Aging Parents’ Appearance: Helping Fathers and Grandfathers Look Their Best

Ever wonder why Dad doesn’t look as good as you think he should?

Appearance is usually the first thing people notice, isn’t it? Conveniently it’s one area–in our efforts to help parents age well–where we can make a significant contribution. By focusing on men’s grooming and clothing we not only do something thoughtful which brings immediate pleasure, but there’s that old saying,”Look Good, Feel Better,” and that feeling can last.

Grooming and clothing: they make such a difference. A clean-shaven man makes a good first impression. Stubble and that unshaven look tend to be vagrant-looking on most old/older/elderly men… unless of course your dad or grandfather has the looks (and wardrobe) of a Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake.

Some older men (especially lacking a woman in their life), seem to let themselves go appearance-wise. Perhaps it’s laziness. Or they may find it difficult to shave or put clothes together so they match, due to dexterity or vision limitations. Do they have difficulty getting to laundry facilities in a basement or elsewhere?  Or if they can access laundry facilities, are they clueless as to how to operate the machinery. So many factors.

Yet many are correctable once noticed. We can obviously help older men get to a barber shop if they don’t drive, and arrange for their laundry to be done–even if we decide to do it ourselves. Teaching a willing aging father how to use a washing machine and dryer or gifting a new, easier-to-use razor, an article of clothing and/or an appointment with a good barber may be options.

Perhaps a professional shave is a luxurious gift idea. When Dad was 94 and in his final months I remember his delight when the caregiver gave him a shave in the morning, complete with a warm, damp towel. Dad looked forward to this morning ritual which made him feel pampered in spite of his failing kidneys.

While thoughtful overtures–in and of themselves– bring pleasure, helping an aging father look better offers 2 additional benefits: improving strangers’ reactions to him–be it at the grocery store or wherever; and generating compliments from people who notice the change. All enhance self-esteem.

Hair loss, an issue for men, leads to some strange/creative hair styles 

which a good barber should be able to restyle more suitably. Dad solved this problem with a hat to protect his balding head and avoid more skin cancer. Here, at 91, he’s at my oldest, best friend’s beach house. We stayed overnight reminiscing, with the priceless warmth countless years of friendship provide.

While older men don’t need fashionista clothing, it needs to be neat, clean, color coordinated and appropriate for the occasion. This 72-year-old, recuperating from major illness, had just come from physical therapy and was waiting for his wife. “She’d kill me,” he said, “if she thought I was having my picture taken looking like this.” But he’s clean-shaven, his hair looks fine on this windy summer day, and his clothes are in order.

Many elderly fathers have favorite clothing combinations that they wear again and again–like a uniform. Before everything wears out, what about taking dad shopping? Visit stores or websites with dad–or surprise him with a gift of clothing that enhances his wardrobe. 

Be it Father’s Day–or any day …we can help aging fathers/grandfathers in more ways than one with a single gesture.

Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.
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3/26/14 Help! Aging Parents was just nominated again for the Best Senior Living Awards 2014, “Best Blogs by Individuals” category. It was a finalist in 2013. I appreciated your votes last year and would very much appreciate them again this year by clicking if you’re on Facebook. Deadline 4/28/14 Thanks so much!


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