Sunday, March 6, 2011

Your Aging Parent and the Age-Old Generation Gap

A balanced blog works on a formula: 85% information; 15% sales.

Today I'm pitching me--I love to speak to Boomers on issues relating to their aging parents. If you need a presenter, I'm ready, willing and able!

Now for information. Remember the 60's term "Generation Gap?" Does it generate images of long-haired Hippies and finger-pointing parents? That term came up last week in a presentation I gave to 40 Boomers at First Free Methodist Church in Seattle. We were finishing a series "Understanding Your Aging Parent."

"Does a generation gap exist today?" I asked. Together, in a lively discussion, we came up with the answer. Yes. Fortunately, we're older and wiser now than in the Flower Power Days and more willing to examine the events that shaped our parents' view of the world. With hindsight, we can also better understand ourselves.

Our aging parents want RESPECT. They survived the Great Depression and World War II--both periods of national sacrifice. One 83-year-old resident of Evergreen Court, where I work, told me,"As a kid I remember standing in soup lines. And one day I had a tooth pulled in a government-run dental clinic. Without Novocaine." In the same breath, she said, "My mother did the very best she could."

Later in World War II our parents rallied their support in countless ways. They lost limbs, siblings and friends, while learning respect--for clergy, the military and authority. Afterwards they sacrificed to build longstanding marriages, forge lifelong careers and send us to college. No wonder they value RESPECT, even today.

Our key value as Boomers is APPRECIATION. During our growing up years, unity and respect for authority gave way to change and turmoil, beginning with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy--remember that fateful day?--and continuing with the Civil Rights and Women's Movements, the Viet Nam War and aftermath. We finally calmed down, but even today, we are less committed to the term respect. Our word is appreciation. We want to be thanked for our contributions, appreciated for our good work, praised for our helpfulness. Convinced of its value, we find it easy to give others appreciation.

Our understanding of these values can help bridge the generation gap. We can show respect, our parent's key value, by being on time to appointments or by keeping them apprised if we can't do something we promised. We can keep them in the loop--about medical issues, about income tax, etc. The biggest thing we can do is minimize our expectation about receiving appreciation for our role in their lives. They may not say, "I'm so thankful for all you do for me," or "I truly appreciate you." We can get our appreciation fix from our peers. Our parents just need our respect.

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