Helping Your Parents Survive The 'Silver Tsunami' The Baby Boom generation is here, but are they prepared to usher in the fact of getting older? Here are some tips to help this generation age gracefully from one of their own. BY CHERYL WOODSON
The Baby Boomers are unlike any other generation entering retirement, which means a new understanding of aging needs to be explored.
“ We face the reality that aging and death are not optional, but we insist on controlling how we go out.”
The media has called the aging of America the "Silver Tsunami." Our families, health system, and economy can either surf, or drown. Where’s your parents surfboard?
The first Baby boomers reached age 65 in 2012, ushering in the largest group of seniors in American history, but these silver foxes don’t intend to rock on anybody’s porch. We (yes, I'm a Boomer) plan to stay physically and mentally active as we handle challenges that confronted no generation before us. Here's a message I'd like passed along to the other Boomers out there.
…We remain in the workforce (though some of us will have no other options). We squeeze into the Sandwich Generation, but our caregiver sandwich is a triple-decker club: parents, grandparents, and children. Some of us also have a grandchildren-layer. We reinvent ourselves, completing, or continuing our education, following new interests, or reclaiming passions we set aside to focus on responsibilities. We face the reality that aging and death are not optional, but we insist on controlling how we go out.
We plan for the time when we can no longer live independently, discuss our wishes and prepare documents to insure that our lives end the way we lived, according to our values. We serve as leaders in our families, communities, and houses of worship, initiating these discussions to encourage others to plan as well. We also hold legislators accountable to enact policies that reject archaic laws, and support the way Americans age and provide eldercare today.
Baby boomers are changing the rules of aging, but to stay in the game, we will have to age excellently! That means, working smarter, not harder to preserve our physical, financial, emotional and spiritual health. It means becoming informed, effective partners with health care professionals, preparing to manage our health and to advocate for loved ones.
It means working with certified financial advisors to budget, and manage debt. Social service agencies can help you apply for appropriate assistance programs (for tax rebates, employment and income options, food, housing, medication, and transportation). Instead of using our retirement resources to support people who need to support themselves, we will let our adult children be adults. We will learn to stop enabling, crippling, and leaving them vulnerable when we pass on. We can also recommend that they apply for assistance programs, too.
Emotional health is avoiding regret by keeping our, "I Love You's" up to date, and by breaking the bonds of thoughts we are afraid to question. My grandmother said, "there’s no should, there’s only is," and I say, "stay in your lane." At our age, our diva cards have a big "D." Any dues you paid are working for you, and nobody gets to tell you "should." You are not a victim; you choose, and since you’ve chosen, you are a victor; accept your choice, and dig deep for the joy.
Many of us also stress about things that aren’t our business. Stop worrying about what you think people should do. Who died and made you queen? We can choose to help if people ask, but often, our input is not wanted, or necessary.
Holding grudges poisons our spirits. Forgiveness doesn’t mean standing in the line of fire; it means reclaiming people’s power to hurt us, freeing our spirits for more positive feelings that generate growth and joy.
I think to "age gracefully" means sitting back and accepting the past image of aging. I don’t like "age successfully" either. We’re the can do generation; we deserve excellence! Let’s age excellently, pick up our surfboards, and surf the "Silver Tsunami," grabbing our futures, and protecting our physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual health.
Dr. Cheryl Woodson is an author who specialized in Geriatric Medicine for more than 30 years, and also navigated her mother's 10-year journey with Alzheimer's disease. She taught Geriatrics in medical schools, founded community-based care-coordinating Geriatrics programs, and served on the White House Conference on Aging. Shooting from the hip and from the heart, Dr. Woodson brings a unique perspective to professional and family caregivers, community activists, and policy-makers. For more information and resources visit www.drcherylwoodson.com.