Aging Parents


Everybody gets old. It is one of life's certainties. Most boomers figured our parents were old when they were in their forties and fifties. Now they're really old. Most in their seventies and eighties.

On an almost daily basis, I hear about boomer parents who are having various sorts of needs that we, their children, are trying to help with. These needs can range from financial issues to healthcare issues, to placement issues, to sickness, to death. It's not that we would be the first generation to have to do this. I guess it's more like you don't think about it until it hits. It's not something we tend to dwell on. These are not really easy issues to talk to parents about. Usually one or the other comes up, and you have to deal with it.

My father died suddenly at age 46, so there was no watching him as he grew older and contending with any problems that may have developed. I wish there had been the opportunity. And my mother died rather quickly at age 78. So I have not had much experience with aging parents who might be struggling in one way or another. My wife pretty much had a similar situation. Her father died in 1977 after a battle with emphysema. We lived about 500 miles away, so her contact was somewhat limited, making it difficult. Her mother died at age 89. She did need to go to a nursing home for a while, but it was not for very long. She remained in pretty good health. Being a distance away will be an issue that boomers will have to contend with as parents need more and more help from their boomer children.

It is a strange feeling when you lose both parents. Particularly so for me because I was an only child. It's kind of the end of what was. This is sort of sad, but, on the other hand, it helps you to focus on what is. It's a weird kind of lesson that is not so pleasant to contend with, but necessary.

Lately, I have had good friends who have lost one of their parents. For some, it was the first parent to die. For others, both have now passed. In either case, it is never easy. I have a very good friend who recently lost his father. His mother had died some time ago. He also is an only child. We discussed the feeling of both parents being gone, which is hard to put into words. He has experienced a lot of the same feelings I have. It is an ending, yet in a strange way, a beginning. I think we are both learning about the cycle of life in a new and more profound way. Not long ago, the mother of a good friend died. It wasn't long before that, the mother of another good friend died. Each of us is a bit different in how we respond. Each circumstance is different. Three fellow boomers that we know had to place a parent in an assisted living facility, or nursing home. This is another difficult situation. Generally, no one ever wants to have to do that.

So, aging parents is another lesson about life. Those who took care of us, now we must take care of them. The doing is not easy, but as difficult as it is, we become better persons for it. The cycle of life is funny that way. We learn from hardships to be better human beings. Through trials and tribulations we become better sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. We end up just about in the same spot we started, sometimes even with the diapers. You have to laugh, because in the not so distant future, we will be needing the care, it will be we who look to our children for support and comfort. That is how it is with aging parents. You eventually become one.