Aging Parents: “Time Takes All But Memories”

Can the elderly be sustained by memories?

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 I came across a speech excerpted from a 1965 memorial service. A sun-dial inscribed “Time Takes All But Memories” inspired a sermon (in part below) making me wonder: What’s it like for the isolated elderly? Do they have only memories?

“What is true for the dead, is equally true for the living. When there is no one to think of us, no one to care for us–even though we be alive, is it not as though we are dead? To be sure, I am not speaking of mere physical survival, for a man might breathe and eat and pump blood for 969 years like the legendary Methuselah in the Bible–but who wants to live if he has no one who loves him, no one who cares for him, no one who remembers him? Total, perpetual endless loneliness is, I daresay, even worse than death itself.”

Old people must work hard to maintain relationships. We know loneliness is an issue for them. Contemporaries move away; many die; others are incapacitated. There are those who can’t “get out” because they no longer drive and public transportation isn’t easily available. And while pets can fill a void, personality and needs must be carefully and thoughtfully weighed before placing additional responsibility on an elderly person.

So that leaves only memories–and usIDEAS–

If we’re already burdened with responsibilities (caregiving, work, child-rearing), we can only do what we can do. On the other hand, a quick note (snail-mailed), every week if we can manage, translates: someone remembers…someone cares.

A faxed note can carry the same message, can be easily sent more often and can be more time-efficient (although not quite as nice). Inquiring at a nursing home and/or assisted living facility whether a fax will be accepted for someone living there, can offer that possibility. There’s also paw paw mail (click “Blogs and Sites I Like” tab above). And there’s always a phone call, which elders say is so welcome and next best to a visit. It may come down to the amount of time we have.

Indeed,  if we have time, what about outings for those who are able?

2 Examples

First: Two cousins in their 70’s made plans to get their mothers (sisters in their 90’s, living about 2 hours apart in Oregon) together.They hadn’t seen each other in two years. Click “Related” link below.  Next: Since her mother’s death 5 years ago, an energetic daughter has regularly contacted her dad’s friends and invited them to have lunch with her and her dad (now 95).

We were away for his birthday celebration this year. She emailed us immediately after his birthday party that “we were missed,” and included several dates to join them for a future lunch. She says she tries to plan something for her dad (dr.’s appointments count) for most days of the week. Although in a wheelchair, he’s has an active life

Skype also enriches many elderly lives. By the time we’re old there will no doubt be even better technology to keep us connected and thus, help ward off loneliness. In the meantime for today’s elders who fall into the “lonely, isolated” category and don’t use a computer, it seems the old-fashioned ways of showing we care are the best we have–and give elders something to think about–in addition to memories.

RELATED: “Dementia, Mobility-Challenged, 90 year-old Sisters Meet After Two Years for a Summer Outing”

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

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