Growing older is definitely no easy feat. But, as we know, given that the only alternative is death, it is pretty unavoidable. Thus given that it happens, what is the best way to deal with it?
One way that might help is to talk about it. According to Robert W. Goldfarb, a management consultant, men around the 85-year-old mark are “reluctant” to engage in discussions about getting older. But this has not been his way at all (he is also 85) and indeed he actually wrote a recent New York Times blog post detailing the various different ways he maintains an active mind. Two of these are:
a) web-based memory games – this gives you two things: ability to keep up with Internet fluctuations and developments and improving memory
b) re–reading books from his time at college: this way he is able to go back to the youthful excitement that “once existed within him.”
What has surprised Goldfarb though in his attempts at discussing the aging concept with the aging is that it was “awkward…It quickly became clear I was free to contemplate growing old, but not with them.”
So then – following the advice of his wife – he took his topic to younger men, just 10 years his junior and found the difference to be “astonishing.” The 75 year olds were “candid about their feelings about aging,” discussing topics such as “failing memories and shared painful stories of situations like being forced into retirement.”
It seems his findings were not isolated. Similar results were ascertained by the 2016 Senior Care Survey from Care.com (the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care). It was discovered that families still really have a hard time with engaging in an open discussion about what assistance their aging parents will require. And this is crucial! As VP of Senior Care at the organization, Jody Gastfriend said: “Raising awareness of the true costs of senior care is imperative for the financial health of families.” This is crucial because underestimating it (which really does happen – apparently up to 63 percent – can be financially damaging. Gastfriend added: “When you add in saving for retirement, the financial impact can be profound. We encourage families to proactively speak with the senior in their life about long-term care because when a health issue strikes unexpectedly, many families are unprepared for quick decisions. By talking about preferences and expectations before the need arises, families are in a better place to make informed decisions for the care of a loved one. Whether it’s consulting professionals to help explain your options, or researching information online, there are myriad resources available to help families navigate this sensitive, and, oftentimes, confusing topic.”
The situation is no different in the UK. According to a ComRes study, commissioned by Independent Age research (a charity for older people), a staggering two-thirds of London adults have never spoken about important age-based issues like: care preferences, downsizing homes, or even just who will help take care of them. indeed the statistics showed that even though 84% of adults responded that it was “fairly” or “very important” to talk to older relatives about ‘who will care for them when they are older, a mere 27% actually had discussed it.
Likewise, 81% of people in London said it was “fairly” or “very important” to talk to older relatives about “where they would like to live if they could no longer live at home”, on 28% did. In response to the release of the study, Independent Age warned that by putting off difficult conversations about ageing, families risk making rushed decisions about care, health, housing and financial matters at times of crisis. 46% of those surveyed said that their elderly family members’ preferences for end of life care was among the three most difficult issues to discuss.
Clearly the elderly – and those around them – find the conversation difficult. But when the reality of not engaging in it ultimately means everyone is worse off, it’s almost irresponsible. As Janet Morrison, Independent Age CEO pointed out: “It’s not always easy to talk about getting old with loved ones, so we understand if families are tempted to put off these conversations, but having these conversations won’t be any easier later down the line, and families risk leaving it too late.”