AGING AND INDEPENDENCE
The second way we inadvertently cripple elders can be deceptive. We think we’re being helpful when, in actuality, we don’t allow elders the independence they have and need to age well. Are we all guilty of this?—–more or less?
We don’t think of it that way. That’s understandable. We’re younger, stronger, quicker and possibly impatient; while older people are weaker and slower. Those who are going to age well have learned they need more patience to compensate for their age-related changes and continue life as they’ve known it. Independence is fragile.
Is it safe to say we’re all guilty of interfering with our parents’ independence at one time or another? When we’re busy–because of our other responsibilities to work, family, caregiving–it’s perfectly normal to want to get it done and move on, rather than wait for an older person to do it at his–or her–slower pace.
Some elders fight this, like supremely independent, energetic Eloise. At age 85 she and her husband, Earl, moved to a one-story private home in Delaware to be nearer their daughter and her husband. The adult children helped with the moving in since there was much lifting involved. But there came a point when Eloise decided the help was encroaching on their independence. Eloise told her wonderful, tuned-in-to-older-people daughter (who told me): “Your father and I are not ready for role reversal yet, when we are, we’ll let you know.”
Some older people like Eloise, have the moxie. We all know them and many live long, busy lives. They ward off unwanted help; they maintain independence to the last breath. (Eloise died in her sleep in her own bed at 95.)
Most older people aren’t Eloise, however; and we don’t want to cripple them with kindness or unnecessary efficiency. If aging parents accept dependency we’re the ones who will have the burden as they will rely on us more and more and more……
Is it dogmatic to say “Never do for aging parents what they can do for themselves?” Perhaps. Nevertheless, it’s an important concept to keep in our minds.
Last post in this series, Aging Parents and Crippling Self-esteem, (it’s pretty widespread, not necessarily by us) will be published tomorrow or Saturday.
Related: “Is Helping Aging Parents Always Helpful?
Check out:: “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.