Aging Options Commentary by : Care Manager Eric M. Crozier
Too often the relationships we hold with others are seemingly taken for granted. As children, young adults, and even baby boomers, it is easy for our lives to become entangled in our own daily grind; easy for us to set aside one priority for another. But I think over time, we lose far too many valuable connections from those we did value at one time or another. I am frequently reminded of the value of relationships and how these relationships, whether maintained or lost, affect us as we age. The following story will help to illustrate this point.
I once worked with a gentleman that offered me some tremendous wisdom that I will continue to appreciate. When sitting down with this young man at his “ripe old age of” 89, we were talking about his social history; relationships with family, co-workers, friends, marriages, etc. This gentleman had disclosed to me that he was the only “friend left” of his original group of friends, his family has all passed on, and he is married to his 3rd wife. His first wife had died young of medical causes and he described her as if she were sitting beside us then. He jokes and says “I married her because she was my first love and we were young so why not?” His second wife died of illness as well and he jokes that he had “married her for money and lust”. His laugh was noticeable and friendly. He goes on to explain that when it came time to marry his third wife, he felt it was for an entirely different reason. “Of the women I have dated and been married to, this lady is the most special. I have found that as I was getting older, my reasons for companionship and marriage were changing too. I realized that as I aged, my friends were dying off, family were too, and I found it more important to marry the one you see yourself sitting and talking with when you’re 90 years old. By then, the money is irrelevant, sex is a chore, and all you really have left is the comfort of talking with someone. “
This conversation highlights the true importance of our connections to others, whether the connections are brief or lifelong. Much research has been done citing the positive effects that can occur in seniors as they age in place. In particular, the companionship of a spouse, significant other, or child. Sparing the textbook quotes, and references, the fundamental concept to take from this is how important it is to remain in the lives of your children, parents, grandparents, spouses, significant others, and so on. I am challenged on a regular basis with the task of helping my clients to improve their overall quality of life.
There are times in working with families where the ideas generated to improve the quality of life of their parents or grandparents are seemingly quite lavish and involve much prep and follow through. And then I am reminded of the conversation held with that young man of 89 years old, and realize the best way to improve the quality of life for our seniors and loved ones, is to sit down with them and just talk. It is as simple as sharing in what their lives are about now; taking valuable and genuine interest in the lives of your aging parents and grandparents. I have worked with many families over the last 13 years of my career, and I can say, the value and importance of positive, genuine and caring relationships with our seniors is the best and most rewarding enhancement to not only the quality of their lives, but to ours as well.