Growing old is a privilege. You have decades of memories, you get to see your family grow up and expand, you get to retire from the workforce, and you can experience life in a new way. While there can be a certain level of freedom that comes with growing older, there can also be some limitations or difficulties that emerge as a result of declining health.
Many of us experience the nuances of approaching old age for the first time through our parents. For a long time, they may have been our rock in life, supporting us as we went from children to young adults to even becoming parents ourselves. However, the older they get, the more dependent they may become on others, including you.
For those of us whose parents are just entering the later stages of life, what can we expect? Here are a few things that your parents may encounter as they get older and that you may need to start planning for.
Even for healthy individuals, their physical limits will change
The most natural part of aging is the physical changes in the body. Although there are plenty of examples of elderly individuals accomplishing amazing feats of fitness, the majority of seniors will face a sharp decline in health. It could be a frustrating time if your parents are used to a certain level of fitness to see themselves reach their limits quicker and after less activity than usual. Luckily, there are some helpful ways to maintain health in old age, and it could be helpful for you to share some of these ideas with your aging parents. Approach the conversation in a sensitive way, as it could be a sore subject for them to talk about.
Financial planning for stability
Understanding the financial changes that come with aging parents is important as well. Whether this involves planning for retirement, handling estate issues, or dealing with health insurance, having a conversation about their financial assets could be important for maintaining stability as they age. Talk with them about what their retirement account looks like, what kind of health care plan they have and how it might affect their living situation in the future. Is there any outstanding debt that they have on a car or a house that needs to be dealt with? The reality is that their capacity to handle all of these things themselves could decline, so it is helpful to understand their situation yourself.
The possibility of long-term care
One of the most difficult conversations to have with your parents is when residency in a long-term care facility is being considered. Rarely do people wish to give up their independence, and moving into a nursing home or assisted living environment can be a huge sacrifice of that individuality. But, if your parents are in a place where living by themselves is no longer an option, it is a conversation that needs to be had. A lot of research should go into what type of facility they will live in. Although there are many positives to this type of environment, there are unfortunately cases of neglect or abuse that happen and lead to people needing an elder abuse attorney. These conversations should also be approached with sensitivity as your parents may be resistant to the idea.
The feeling of being overlooked or lonely
It is an unfortunate truth that elderly individuals are more likely to experience loneliness. There are plenty of contributing factors, like the loss of their friends, living alone, being socially isolated from participating in certain community events, or even the presence of chronic illness. In fact, a study found that roughly one-third of adults aged 45 or more have reported feeling lonely, and one-quarter of adults over 65 are considered socially isolated. With increasing health needs and declining physical abilities, feeling overlooked by the general population can be a tough emotion to overcome. Being a support for your parents in the midst of this can be the key to helping them feel loved and cared for.
Be ready for changes and tough conversations
It can be difficult to watch your loved one as they age. Even your emotional state can be affected by your parents getting older, so it is important to take care of yourself as well. With the complex changes that are approaching for your parents, you should be prepared to have conversations about these topics in a sensitive and purposeful way. Don’t just bring it up randomly at a family gathering, but plan it ahead with your parents to have a family meeting. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is the best way to set them up to thrive as they grow older.