Ageing is nothing to look forward to. The best part of it is a gradual release of responsibilities as you no longer have to prove anything beyond being able to walk and eat independently. In fact, ageing can be downright depressing as all the hormones that kept you racing and mating with the other rats slide to a low and you worry more about losing your mind and mobility than losing your hair.
Would it be better to die in early middle-age like many humans did a few centuries ago? Of course not, because we’re discovering more ways to stay fit and enjoy the extra years. With longer life expectancies though come problems for caregivers ie family, so we should be thinking of how to make it easy on them – considerations most of us shove aside because they’re so unpleasant to discuss.
Hwee Hwee Laurence ponders the topic –
Spring is here. The daffodils, peach and plum trees are in bloom and we have spotted geese and cranes flying north.
Every year, during March, my elder son and I celebrate our birthdays and despite the fact that I am getting older each time, the arrival of spring always makes me feel young and I look forward to the newness of this part of the seasonal cycle. This spring, however, I feel somewhat older. Older because my husband and I have a new responsibility. We are at a point where we have to take care of both our still-young children as well as our aging parents.
My father-in-law has recently been diagnosed with having a blocked vessel in the brain as well as the beginnings of Alzheimer’s. Because he is quite a character (I shall not go into that), it took us some time before we realized that something was really wrong. And because of his character, it has been difficult coming up with an appropriate solution that is best for his well-being.
I, being the ever-efficient and practical type, have been angry and frustrated by his stubbornness and seeming ungratefulness for what we are doing for him. And then a good friend taught me this lesson. She said that first, it is never pleasant or easy for a person to get old and come to a stage where he has to ask for help, and second, different people ask for help in different ways.
And it is true. Our parents have not only brought us up, many of them (in Singapore) have also helped bring our children up. It must be difficult for them for them to metamorphose from being care-givers to having to be cared for. And just like children, aged people express themselves and do different things to get attention and help.
For young people, we must remember that when we look at an elderly person, we should see beyond the shell that he is and recognize that he has lived a (probably more) colourful and challenging life than us. We should not to be dismissive of his needs, disdainful of his abilities or indifferent to his contributions. And we should respect his wisdom and his rights.
For older people who are still autonomous and clear-minded (the ‘silver generation’) Marie Murray, a clinical psychologist and columnist of The Irish Times has this advice – it is during this time that plans should be made to cater for future decline in physical and mental abilities. These include learning email or internet skills so that there will be no deprivation of communication or information, planning maintenance-free homes or discussing with children about living arrangements, getting good legal advice about wills and decisions about whom to trust with power of attorney etc.
Planning for the future liberates the present, and this is most true for the silver generation who now has the time, financial, physical and mental abilities to live life up to the fullest.