Aging Parents and Politics

I want to share three true stories this election night….about old people and elections. Whether it’s the way we’re “wired’ or it’s acquired, let’s face it (and reputable studies confirm it)–old people who are engaged age better than those who aren’t.

This is a heads up for people whose parents aren’t yet chronologically old, but will be by the time of the next presidential election or even a local election. If parents can be engaged now, doing whatever’s necessary to support and maintain parents’ interests and provide mental stimulation, makes sense. Isn’t it more enjoyable to be with someone who’s the opposite of a couch potato, for us and everyone else?

Maureen’s mother is gone now.  At 104 she remained engaged, although she could hardly see and was in a care center. But she hadn’t lost interest and was a news junky. Since she couldn’t read, the radio was her lifeline.  She and Maureen (and anyone else who was interested) would be engaged in conversations about current events and the upcoming election.  Maureen’s mother was an informed voter and requested to vote in the 2004 presidential election which she did, from her bed. She died in early November, just before the 2008 presidential election.
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One summer night in 2000, around 2am in the east, our phone rang. It was my brother calling to say our father had gone out around 7:45 to hear Al Gore speak, and he wasn’t home yet. There was concern.

To backtrack: Dad was always interested and engaged and politically supported whichever party’s candidate he liked best. Spring 2000 at the doctor’s office, waiting for his appointment, Dad read an article about Gore. He had problems with its content–so much so that after his appointment the doctor’s receptionist made a copy of the article for him, which he drove down to Gore headquarters, and pointed out the inaccuracies to the staff people. I assume he gave them his name and address, then drove home.

Summer 2000 he receives an invitation to hear Gore speak at the public auditorium. Dad was 91 and still driving. He left the house by himself to be there on time that evening. It was at most a 10-minute drive.

Around 11pm his time…no sign of Dad. It was dark. It was late. What happened to Dad? Although Dad left for the auditorium allowing plenty of time, there was no available parking. Dad had to park far from–and walk to–the auditorium. Very tired when he arrived, he told the woman at the entrance about his long walk, his age, and his fatigue. After letting him rest a few minutes, he was escorted to the front row. And there he sat, throughout the entire evening. As it got later and later, tired as he was, he didn’t want to be rude and walk out before the last applause. He got home safe, albeit late.
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Sr. Advisor R. avidly follows politics at age 99. Her health was a bit shaky 4 years ago, but she was determined to vote. We joked that at the least she would stay alive to see her candidate win. Now 99 and in better health than 4 years ago, we knew–once again–R would vote in this election.  And she did.

Regardless of who wins elections, isn’t it a win-win when parents can remain engaged–even when they’re 104….and beyond!

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