At least once a week my day belongs to my mom and dad. We leave our house early and drive the 100 miles to their home. We visit and always have lunch together in their community dining room or at a local restaurant. Sometimes all of us attend a special event in their retirement community. Usually I also check mail or put a medical appointment on our calendars, and almost always something in their apartment needs tweaking. In the evening when we return to our home, we sort through the mail, follow-up on bills, and complete any other “mom and dad” business tasks that require our attention.
Sometimes if one or the other has an appointment with a physician, we drive back a second day later in the week.
My parents are in their 90s and next summer will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. Kind and gentle souls, they are happy to be together but quite fragile — as people their age tend to be. Although they have made friends with people all over the world, they often observe that having outlived most friends and family members in their generation is challenging. With a rich and caring environment in their retirement community, Mom and Dad have many activities available, or they can choose to putter around in their apartment. Their caregivers are amazing individuals who make sure both parents take necessary medications and who keep an unobtrusive eye out for any problems.
But my parents also need lots of support from us.
Although my husband and I are happily retired and have time to do most of the things we hoped to do in retirement — concerts, reading, short bits of travel, exercise, and our Nonna and Granddad roles with a delightful little boy — we gladly spend this time helping my parents with their lives. However, making our big age-appropriate decisions about where we want to live, or whether we want a smaller home, or whether we should undertake any extended travel just doesn’t seem to be in the cards just now. Yet we are satisfied.
I have half-a-dozen friends who are experiencing similar family challenges with older elder parents. A couple of them still work full-time, and I know how difficult that can be because my husband and I were both working when we went through another aging parent support period with his mother. Those friends who, like me, are retired seem in better spirits and less rushed, probably because they have more time and with that more ability to consider each decision carefully. When I chat with these friends, we sometimes speak in amazement about long lives well lived and lived and lived …
It’s a curious time, being retired but not quite.
Two Interesting Articles
- More Retirees Find Themselves Taking of Mom and Dad – KQED, 2019
- Caregiving for Loved Ones the New Normal for Boomers – CNN, 2012
Marti, thank you for sharing your special story of caring for your elderly parents. I know from my friends’ experiences that this can be a very stressful time in their lives. I would gladly take on this responsibility if it were not that my mother died at 54 years and my father at 70. So, by the time I was 37, I had neither of them in my life. I did not know anyone my age who had a similar situation.