By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney, AgingParents.com
My mother in law, Alice, 95, was looking forward to getting fixed up and going to the birthday party for her friend of many years. He just turned 100. She had help from her caregiver to find the right outfit. She donned her fancy clothes. Her hair and makeup were done and her nails manicured. She looked terrific.
At the head table of the party were other friends, one her accountant, also 95. He still works at his profession and still drives. Her other buddies were there, a married couple. The husband is 100 and the wife is 99. Imagine living that long and being friends that long. Alice had a great time at the party.
No matter who at the party has cognitive impairment (most of them) or who can manage without help at home (one of them), the common denominator is that all of them can enjoy a celebration. We don’t lose our emotional need for companionship and fun with aging. We don’t lose our need for social connection. And most of us are going to need some kind of care in the meantime.
Consider that due to advances in medicine, science, and technology, the world’s population of centenarians is projected to reach nearly 6 million by midcentury. We are already seeing more walkers and wheelchairs around than baby strollers. The number of centenarians is projected to grow at more than 20 times the rates of the total population by 2050, making them the fastest growing age segment. It would be great of all the centenarians were in good health, but that is not the case. Many are in declining health and many have dementia. (If that describes your aging parents, learn how to manage them best at AgingParents.com).
As with Alice, we provide the needed care for these frail elders. On top of that, we need to offer opportunities for fun.
Boomers with aging parents are taking care of these parents, with some of us on the job of caregiving in our 70s. The images we see of Alice and her friends tell us we may be doing some level of caregiving for at least 30 years in many cases. That’s longer than we spent raising our own kids. If you’re doing retirement planning, you might need to add the work of caregiver into that plan.
No matter what we need to do to meet their physical needs for safety and comfort, to transport them to the endless doctor’s appointments, to watch over their financial health and to provide company, we must not forget that we need to plan some parties, some enjoyable outings and things that make them smile. As long as we are with it enough to have a good time, we never get too old to laugh.
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