Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Parent Says, 'Slow Down, You Move Too Fast!'

Does your aging parent say anything like:

"You walk too fast!"
"You work too hard."
"You need to slow down."

I've heard these admonitions again and again from my elderly clients and my aging parents. Why? Their perspective is often worlds away from ours.

We Boomers are on fast forward, juggling jobs, relationships and generations. Our eyes are on the future, as we plan for vacations, dream of retirement or just anticipate the next challenge. Completing to-do lists and achieving goals is what we're wired to do.

Our aging parents, on the other hand, seem to have one speed: slow. If we're the hare, they're the tortoise, pondering each move. Weak legs, winded breath and pain dampers their physical progress. Their thinking is slow, too, deliberate and reflective. Everything takes longer: from doctor's appointments to shopping trips to decisions.

This pacing difference frustrates both generations. Some coping ideas I've picked up over the years:

1. Match your pace to theirs. At the first retirement community where I worked years ago, I kept hearing, "Alice, you walk so fast." That was a shocker! I'm 5'3". No one had ever accused me of speedwalking. But I decided if I wanted to connect, I needed to slow down. Ditto with my parents.

2. Don't overschedule. When planning activities with my aging parents, I had to divide my to-do list in half. One major event in a day was more than enough.

3. Let them ponder. If there's a big decision, like moving to a retirement community or bringing in home care, discuss the pros and cons but don't expect an immediate reaction. Leave literature with them so they can think about ramifications. That way, they can ponder on their own schedule.

Do you have any other ideas on slowing your pace or adjusting your speed for your aging parent?

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