Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eldercare Truth: All of Life is Junior High Recycled

Granted, elders are each unique. But as Art Linkletter says, "They say--and do--the darndest things."

See if you recognize your aging parent in any of the following:

1. Elders can be unpredictable. Cupid can strike willy-nilly, turning widowed 80-somethings into old versions of love-struck teens. At our retirement community we witnessed three marriages in one year. Sweet-talking and hand-holding led to quickie marriages, with grown children reeling in shock, initially. "It was sort of like a shotgun wedding without the baby," one Boomer said. Everyone adjusted, though, and it was fun to see the newlyweds coo and glow in their newfound love. But definitely unpredictable.

A different example of unpredictability involves autos. One day 96-year-old Ethel announced, for all to hear: "Alice, I have a surprise. Can you guess what it is?" I wondered. Had Ethel's car suffered one more owie? Her nephew had tried for years to convince her to give up driving.

"I've decided to contribute to the public good, to do my duty to my community," she said with a smile. "I won't be driving anymore." Who could have predicted her sudden change of mind? Her decisiveness reminded me of my two-year-old son who potty trained himself after months of my coaxing and "training." Unpredictable? Ya betcha!

2. Seniors sometimes see themselves as invincible. One morning I walked outside our community and spotted a 92-year-old resident standing on the top rung of a ladder which leaned against his cottage apartment. Tempted to yell, "Get down right now!" I tried to collect my thoughts before asking, "Are you OK? I get scared when I see you up there. You could fall." What was he doing? Watching a workman repair the roof on the sunroom. This elderly macho man assured me he was safe. After all, he had experience with ladders--40 years ago.

Ditto for the invincible elderly golf cart enthusiasts who began zipping down the sidewalk next to the nursing home. Picture the glee in their eyes as they zoomed around the corner. Staff, and frail residents with walkers, were not as entertained.

3. Our elders give us great stories to tell. You have your own sagas starring your elderly parents. Heartwarming, touching, hilarious, your stories can bring you to tears--or to laughter--when you share them with others, especially your kids and grandkids. Such tales bond generations.

Is life like junior high recycled? Or toddlerhood replayed? I think so. These periods of life revisit us unbidden, whether we're 14, 40 or four score and 10.

Do you have any stories starring your aging parent you'd like to share?

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