A Jump Start, Aging Parents, and Others

My thoughts for today’s post, “jump-starting aging parents,” were organized, ready for posting and I will still share them. However, I begin–thinking about what hearing from former students could mean to an aging teacher. Could that, at the very least, be a psychological jump start?

Today I learned that Mr. W, my high school chemistry teacher who was so important to me that he was the subject of my college application essays, has cancer. An email arrived this afternoon from a high school classmate, one of my closest friends during those teenage years. Although separated by 3,000 miles, he updates me about important situations.

The thought is that Mr. W would no doubt enjoy hearing from people in our class. Mr. W is probably in his 80’s now, possibly an aging parent. I tried but couldn’t remember whether or not he and his wife have children.

The idea of giving back in some small way to people who mean or have meant a lot to us, clearly has merit. If they mean/meant so much, we are probably special to them. So although this post was initially intended for adult children of aging parents, I realize the idea of a jump-start is equally relevant for all adult children and applicable to all aging people important in our lives.

When we stop and think about it, can’t human beings of all ages use a jump start now and then? No doubt there have been days when we’ve all felt lackluster; when our spirits needed lifting; when we would rather stay in bed than get up and have to perform whatever’s expected of us. But we usually can’t languish (unless we’re seriously depressed), because of family demands, expectations of friends and colleagues, and because our circle of contacts and our ongoing involvements coax us mentally to get up and get going.

Most aging parents in the chronologically younger group, no doubt have many people and activities in their lives; thus many possibilities to trigger the jump-start mechanism exist. As people become chronologically older, however, the outside influences in their lives lessen, their support group dwindles and a needed jump-start may be harder to come by.

A jump-start takes many forms; but in all cases it makes people feel better and can be empowering–the unexpected phone call, anticipation of something to look forward to (like a grandchild’s visit), a spontaneous invitation, a surprise visit, invited participation in some endeavor. Far-away living adult children often find the simple fact that they’ve come to visit provides a jump-start for their aging parents. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination.

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