Old age happens – whether you like it or not, whether you’re prepared or not. You’re far from it yourself, and believe that you don’t have to worry about its impact right now. Think again! Your PARENTS are there already, and it’s possible that you’re struggling with its implications already. The good news (at least for you) is that productive life expectancy is increasing, and with some planning and preparation (that needs to start right NOW) you can continue to have a satisfying life well into the golden years. Here are some pointers from contemporary research to help you – and perhaps YOUR parents too – think about this issue.
Research clearly demonstrates that optimism has a significant influence on older adult’s health and well-being. Optimism, in this case, is defined as a general, positive attitude about the future and a tendency to anticipate favourable outcomes to life situations. In older adults it contributes to successful adjustment and recovery from disease, increased survival, better quality of life, and less distress when making health-related decisions. But how does one develop – or coach – or get coached around optimism for old age?
One way to contribute towards optimism for old age is by planning for social, medical, and long-term care, technically known as preparation for future care (PFC).
PFC is a set of health behaviors and beliefs that comprise of future focused, goal setting and problem solving efforts, and building self-efficacy and competence related to coping ability, to ensure better mental and physical health outcomes. Studies show that older adults who have prepared for the future report greater life satisfaction in later years, are able to integrate behaviors such as exercise, and report lower rates and severity of depression and anxiety in later life. These adults who have high levels of awareness of potential care needs are more satisfied with preparation, worry less, and report fewer depression symptoms than adults with no concrete plans.
Having said this, how many of us are able to have conversations around this topic? Not only for ourselves, but also for the elders in our care (parents, grandparents in-laws…)? Where does one start?
One starting point: Have these conversations, with your spouse or partner, for the both of you. Then, talk about elder care for the elders in your life. And, of course, have these conversations with the elders themselves. Easy, yes?
Actually, it’s not so easy because beliefs that limit us include: ‘we’ll cross that bridge when it comes’; ‘nothing will happen to me (my spouse/my parents) because they are so healthy and fit’; ‘my other sibling will worry about that’; ‘my parents are very independent’, ‘I don’t have time right now – enough immediate fires burning already’…and so on. The fact is that old age, unexpected events, and complications can happen to any of us.
And, not being prepared for these events can put a lot of pressure on you, your relationships, and your lifestyle. As an example (and I don’t mean to spoil your mood for the day), what happens if one parent passes on? Will the surviving parent move in with you? Is this their expectation? What impact will this have on your family dynamics and existing lifestyle? What happens if this parent then goes through emotional, physical or medical difficulties? Will you still be able to travel? Focus on your career? Will your spouse be able or want to take up this responsibility? Difficult questions indeed! And no easy answers! Therefore, best to start thinking and talking about it from NOW itself.
You (and your spouse/partner) could get coached around preparing for old age, or even get an elder parent or stakeholder to work with a coach to help them find purpose, satisfaction, or acceptance in these years. Connect with us on firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Hofer, J., Busch, H., Au, A., Solcova, I. P., & Tavel, P. (2014). For the benefit of others: Generativity and meaning in life in the elderly in four cultures. Psychology and Aging, 29(4), 764-775. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037762
Sorenson, S., Hirsch, J. K., & Lyness, J. M. (2014). Optimism and planning for future care needs among older adults. GeroPsych, 27(1), 5-22. doi:10.1024/1662-9647/a000099
Shankardass, M. K. (2013). Addressing elder abuse: review of societal responses in India and selected Asian countries. International Psychogeriatrics, 25(8), 1229-1234. doi:10.1017/S104161021300063X