Each person reading this column was born of someone who, if they lived, is or will be a senior. Remember when we were kids and we said we would never do what our parents did. It turns out we do — whether we want to or not.
One of my favorite examples is Mom and her trash. Growing up it seemed like Mom was obsessed with trash — there could be none lying around. It drove me crazy.
Well, guess who’s obsessed with trash? I take solace in the fact that I have some of my mother’s traits. My husband isn’t so happy when I talk back to the TV, start conversations with inanimate objects or ask complete strangers if they’re lost. I know where it comes from and I embrace it.
Let me now paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, “ask not what seniors can do for you; ask what you can do for seniors.”
Following are some easy ways to connect with the important seniors in your life: If there’s bad blood between you and a loved senior, reconcile. If you need to do it with a third party — use them.
My mother and I were oil and water for most of our lives. As she got older I got over myself and became her champion as she went through her dementia. When she died, I had no regrets and neither did she. We had both done our best and the love and appreciation was outwardly expressed constantly. The question I always ask myself when it comes to my family and friends is: “If they die tomorrow, will I be at peace?” If the answer is no — fix it.
Tell your loved seniors that you love them, appreciate them and thank them. Validate them by recounting all that they have done in their lives and how they have contributed to this world. Ask them for “life advice,” for their wisdom.
Reassure them of the great job they have done with their life and family. Every time my father would thank me for something I did I would remind him that what I was doing was what he taught me. Relive and recount the good times; ask them how they met their soulmate; what it was like when they were in their 20s and 30s, share childhood stories and adult stories. If you’ve heard these stories a million times before, so what. It’s still valuable.
As we interact with our seniors we are interacting with our future. After my father died, I not only missed him but I also missed all the seniors I had gotten to know in his assisted living facility. The great stories of wars, travels, families — wow, our octogenarians have such a history.
Being a senior is a privilege. It means that obstacles have been conquered and opportunities seized. There have been failures and successes — all adding to the collective wisdom. As we age we might walk a bit slower, need glasses and perhaps had some body parts replaced, but who cares? The truth is not everyone gets to grow old, so let’s celebrate those who do and partake in their life stories so it might better ours.
Frances Reaves, Esq., a graduate of the University of Miami Law School, spent 10 years as a litigator/lobbyist. Today, she Is an accomplished business woman who, when her parents could no longer take care of themselves, learned the ins and outs of senior care (or the lack thereof). She founded Parent Your Parents to assist seniors and their children through the myriad pitfalls and options of “senior care” in the 21st Century. If you have any questions or comments contact Frances at firstname.lastname@example.org.