Aging Parents: Practice What You Preach

1. “Keep in close contact with elders–aunts, uncles. Make sure they’re not forgotten.”
2. “A phone call is wonderful; it doesn’t have to be a visit.”
*         *        *

These suggestions to lift elders’ spirits during the holidays, came from a small survey I took several years ago. Twice since I posted them last Saturday, their ability to raise people’s spirits and make them feel good has been proven–once for Sr. Advisor, R; once for the seniors who work on Help! Aging Parents.

The fact that they came as a complete surprise, makes them even more special. The fact that Holiday cards provided the “contact” in one case, allows me to make the leap of faith that #3 should be “An unexpected Holiday card”—and possibly  #4: an unexpected “anything good” should be added.

Shortly after publishing last Saturday’s post, I spoke with Sr. Advisor R. Readers know she’s 101 and still, as she likes to say, “has a good head.” She has also suffered major vision issues in the last year–loss of vision in one eye and compromised vision and a droopy eyelid in the other.

While she is a creative problem solver (that’s the reason she’s a Sr. Advisor) and uses 3 magnifying glasses of different magnifications (which she ordered from catalogs) because reading is part of her life, she’s not a “happy camper” these days. When she phones we’ve learned listening, being supportive–and not offering advice unless asked–is important if we want a nice conversation.

You can imagine my surprise, hearing her spirited conversation. R immediately began by telling me she received two completely unexpected Christmas cards that day, from people she cared about and didn’t realize still cared about her.

One was a Christmas letter (took a long time to read, using the magnifying glasses she said) from a once-very-good-friend’s son. (The good friend died at least 5 years ago). His letter was full of interesting news that gave R new things to think about, but the fact that he was thinking about her was what she focused on.

The second was a Christmas card, with message, from the woman who cleaned my home 4 hours a week during my working years. Widowed at 51, R came to NY to visit twice a year over many decades–Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day. In smidgens of time, they logged a lot of time together. Being remembered and the words in the note on the card really touched R. She literally sounded buoyant..

Then yesterday we got the news that Help! Aging Parents is cited as one of 2014’s “Top 10 Websites for Aging” by the people at Good Therapy.org. Learning this clearly boosted the spirits of my Sr. Advisors and myself–in the midst of the last-minute stress produced by the holidays the unexpected does this. (We’re in good company with the American Society on  Aging, Aging Care.com and seven others sites, check them out.)

Recapping events for this post is making me feel good in more ways than one. Why? Because when I finished last Saturday’s post, I went back to my Christmas-card-addressing, looking carefully at the list that has been added to and crossed out over the years. I took a second look and found two husbands from my husband’s working years had died, but I knew their widows. Hearing from us would be a surprise–additional cards were addressed, with a short note added. Then I remembered being told my high school PE teacher (who I loved) was in her 90’s and still functioning; so I contacted the friend who told me–another card with a short note was addressed.

Interestingly, practicing what I preached (well, suggested) in last Saturday’s post, made me feel good. So I know it’s a win-win.

Wishing you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a NEW YEAR that’s a win-win.

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