What Aging Parent Leaves A Legacy of No Regrets?

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Does it seem impossible that a person can reach his last days and look back without any regrets at all? What does it take? We all seem to regret our mistakes and some of our choices in life. At AgingParents.com, we hear a lot from adult children of aging parents in poor health when these issues surface.

A friend and remarkable person, Dr. Albert Freedman, age 95

dr. albert freedman

did look back and expressed only a positive view. He did not focus on money, how good he was at his work nor in touting what breakthroughs he had brought about as a comedy writer, tv producer, international journalist, or sexologist at a time when discussing sexuality was tabu. He could have bragged but never did. He remained always unpretentious. His passing is a loss to humanity and all who knew him feel it. He lived and shared a lifetime of accomplishments, overcame astounding obstacles, and was a pioneer in studying and publishing in the field of human sexuality. He could have spent time thinking about what he might have done differently. He never did that either. How unusual!

He and I spoke about his reaching the end of the road as his health declined. I asked him what he felt about it. “No regrets” he replied. Wouldn’t we all like for our aging parents and ourselves for that matter to be able to say the same? What’s the secret to living and aging with no regrets? Perhaps it’s doing what Dr. Albert did. He paid a lot of attention to those around him. He told his wife how much he loved and appreciated her every day. He kept a sense of humor and knew that laughter was as important as any medication. When he was in a social situation, he asked a lot of questions of those present rather than taking a lot of air time for himself to expound on anything. He expressed his thoughts and feelings openly, sharing both his frustration with the political climate and his joy in conversing with young people whom he saw as the hope of the world.

When a person lives to age 95, there is a lot to reflect on in the sunset of one’s life. Of course, there were tragedies, including harrowing experiences as a WWII vet, losing a wife and then a daughter to cancer, being blackballed in television along with print media back then for writing about human sexuality and how it should be free of shame and secrecy. He paid a price for being a pioneering educator in his field of sexology. Yet, knowing that he did a great deal of good, he did not regret paying that price. He was not bitter, despite many personal losses and painful experiences. He enjoyed the moment, the here and now every day he could.

Perhaps that is the lesson from Dr. Albert about living one’s life free of regret. Focus on the good, enjoy the moment, laugh a lot, and tell those dear to you that you love and appreciate them daily.For those who have aging parents whose health may be going downhill now, it is worth sharing his wisdom with them. Albert was in pain during his last days, yet he didn’t spend time complaining. His family and friends adored him. His caregivers, who surrounded him 24/7 toward the end, also loved him and thought of him as a hero.

I thought his was a nice way to go out, in a place of peaceful reflection, feeling satisfied with how he had lived. As sad as I am, I cherish his example of both how to live, valuing what we have rather than lamenting what we don’t have and how to die, with a satisfied feeling in his heart. As a Boomer, knowing that there are more years behind us than ahead of us, I’m trying to take in his wisdom.

by Carolyn Rosenblatt, Elder Care Attorney and Co-Founder at AgingParents.com

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