I always get annoyed when I come across an article or blog post advising reluctant adult children on how to prepare for “the talk” with their aging parents. The proposed talk may be about giving up driving, sharing the management of finances, or moving to assisted living — but the underlying assumption is always that roles have been reversed and the parents have now become like children. Seniors resent being regarded this way.
Still, I have to temper my annoyance when I reflect that there are seniors in the higher age brackets who haven’t come to grips with the realities of aging. Many live in a state of denial with respect to their driving skills, their housing situation, or their health. Sometimes, I’ve thought to myself that “so and so’s children really ought to get involved.” I admit it.
Seniors who take a practical, common-sense approach to aging can reduce the risk of being treated like children if we initiate preparations for advanced age while we are in our 60s and 70s. If we have children — children we can rely on — we should start the conversation with them ourselves. We can make them aware of our financial situation and health status, and of our wishes for the living situation we want to be in when our faculties decline. We shouldn’t keep back important information about illnesses, falls, or accidents we might have had. That will only make rational decision-making more difficult for everyone.
Meanwhile, even if we don’t have children, we can start to get ready for the transitions that lie ahead. We can get that basement cleared out, and equip our homes for aging-in-place, if that’s our intention. We can make sure we’re in a location where transportation will be available when the time comes to give up driving. We can see to it that our wills, living wills, advance care directives, and health care proxies are in order.
We can, in short, assume some control over our own destinies, so that down the road, we’re not thought of as children in need of supervision.