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Let’s Talk About Aging

adrouin December 13th, 2010, 9:06 PM
Amy Dixon, BSN, RN, After Hours Supervisor, Customer Care Center
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Ok, here’s the truth. I noticed this week I have approximately six to thirteen gray hairs on my head. I’m leaning towards six. There are a few spider veins on my leg below my left knee. A sunspot covers an area beneath my left eye which darkens in the summer. It wasn’t there a year ago. Wrinkles. Sure, I have some. I also wonder more about my future. I worry about how I’ll ever retire at the age of sixty-five, or seventy, or seventy-five, or whatever number the government decides to raise the retirement age to in the future. I think about what will happen if I get sick before I have a chance to retire. Lately, I also think about how I’ll be as a I grow older. And how other people around me will be as they grow older—like my mom. What if I get older than her somehow? She’s quite active right now. Who will take care of her if I can’t do it?

My mom said to me: “Don’t get old, Am.” I just laughed and replied, “I’ll try not to.” We usually carry on our conversation because I’m convinced she’s just joking with me.

There’s something to the recent discovery of gray hairs that makes me stop and ponder a little more. Wait, what does my mom mean by that? “Don’t get old.” She said it to me only a few weeks ago.

It’s inevitable. My hair is certainly tangible proof of that, isn’t it? I am growing older right now. We all are growing older in every next moment. My mom is getting older, too.

Sometimes my mom will add “It’s no fun.”

“Don’t get old. It’s no fun,” she’ll say. And then I feel sad. I think, “Oh no, my mom may not be happy.” She never clarifies her statement because I never ask her; but, I know funny things come from a truthful place. Honestly, I’m afraid to delve a little deeper into the topic. Do I want to hear her answers? My mom seems fine.

I sense that Melissa Rivers feels the same way about her mom. They also joke about getting older in their recent public service announcement below.

The Rivers mother/daughter team chose to be the face of a new campaign for Volunteers of America to encourage family members to talk to one another about aging and all the issues relating to it: physical and mental health for seniors, long term care planning, advance directives, caregiving preferences and financial preparation for later life. The VOA site mentions that “over 71.5 million people will be age 65 or older within the next two decades.” The shift in demographics will affect each and every one of us either directly by having to care for an aging parent, or indirectly through policy changes in Medicare, Social Security and our health care delivery system.

We all need to be aware of the impact this shift will have on our future. Dialogue can only help to create suggestions or innovations for how we can handle these issues, individually as caregivers and together as a nation. Denial will only make things harder for all of us in the long run.

Joan and Melissa Rivers offer a humorous approach in their video, which is refreshing for such a serious topic. I can relate to the moments when Melissa just wants to cover her ears. Only Joan is really good at talking louder about her issues, so Melissa can’t deny them. The whole thing has got me thinking. Maybe I’ll have a talk with my mom this month when I visit her. Perhaps she’ll share with me exactly what she means when she tells me not to grow old. Stay tuned.

Have you talked to your parent about aging? What have you gained from the experience? How did you start the conversation?

Discussion

  • Thanks for an idea, you sparked at thought from a angle I hadn’t given thoguht to yet. Now lets see if I can do something with it.

  • Thank you, Dental Hygienist!

    Your title brings up an important point to those of us who are health care professionals. Just because we work in the healthcare field doesn’t make it any easier to have “the talk” with our older parents. Sometimes having the knowledge makes it a bit harder to step out of the healthcare professional role and be a son or daughter. Or, sometimes people expect that because you are a healthcare professional you know everything there is to know about Medicare, long term care insurance, nursing homes, etc. That’s not always the case. There are loads of information to sift through when discussing issues of aging. Thanks for your response. I hope you’ll share with us more about your experience.
    Best,
    Amy

  • [...] (My VNSNY colleague Amy Druin explores how to tackle such conversations in her recent blog, Let’s Talk About Aging.) Explains Evelyn, “There may be many things that the person is still able to do, only slower [...]

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