respect . They have lived, and are still living ,decent lives and that we love them because they are who they are.

11 Responses to “Vulnerable”

  1. My parents are in their 70's and thankfully still very fit and well but this is a subject that I have started thinking about alot as they age. We live in different states and I only see them once or twice a year and am always struck by how much older they look each time I see them.
    They also are fiercly independent so this aging thing is not going down well with them at all.

  2. It is definitely trick and my parents too are in their late 70's. Unfortunately both of mine have failing health and are also reluctant to ask for help. I try to do waht I can, without making them feel like thye are imposing on me.

  3. Lovely post.

    It helped my parents as they were going through this stage, for me to liken what was going on to their helping their parents. I reminded them that they did a stellar job in honoring their parents, event tho' their parents were getting more dependent.

    This is a treasured time for the daughter, to be a servant to the two who took such devoted care of her. This talking through it helped my parents.


  4. Good thoughts, well written Jenny. Have finished half my Master's degree in gerontology. Thank you for the compassionate review.

  5. Jenny, I love this post. My grandmother lives with us; she's 91, and is struggling with the issue you've mentioned. For example when she cooks, I ask her, 'Grandma, do you need any help?', and she's annoyed that I asked. Or I see her washing dishes and take over because I see it's hard for her, and she doesn't like it. But of course at 91, as much as she'd like, she can't cope with everything... so when offering help, we try to do that gently.

  6. What a wonderful post--my parents both died at relatively young ages, 61 and 66, 4 years apart. The last years of their lives became a blur of going to doctor's appointments with them and raising two small children--it was difficult, but manageable. I'd give anything to have that time back with them.


  7. I understand where you are coming from, it is so hard to walk the line between 'butting in' and 'helping'. It is also unfortunate that so much of our society is geared towards those who are a lot younger and ABLE.
    We discovered that setting aside a specific time each week for spending with my MIL really helped. It meant that so many things she needed help with, she would do THEN. We tried to rearrange her house and lifestyle so she still could do as much as possible by herself, and I think it really helped. Focusing on what they CAN do by themselves, and MAKING IT WORK really allows them to feel like they are not useless, but still useful :)

  8. Such a beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes as I have lost both my parents in the last 10 years and miss them dearly.


  9. Hi Michelle, It is a real shock when you don't see your parents a lot to see how much they have aged isn't it.

    Hi Lisa, yes I'm trying to learn the tricks at the moment. My mother has a look and a tone that quickly tell me if I have gone too far.

    Hi GLH,it is a special time, to be able to give back. My mother helped her parents by doing lots of things for them and often putting their "noses out of joint".I don't think she was such a good example really.

    Hi Meg,thank you. I worked a lot with the geriatric population when I was a physiotherapist.

    Carolyn, thank you.

    Hi Anna, yes it has to be gentle doesn't it. My parents have always been very good at giving help, often trying to take over, to make things better for their children. When the tables are turned they find it very uncomfortable.

    Hi Paula, I'm sure they understood how busy you were.

    Hi Spineretta and welcome,that sounds like a good plan and certainly having a definite time each week to visit my parents in their home is something I'm working on. They tend to come visit me and spend time here rather than me going to them.

    Hi Gumbo Lily

    Hi Marie, I hope you have wonderful memories of your parents.


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.