In going with the flow of life, we almost forget that taking care of aging parents is not a duty but an honor. Whenever you feel like you’re stuck looking after them, meet some friends who’ve lost their parents before time.
Some time back I wrote about Parenting – the ultimate challenge where issues and questions one faces while parenting kid(s) were touched upon. This time, it is about parenting the parents! Yes, when you become parents, your parents become grandparents and ultimately reach that stage of life where you get to parent them! Rather, I would say they need parents! After all, old age is like getting back to childhood.
There are two very important things we have to keep in mind when we deal with old age, the first being ‘ageing gracefully’ and the second one is how the current generation can help the generation moving into the last phase to ‘age gracefully’.
From the point of view of how the current generation can facilitate the older generation in aging gracefully, we need to consider some facts about ageing.
If given a choice, perhaps nobody would like to get old. The most common perceptions about being old are a weaker body and reduced ability to perform physical activities. This slow decline in ability to perform a physical task, unfortunately, turns into a vicious cycle once the loss of confidence creeps in. This, however, has many notable exceptions and gradually these numbers are increasing as a good sign.
With age there are a lot of changes a person encounters. One is the realization that the opportunities will get lesser and lesser now. Opportunities to prove self-worth, opportunities to correct the wrong, opportunities to achieve the unachieved, opportunities to express the unexpressed.
“Apna time aayega!” – This no longer motivates them. As a child or as a young person, we always have a future to look forward to, especially when we face failure or a setback. A child bullied at school feels somewhere inside him that I will grow up soon and thrash these bullies. A young professional when denied a promotion, feels that ‘Apna time aayega’. I will get that position or even better in the upcoming hiring cycle. But an old person, in most cases, feels that `apana time ab gaya’. The feeling of ‘not desiring’ as it is not likely to be turned into a reality grows with each passing day. They start preferring to stay in the past. Old memories give them comfort.
Two types of feelings start developing in elders, one – I have achieved what all I could achieve. And second, if I could not achieve it earlier in my prime, chances now are not good. The ‘hope’ for better things to come starts fading.
Now this ‘hope’ is one major factor that distinguishes our reactions while changing nappies of a 6-month-old kid and cleaning the bed of a 60+ person. With the first one, we never feel disgusted in fact, it gives us pleasure. But the other one is something nobody looks forward to. Guess the difference is ‘hope’. Parents have hope associated with everything that a kid does, but that hope is missing when the ‘grand people’ are concerned.
Another factor that largely differentiates our approach towards the younger and older people is the fact that kids are riding high on the learning curve and in the fast lane. On the other hand, the elders are in a state where unlearning is gaining momentum and confusion keeps on increasing.
Some points to keep in mind when you interact with ageing parents are:
- Patience while interacting with elders is essential.
- We must remember that their unlearning and confusion is not by choice. Memory loss, indecisiveness, repetition of some activities irritate them equally as it irritates the younger generation.
- It is okay for them to slip back in the past every now and then.
- They rely more and more on you for their physical activities. Do it with a smile and comforting words, always.
- Make a schedule to spend time with them, preferably early in the morning every day, so that missing out due to your other commitments later in the day doesn’t deprive them your time.
- Try to avoid showing frustration when you see them fumble with simple tasks. Try to see a child in them.
Last but not the least, the tip is never to forget that the cycle is constantly revolving, we’re going to be at their place when it’s TIME!! And whatever we’ll do today for this elderly league, our kids might imitate in future for sure!