Aging Parents: Old/Older People and Change

Providing Another Tool to Help Parents Age Well

“Old people don’t adjust to change well,” says an 85-year-old friend, talking about her long-time friend who completely recovered from a stroke, is once again living independently, but has changed from a woman of strength and determination to someone who acts relatively helpless…a woman whose “piercing intellect” has softened.

“Illness can change people,” she continues, “I think it’s the prospect of a change in their life–the prospect of not living life as they would like to.”

Yes. But that’s just a piece.  According to our senior advisor, psychiatrist Dr. Bud, “it’s not just the ‘prospect.’ It is change.  It’s a loss.  Specifically in this case it’s a stroke….Body integrity is involved here and there’s a need to make compromises due to the loss. The loss itself can be a profound change and there may be fewer options to replace the loss (ie. can no longer do daily exercises, walk any distance, play golf)…..Anticipating loss in ourselves or in others isn’t something we normally think about.”

So there’s the event which causes change; and change (no matter the cause), involves loss and a concern about how to hold onto what we had before. Understanding this–and the profound effect of loss that can accompany change in older people–affords us an important understanding…a tool. It increases our sensitivity and our ability to offer appropriate support.

To expand on this tool, Dr. Bud says “it may be helpful to confirm that something is lost, but not everything.” This may help a person to change–to reassess him or herself and his or her capacity for involvement in other things–or in doing things another way.
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Throughout our lives we have heard about the importance of being a good listener. Having someone to talk to, not necessarily to gain advice from, but having someone who actively listens in a caring way, provides its own feedback.

When people of any age feel free to express uncertainties and feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental, not-telling-you-what- you-should-or-shouldn’t-do-environment, options often become evident, solutions can appear. Clearly family members and caring friends, who are good listeners, play an important role in helping older people surmount the bumps in life that require changes.  And that has to help aging parents continue to age well.

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