Vulnerability is not something that we like to talk about – particularly when it is our own… . Many of the older clients who I work with have enjoyed what most would consider a good life. Solidly middle class, sometimes affluent, they have enjoyed the privileges that come with predictable incomes. Larger homes, travel and opportunities to purchase goods and services without sacrifice are integral elements of life as they know it. That’s not to say that everything has been easy, only that there have been ample opportunities to enjoy “lives well lived”. Employment was often stable and defined benefit pensions typically made up a part of their retirement plans. There may not have been elaborate kitchen renovations every ten years but there were often family cottages, club memberships and theatre subscriptions. Essentially there were choices. . . .
Many of these older adults have sons and daughters who have achieved successes in their own right. Typically they are in their fifties or sixties themselves and most are well established. They worry about their parents’ safety as they age in place, sometimes admittedly unsteadily, but they know that independence and autonomy are crucial to Mom and/or Dad’s sense of well-being. These “sandwich generation” boomers respect this and they essentially try to make themselves available while they anxiously hope for the best… .
However there can be an elephant in the room that no one is talking about. Mom and/or Dad may just not be doing quite as well as they claim. They may not feel as confident in navigating their world as they once were. They may be experiencing increasing mobility challenges. They may have lost their spouse or significant other and they have undoubtedly lost friends who were near and dear to them. Their annual trips to Florida may not be realistic anymore due to travel insurance restrictions and, all in all, their world has become significantly smaller… .
Challenges that once were easily overcome can now seem insurmountable to these older adults. Indecision can become paralyzing. Confidence can quickly become eroded and mustering any positive feelings for their future can seem next to impossible. Keeping up appearances can also take its toll. “Yes dear, I’m fine” may not be shared with the usual conviction. Fears of suffering yet another loss can seem like unwelcome dinner guests who never go home. Family celebrations, even the ones that these older adults are no longer hosting, can be unfortunately exhausting for everyone.
No one wants to be a source of worry and few want to risk the consequences of making a decision too soon. “I am fine dear, really” can mask underlying feelings of vulnerability that can be tough to watch. I can tell you from personal and professional experience though that it is better to make choices before a crisis hits than later when others are making decisions, however well intended, on behalf of the older adult.
Life doesn’t stay the same, much as we would like it to. Helping your aging parents to make autonomous choices can go a long way in reducing the feelings of vulnerability that accompany aging. Anything that increases your parents’ self-confidence will only help them to successfully navigate the changes that may lie ahead.
Although a tough conversation to have, you are communicating to your parents that you love them and want to ensure that their wishes are met - no matter what happens down the road. Ensuring that they experience a sense of autonomy and independence can have a huge impact on how successfully they are able to embrace any potential move in the future. Just because someone may be getting on in age does not mean that they need to feel vulnerable through the process. While there are individuals and services available that can take a lot of the stress out of downsizing and moving, this particular Senior Move Manager also has a background in mental health support, crisis intervention and dispute resolution. Moves are never easy for older adults and our goal is to ensure that yours can be successfully accomplished with a smile!
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