Aging Women and Parenting: The Case for Preparation

It’s not news that the “golden years” of many older people, especially women, are years hijacked by young family members in need of care. It’s not just boomers caring for aging parents; it’s aging parents caring for children of their boomer aged children who for whatever reason do not care for their own children.

A lengthy article in the local paper about local older women who care for very young children was heartbreaking and thought provoking.

One woman in is 92 – she gets around on a cane and raises her great grandchildren. Other women in their seventies with arthritis and other health problems severe enough to require others to care for them, try their best to raise typically active youngsters.

The story reinforced for me the reality that we don’t know what life will dish out – so we should be as ready as we can for whatever happens.

The best way to do that is with foresight and preparation. At least by midlife, assume life will be tough. That means you cannot live day-to-day and just let life happen. If you do that, life WILL just happen and your reward will be the usual decline that eventually progresses into dependence.

I keep saying that aging is all about what goes on in your head well before you are old, and it is. How well you age is the result of how and what you think, the choices you make and just plain gritty determination very early in your life. It’s knowing in your gut that you don’t want to be a burden. You know you want to be strong and healthy, mentally and physically, for whatever comes along. You want to be ready to take care of yourself and grandkids if need be. Or your spouse, or someone totally unrelated who needs help.

One other caution: do not allow your thinking to get “old” by adopting “old” thinking of friends and family. We learn from each other and old thinking can hasten the aging process without your realizing it.

Aging well is not difficult. If over the years, you eat a nutritious diet, take anti-oxidant supplements; if you exercise regularly (nothing exotic – walking 30 minutes a day on a treadmill will do) and challenge your mind with activities that promote brain integrity instead of decline – you can say, “I’ve done the best I can to be the best that I can.” And you will be the best you can be.

Your foresight and determination will make a huge difference in your older years and in the lives of others who may depend on you. If one day you have to parent your great grandkids, it could turn out to be a joy instead of a millstone if you are mentally and physically up to the task. You can be in charge of your circumstances if you take charge of your aging process while you are still able to do so.