Every time I chat with my friends and colleagues who are helping parents navigate through their older elderhood years, one person or another inevitably makes a comment about how easy it is and yes, a bit nerve-wracking, to picture being in the same fragile position as their parents.
No one disputes that we all age. However, as we adult children watch a parent move from one health crisis to another, fall more often, become forgetful, and at times grow deeply dissatisfied with life, it often feels like we are watching a movie our own futures.
In a few years, we think, or what feels like a few years, we will decline and own lives will be just like our parents. And it’s scary, a bit like the feelings of future shock in Alvin Toffler’s book. It almost feels like I am gazing through a prism watching my own future.
It’s not that I spend all day worrying about this. I don’t. Yet as I navigate the vicissitudes of old age with a parent, it is easy to occasionally feel uncomfortable and think, “Just how soon will this happen to me?”
The most important idea to hold close is that these thoughts are not especially consequential. Well, they might be if our brains moved into this worrisome mode full time, but ruminating occasionally is no big deal. Probably not a mental health crisis to spend time worrying about.
Yet perhaps these intermittent thoughts serve a purpose — helping us recognize more clearly the humanity in our parents and the humanity in ourselves.