Stomping into my office in frustration, the 85 year old lady threw up her hands and declared “That’s it! I’m not having any more kids!”
That octogenarian mom was aggravated with her children. She was done. Though her statement is hilarious considering the source, it’s also a reminder to me that as we age, we still approach life as our “same old selves”. Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought “How did I get these lines or those pounds? I still feel like I’m 28.”? Age creeps along and we barely notice the metamorphosis because we are busy living life and being ourselves.
My resident’s wrinkled face and shuffling gait mean others see her as a little old lady. But she’s so much more. She’s still a mother, a wife, a professional, a churchgoer, an independent thinker. Oh, the things she’s seen and done. How awful it must be to have one’s real self ignored, to be summed up as nothing more than your age.
My business card says “Executive Director” and because I sit in the boss’ chair, people can get at least some idea of my effort and experiences. When I think about the lovely adventures I’ve had and the hard work I’ve done, I dread the day when all anyone sees in me will be my wrinkles and age spots. What a shame that our society often marginalizes those of us with the most adventures survived, most stories to tell, most experience and wisdom to offer.
Maybe your elderly mom or dad has decided not to have any more kids. Maybe his or her frustration level often reaches a boiling point. Could it be that your parent is weary of only being seen as her age? All our elders often want is to be seen and respected as a whole person, the accumulation of a life of experience. Reducing an elderly person to nothing but an “old lady” is a sure fire way to elicit her frustration. Try bringing out other aspects of your parent’s personality. Find ways to express the respect you have for his life and experiences. Remind yourself and others that your parent is more than his or her current age and health condition. Talk about something besides your agenda for your parent. You might find that once she is treated as more than an old lady, she begins to act like herself again.
By Rebecca Jeffries