7 Things To Consider As Your Parents Age That You Probably Haven’t Yet
Even though you know your parents will get older, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to to imagine what it'll be like, or fully predict what might happen. And that's OK. But there are a few things you can consider now, in order to make it easier on yourself — and your parents.
For example, you may want to chat with them about things like money, healthcare, and where they see themselves living. After all, "it can be very tough to watch your parents age," therapist Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, tells Bustle, so you'll want to plan ahead to make sure they're happy and comfortable.
You might also want to think about your relationship and if there's anything you've always wanted to say. While not every parent-child connection is worth maintaining, now may be a good time to reach out and address anything you've been keeping on the back-burner. You never know, after all, what type of a direction your relationship may take once it's all out in the open.
Of course, it may not be fun to talk about these things, or to think about your parents as any older than they are right now. But it doesn't mean aging has to be a negative experience. And you definitely don't need to be blindsided by certain events.
With that in mind, read on below for some things to consider, as well as ways to make it all easier on you and your parents, according to experts.
1. Try To Forgive Them
If your parents weren't always there for you, or if they damaged your relationship in a way that's had a big impact on you, it may be beneficial to find a way to forgive them. "More so for you than for them," licensed therapist Farah Harris, MA, LCPC, tells Bustle.
This might include talking to them, going to therapy, or simply trying to let it go. "While you still have time, choose to not carry the heaviness of resentment and unforgiveness," Harris says. "Of course this doesn’t mean that you need to reconcile with a parent if they are still toxic and harmful. What it does mean is that you can avoid having any regret of not choosing to heal earlier."
2. Get Things Off Your Chest
You may also want to get a few things off your chest by having a discussion with your parents, which might include memories that have been annoying you, as well as things you've simply always wanted to say.
"Oftentimes we wait [until it's] too late to tell our parents how we feel about them; good or bad," Harris says. "Tomorrow isn’t promised so share your thoughts with them now so that you won’t have any guilt later."
You might end up having a great conversation that heals old wounds and allows you to move forward together. Or, you might not. You never know what'll happen, but it still may be healthy to have a heart-to-heart.
3. Record Family Stories
If your parents are cool with you playing family historian for the day, go ahead and record or jot down a few stories, as well as stories they remember their parents and grandparents telling. "This is great to have so you can share with future generations," Harris says. And it can also be a fun project to work on together.
4. Find Out Where They'd Like To Live
It's easy to assume your parents will live in their house forever and never need to move. But the truth is, once they get older — or develop certain health conditions — it may be necessary for them to get a little extra help.
So be sure to chat with them about how they'd like to be helped, where they'd like to live, etc. "Early conversations to explore options of professional care at home, assisted-living care, and sharing caregiving responsibilities among family members is important," Vanessa Watson-Hill, LCSW, tells Bustle.
Ask them now and sort it all out, so you won't have to guess or feel guilty about it in the future.
5. Encourage Them To Exercise
"One of the keys to staying brain and body healthy is to keep active and mobile," licensed psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, tells Bustle. So while it's obviously up to your parents what they do (or don't do) with their spare time, it won't hurt to encourage them to get out and exercise. You can encourage them, or see if they'd like to sign up for classes at a gym. Or you could ask if they'd like to do things with you, such as walking or riding bikes.
6. Talk About Being Social
"Many senior citizens report feeling lonely as they age," Scott-Hudson says, which is why you may want to point out the importance of getting out, trying new things, and maintaining their social lives.
It can also help to include them in your own life, if that's something you can or want to do. "Take your parent(s) to go see a show, invite them over for a family dinner, do crossword puzzles together, cook a meal together, or run to the grocery store with them," Scott-Hudson says.
If you live far away, tell them about local classes, or see if they'd like to invite their own friends over. Little things like this can make a big difference in helping your parents stay connected and healthy, as they get older.
7. Brace Yourself For A Role Reversal
"As our parents get older the dynamic in [your] relationship with them can change," Dr. Brown says. As a child, your parents were your caregivers and now the roles may be reversing, he says, where they could potentially become more dependent on you for their care and well-being, especially if they develop a health problem.
If that wasn't something you ever considered, it could come as a bit of a shock, and may feel difficult to make that transition, Dr. Brown says. But it's nothing you can't handle, if you plan ahead.
These are things you might not think to do or plan for, as your parents age. And yet you'll definitely want to keep them all in mind, not only so you can adjust to the change, but also help your parents to stay happy and healthy as well.