Dependency is not the inevitable end of aging. Today people live healthy, active, involved lives well into their eighties and beyond. Increasing numbers of the more than 4000 Canadians who celebrated their 100th birthday (centurions, as I like to think of them) are also living independent lives.
But stereotypes persist even though we have proof that today's "seniors" are not the frail, dependent, doddering individuals that remain the butt of jokes about old age. Ageism is so ingrained in society that we may ignore what we see around us and unconsciously revert to stereotypes when we think about our parents' futures and our own.
"Put them in a home" sounds as dreadful to most children as it does to the parents in question, and yet this persists as the chief role adult children expect to play in their parents' future. (We'll use "parents" here although everything applies to a single parent, too.) In reality, there is much you can do to support your parents' independence without taking over their lives, adding to their stress or making decisions for them.
Since home is headquarters for the new decades-long retirement, housing that preserves and enhances independence, regardless of any physical ills that occur, is an essential environment for successful living. This may be a good place to begin supporting your parents continuing independence.
Caring without intruding
Whether you are 35 and your parents are in their fifties or you're 55 and your parents are over 75, sex and money are two of the most difficult topics to talk to them about. In broaching the subject of where they will live, you may be tackling both these subjects and more, so don't be surprised if you have trouble finding the right moment or the right approach to such conversations. Here are a few jumping off points to consider:
The familiar saying, "You make your own luck," is a good motto to adopt. Lucky people are not rushed into a decision or forced to settle for less. Your parents should feel lucky to have you on their independence team. Editor's note: This article is drawn from "Caring for Your Aging Parents" by PJ Wade (Coles Publishing - ISBN 0-7740-0613-7) with permission of the author.