Giving vs. Receiving: Growing Older & Extreme Frustration

Mom, Her Mom, and Me - 1973

Mom, Her Mom, and Me – 1973

Change is constant when we age, and it’s important for adult children occasionally to consider the changes in our elder parents’ lives by looking through the prisms that our parents gaze through and thoughtfully examining their perspectives.

In a conversation with my mom — who has found herself less energetic and more dependent on others — she shared her journal essay about the many changes in her life. Mom expressed her sometimes vexation with elderhood while also analyzing what causes her to often feel so frustrated.

She wrote that she had often presented talks based on the Bible verse in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give to receive.” Mom noted that as she has aged, she’s realized that while there is much discourse on the “giving” aspect of the verse, there is little, if any discussion on the idea of receiving. She feels unprepared for a time in life — right now — when she gives less and receives  more. Mother’s insightful piece was published in the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community publication, “What’s Up at VMRC?

In her journal essay my mother writes:                      Continue reading

The Anatomy of a Fall — Mine

My Boot!

My Boot!

In April 2016 the health writer Jane Brody wrote a powerful essay in the New York Times Personal Health column, Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond. She described the importance of focusing, as we age, on a healthy life style and maintaining social relationships as well as adjusting to age-related physical changes that occur. Brody specifically noted that we need to make individual adjustments to reduce the risk of falls.

All-in-all, the article, mostly focused on women, but much also applicable to men, encouraged people to think in all sorts of ways about what they can do to stay as healthy and strong as possible as aging progresses.

I am still a distance from age 70, yet Brody’s New York Times article offered a wake-up call — reminding me to think about my own aging and any potential issues. I thought a lot about the things we have already done in our own house to prevent falling problems and considered what else we might do. And then, a few weeks later, I fell.

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Stop Saying These Three Things to Elder Adults!

day lillies

When they speak to elderly seniors, middle-age children and and other adults tend to say things, often unintentionally, that demonstrate a lack of respect and empathy.

Sometimes it happens when a person tries to solve a problem quickly; at others the goal is to move along getting to work or school on time. Not infrequently adult children are frustrated when they need to repeat things which they have already said multiple times. Unfortunately, every time we make one of these comments, the elders in our lives grimace, sigh, or merely shake their heads, making allowances for our rudeness. We don’t mean to say unkind, disrespectful, and yes slightly nutty, things to our elder family members and friends, but we do.

As I’ve talked with elder adults that I know, I’ve discovered three phrases that they dislike hearing.               Continue reading

Advice-giving, Aging Parents & Adult Children

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 9.58.42 PM

My parents and me.

Advice-giving can trip up the elder parent – adult child relationship and even cause painful divisions between parent and child.

My mother will ask me a question and the answer is fairly straightforward, but then I’ll keep on answering, advising, really. At other times, I offer unsolicited advice about one thing or another. Usually my mother listens, but it’s not uncommon for her to give me the aggravated look that she used when I was five years old and not following her directions. It’s miraculous that my parents, while momentarily irritated with me, are quick to forgive and, yes, even offer me their own advice. We trust one another, and that’s key.

I know that I should be better about offering too much advice, but it’s hard.

A thoughtful article, The Gift of Presence, the Perils of Advice, posted at Krista Tippett’s On Being website, has encouraged me to think about the advice I so effortlessly offer my mom. In his essay, On Being columnist Parker J. Palmer writes that people who need support find it considerably more helpful when we concentrate on listening and asking questions and give advice only when a person insists that we give it. I need to get better at asking questions.

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Music, the Brain, Aging, and Memory Diseases

Jack Horner leads singing as Mickey McInnish plays keyboards during the Side by Side Singers practice at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala. on Tuesday October 27, 2015. The choir is made up of people with dementia, their family members and volunteers at the Respite Ministry at the church.

Jack Horner leads singing as Mickey McInnish plays keyboards during the Side by Side Singers practice at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala. on Tuesday October 27, 2015.

We live with music throughout our lives — it surrounds people no matter what their age. Children, of course, love to sing at almost as soon as they are born, but music, even for those who are not musicians, is a part of the air people breathe. Interestingly, music appears to become even more important as people age and contributes to a higher quality in life in the elder years.

No one these days disputes that music can bring happiness, joy, peace, energy, and even some sort of healing to people of every age. Increasingly, however, we are learning that for fragile elders, music not only brings joy but also rekindles memories. So why doesn’t every community of older adults have a musician on staff or at least a musician in residence who can lead a chorus, a sing-along or hymn sing? I believe that organized music programs, and not just performances that people watch, belong in every community of aging adults.

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Jane Gross Lecture on Caregiving and Her Family

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 5.17.20 PMLast fall Jane Gross, journalist and author of A Bittersweet Season, spoke about her experiences supporting and caring for her elderly mother. The presentation at Brethren Village, a retirement community in Lancaster, PA, shares observations, experiences, things she wishes she had done, and much more.

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