Friday, September 17, 2010

The Greatest Problem for the Greatest Generation

When it is all said and done and the history books have had a chance to prove and reprove it, Baby Boomers are going to get the blame for everything. Most of the problems we have faced since the term was first coined will be attributed to those who were born between 1946 and 1964.  We sowed the seeds of consumerism, entitlement, privilege, wealth and health and redefined what retirement could be. Boomers saw themselves as different from the previous generations, a cultural swing that through sheer numbers changed how things were done. Boomers have been described as the "pig in the python" a huge generational bulge that was unmistakeable yet somewhat unpredictable as well.
And here we are, tossing around the notion of retirement while our children and sometimes even their children face a future where this will not be possible, at least framed the way Boomers had envisioned.  And as we think about this future of our own, for some a prolonged and redefined work career, the generation we sought so hard to distance ourselves from is closing in on us.

Aging parents are the discussion we don't want to have.  We thought our affluence would have allowed all boats to rise.  Most of could see a growth of our own wealth as being enough to cover all problems should they arise, give us enough to retire on comfortably, live the life of leisure we were so focused on and do so on the investments we made while we were working.  Like so many things we were presented with, we didn't think this through to its endless possibilities.

Aging parents are presenting a great deal of Boomers looking to retire in the next decade with a number of consideration they had previously ignored.  Boomers grew up knowing that everything would be okay.  Give it time, we thought, and a solution will present itself.  Now we have smaller portfolios, redefined dreams and working careers that could extend - if we have remained healthy enough - well beyond what we originally intended. And aging parents.

Here are three things to consider that you may not have fully faced quite yet.

1. There may come a point in the near future when your parents may not be able to live on their own.  This is presenting problems for Boomers that run the emotional gamut. How do you convince an older parent that they are vulnerable to their own inability to live alone in the their own house?  Ignoring the problem is not the answer, and in a vast majority of the situations, is only confronted when there is an accident.  This can add additional costs to an issue that was easier to confront prior to a fall or a dramatic loss of weight.
If you need to enlist a doctor's help, don't hesitate. In many instances, this is the single person that can convince the aging parent that they need someone to come in a cook their meals, tidy-up the house and even do a little shopping for them or with them.

2. Consider the assisted living facility before they need it.  They will all resist it. The sales pitch will be off-putting but like so many things in life, discuss it with friends.  They also have aging parents and are facing the same problems as you. They know or have heard of these places and, if they can't offer any real advice on which one is best, they can offer you some insight on what they are feeling, if they had made the decision and how, and how they feel after-the-fact.

Examining your true motives may not be easy.  If you are asking yourself questions about how this will affect you, you may be asking the wrong questions. If an assisted living facility is something that is simply easier on you, it will be. You will have some peace of mind and a feeling that there is some continuity in your parent's life.  But that may not be shared by your aging parent.  Keep that in mind before signing any long-term commitment with any housing. They may not like it.

3.  Determining that your parent is a danger to themselves and others is perhaps the most difficult - especially if you live a considerable distance from them. They are adults and they are allowed to make mistakes. The only thing you can do in this instance is be persistant, not pushy, but patient in your explanation that it may be time to give up the fight for independence. As Carol L. Rosenblatt, RN, BSN, PHN, attorney, is author oThe Boomer's Guide To Aging Parents suggests: "Our ongoing encouragement and respectful, patient offers of help may be heeded over time."

Paul Petillo is the Managing Editor of and a fellow Boomer.

1 comment:

Larry M. Anderson said...

I am not a boomer, but I am married to one. During the early years we both fought for civil rights, anti-war, women's rights, and for the environment.
The time is coming for senior's rights. Those who have negative imaginations or have their own agendas of exploitation of seniors cry that the coming of Apocalyptic Demography. Some of our opponents are those who argued that women's liberation would screw up society. "We shall Overcome!"