Help Aging Parents: When Life (and Death) Get in the Way

When parents need us, we are there–if we can possibly manage it and are committed to helping them age well.  And so it is today, that a dear friend, Edie, was laid to rest in NY.  She was almost 101 years old and she did age well with help from her two daughters and as much love and caring as was possible from grandchildren who adored her.

Using Edie’s example, I want to write a bit about how family contributions help old/older people age well.

You may have met Edie in previous posts: quoted for her wisdom about old peoples’ driving and cited for her always-in-order, stylish appearance among other things.  She was intelligent and well read, and her good eyesight enabled her to read, as well as write a note on a January letter to me (dictated to her Tenessee-living daughter, who then printed it out so Edie could add the note) in her very legible, somewhat shaky, handwriting.

Edie lived in NY (with a daughter who has health issues and her daughter’s husband), but kept close ties to both daughters.  A year ago around Mother’s Day, Edie’s Tennessee-living daughter came to NY to take Edie to live the rest of her life in Tennessee–a mutually-agreed-upon move.

The Tennessee-living daughter is Edie’s youngest and she visited NY periodically.  On those trips she and Edie shopped for clothes at Talbots–one of Edie’s favorite stores (obviously another option for clothes suitable for old women). She also went to Edie’s hairdresser’s and opened an account to ensure Edie’s weekly hair appointments.

We know how important hair is in looking “put together.” While clearly looks aren’t everything, they make a first impression.  And Edie’s first impression was yes old, but well-groomed, nicely dressed…with-it.  Additionally, weekly hair appointments got Edie out of the house and into real life at the hair salon with all the gossip and friendly chatter that involves.

When Edie stopped driving at 90 something, another family member or friend drove her to the beauty salon each week. More contact with others, more socialization, more stimulation–all of which as we know helps people age well.

Once in Tennessee, Edie’s younger daughter, a teacher, became caregiver during her nonscheduled working hours. She arranged for someone to be at home with Edie during the day while at school.

Many of us are familiar with the routine–put our life on hold until the end of a long day then take care of our own responsibilities. Papers needing to be graded awaited Edie’s daughter at night.  So once the night was hers, she began another kind of work. But she wouldn’t have changed that for anything, she says.

I began writing about old people and change in the last post. While change is difficult for most old people, Edie seems to be an exception.  The fact that moving was a mutually-agreed-upon change, was no doubt a big factor. Edie also liked the gentler pace of Tennessee.

While Edie lived with her NY daughter and husband for many years, we all knew about her yearly trips (in her 90’s) to Tennessee as well as to Texas and California to see her grown grandchildren. Shortly after arriving in Tennessee last summer, Edie’s daughter and husband drove her to Texas to visit one granddaughter and her family. More stimulation, more social contact. “Can you imagine we’re driving all the way to Texas?” she wrote me.

Edie’s was a life well lived. She was a member of that remarkable generation–widowed relatively young with two daughters, always upholding her end while moving everyone forward in the most graceful, positive way. When she neared 100 she needed help and her family was there for her. What goes around, comes around.

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