Help Aging Parents: Making Older People Feel Good

Compliments. Saying something nice to people about themselves.

I’d forgotten how much this means to old people until I heard an old person tell me–not once, but three times–about a compliment a “young person” gave her. It brought back memories of my father’s mother.

She was always telling us (perhaps not “always” but it seemed like it to my 10-year-old mind) how “pruddy” someone said she looked. I thought she looked old, not “pruddy” (pretty) and it made no sense. The point is, in telling us about the compliment so many times, I think in her mind she legitimized for us that people said good things about her. And I’m guessing that made her feel good.

Doesn’t a compliment makes us feel good, regardless of age? But when you’re old your connections to others shrink so it stands to reason you get less compliments (or “strokes” as they were called in the ’60’s-70’s). So a compliment can feel especially good to an old/older person.  It confirms people notice them, they’re part of things– not irrelevant, on the sidelines. Someone recently called an older man a “rock star.” An exaggeration I would say, but he felt great and repeated it enough that I remember it.

In any event, last fall I decided that when I saw attractive older people–on the streets of NYC or anywhere– if I could do it comfortably– in passing I’d say they looked great, or that their coat was terrific or–on the bus once–that her hairdo was lovely and perfect for her. Not difficult to do.

I wondered if these people would go home and tell someone. What I didn’t wonder was how it made them feel because they would always–although sometimes startled–say something like “thank you” or “how nice of you to say that.”

When we have old parents, can we hope someone will compliment them and give them a psychological lift from time to time. Perhaps, if we all make the small effort, “what goes around” will come back around, find our aging parent, and make him and her feel good (or great) enough–to repeat it and repeat it…..

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.

4/14 Help! Aging Parents is again a finalist in the Sr. Homes Best Blogs by Individuals. Click gold badge at top to view all finalists’ blogs. You’ll find blogs with a lot of good information. Thanks so much for voting.

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