Being empathetic to major life changes in parents’ life
Retirement – the big term isn’t it? Retirement in anybody’s career at whatever age it be, it’s always a major shift that involves a lot of emotional and physical transition along with financial drift. Generally, when someone searches the internet, the most common and topmost results are all focused majorly on financial planning for retirement. And then the person enters into the loop of finding the right schemes, the fund managers, health policies, and whatnot. But is it just a matter of money that takes a toll? Well, I don’t know why these internet guys do not actually give any tips on how to cope up with a person’s emotional well being and family goals post-retirement because let’s face it – A retired person is going to spend a hell lot of time at home with family members now. It’s all together a restart of everything for everyone. Caring for elderly parents is an unforgettable experience for adult children. It gives them an opportunity to value and love parents. It is an expression of gratitude towards the parents while they enter the final chapter of their lives. A little perspective can help you create a lovely journey for your parents. And, don’t forget to cherish these precious moments, while you still can.
Here are ten ways to make this retirement journey a memorable experience for your parents.
1. Rekindle your connection even before the retirement Since my dad retired a few years back, I know what works best when you want to have a retirement discussion with your parents. Before they even retire, make it a habit to sit with them at home or take them out to their favorite restaurant, and listen to them. Hear them out before giving your opinions. Be there to talk about any problems and concerns they have. Have a good chat with them regularly, so that any need – emotional, physical, or financial – comes up naturally in conversation. They may be shy, and not want to share. Having such a conversation can be an ice breaker, and help them share their dormant feelings.
My dad and I have been best friends for a long time. And, I know that even a small issue like a neighbors dog barking at odd hours makes him anxious. It’s important to know what’s going on in their lives. And, better to know it naturally during the course of conversation. So, you can help them without making them conscious about it.
2. Appreciate their emotions, choices, and decisions Retirement is like a long-awaited trip in your parents’ life and it’s appreciable if as a family you want to be supportive without being overly controlling. There is a fine line between a suggestion and a forced decision. Many parents feel offended and disheartened if their kids have harsh opinions about their lifestyle and belief system. Support your parents in their personal needs and share their feelings. Being able to support your parent’s emotional choices would help them enjoy their growing old period.
3. Plan a mock retirement drill for your parents Your working parents must have followed a set routine all their life. So why not try some mock drills at home before their retirement. Ask them to spend some 15 days at home like their future retirement life. See, how it goes! I’m sure the initial 2–3 days would be full of enthusiasm but in the night hours, they may feel the urge to go back to their routine. They may become anxious. Be available to them, hear them out. In my case, during such breaks, my brother and I actually helped our parents develop new hobbies. We made our parent tech-savvy. We showed them new ways of solving problems and following their passion. You may also wish to try new stuff with them.
4. Support your parents to have an active social life Sadly, COVID has brought the entire world to a standstill. But make sure that without compromising safety, you find ways to encourage and facilitate your parents. It will help them maintain positive social relationships with family and friends. Try spending time over dinners and lunch or maybe some other entertainment can boost the quality of life, including both their physical and mental health. Secure and supportive relationships in this new phase of your parents' life can bring very positive vibes.
5. Engage your parents in new past-time activities My father’s talisman was to try a new activity every week. Some worked and have now become a routine but there were a few disasters as well. So many plants had to die once my dad realized that gardening was actually not his forte. Be prepared for that. In fact, better keep a small fund for things that could go wrong. But the trial of new things made him fall in love with cooking which he had never done in his life. New culinary art could be one thing, or something as simple as watching a movie from a genre you wouldn’t normally choose could be someone else’s choice. Just be supportive in the smallest of the activity that cheers them up.
6. Create plans for them to enjoy new cuisines Many senior citizens after retirement confine themselves to the boundaries of their house. Please make sure that your parents still enjoy their social outings. Healthy eating is one thing but overall different food tasting can be exciting for them. Lack of interest in food and depression are closely linked, so helping out with the preparation and cooking of enjoyable meals can be a good plan for their well-being. My parents have developed a new habit of enjoying teas from all over the country. Snacking with tea-logy and old Indian songs is their idea of a perfect afternoon.
7. Make community service a part of their life Volunteering in the community is a meaningful way to spend time and can bring great rewards. My parents have been a really busy couple all their lives. As kids, we’ve seen them supporting the community along with family and work duties. They made choices where they could take out enough time to do community service. I helped my parents form new connections with voluntary organizations. Now, they enjoy their time teaching kids, serving the poor, protecting animals, and much more. It gives them a sense of purpose and meaning in life. And, what we get? Happy parents — who’re keeping themselves occupied in societal good. It's a great way to give back to society.
8. Evolve technology as a great learning experience Sometimes for elderly parents traveling and mobility for festive get-togethers could be difficult. Communication and internet technology has to become its strength. They must become pro slowly and gradually in using emails, video calling, social networking, and in using other mobile applications. Explore other forms of communication technology that are easy to use as the hearing gets harder and parents start to use aids. Be patient. It takes time for all of us to learn new technology!
9. Create a routine for physical and mental well being Staying fit and sleeping well are proven to help health. Walking, indoor cycling, gardening, Tai Chi, Yoga, and dancing are all great ways to exercise and are pocket friendly as well. My dad has a walking and yoga group. They have set a time in their daily schedule for it. Being outside, especially in gardens, parks, in nature’s bed is shown to be beneficial to elderly people’s physical and mental health. If there is a problem with mobility then you must seek some help who could supervise with good chair-based exercises. Because of COVID, it has been advised to stay at home. You may wish to try indoor fun games such as crosswords, sudoku, jigsaws or maybe even learn a new skill. The idea is to offer your parents ways to keep physically and mentally agile in a fun way.
10. Never ever make them feel that they are old It’s a common saying that age is just a number. One gets old once they start believing that they’re old. They may remain young forever. It’s all in our hands. To create an environment where the room is just full of joy and happiness. Discrimination against older people generally across society is a major contributor to depression. Give all the love you want them to experience and see how beautiful the new retirement phase would turn out for them. You want to stay close to them, that’s also perfectly fine, just never make them feel that you are sacrificing things for them. It would really hurt them.
Today when I am a parent myself I really wish to never let my son go away from my sight. When I get old I want him to be beside me. But the future can’t be controlled. All I can do is imbibe all the good deeds, pack them in a box, and save it for life. Because the child is indeed really responsible for the soft side of this next phase in every parent’s life – the mantras for achieving happy family goals and managing their emotional wellbeing.
My Side of The Story
In my case, both my parents have been working throughout their lives, so you can imagine the morning 9 o’clock hustles that used to happen in our house. By 10 A.M. my parent’s house used to be locked and everyone in our family had a set routine. Now, both my brother and I are in our mid-20s and early 30s respectively and we are well settled in our careers. We live in different cities away from our hometown, and so far life is going well, touch wood! But, Interestingly, nowadays whenever we are meeting our friends over virtual get-togethers we are experiencing a totally new topic of discussion – that’s our parents' retirement.
In the calls, so many of our friends look anxious and overwhelmed at the same time whenever this topic is discussed. And I think, there is nothing to feel shy about having an open discussion on this with friends and family.
I totally get it, it’s not only the person who is getting retired faces a difficult time adjusting to the new schedule but it is a big change that the family members also feel, especially if you come from a very close-knit family such as mine. Some ground rules have now been set between my parents and us; and believe me, life has just been wonderful ever since then.
If you are also in the same boat I think you’ll resonate with the situations and feelings. Would love to hear your experiences – how you deal with aging parents and elderly folks when it comes to their retirement plan.