Demystifying Your Aging Parents' New Stage of Life

Understanding this new stage of life can help you improve communication and avoid power struggles.

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Three generations

Bridging a generation gap with elderly parents

Those of us who are caring for elderly parents are often bewildered by the decisions they make -- and by their seemingly stubborn refusal to follow our advice. We shake our heads over their obsession with the past, their caution, and the glacial pace with which they make decisions and move through the world. As much as we love our parents, dealing with them can often be fraught with tension and frustrating, as we try to bridge a communications gap as yawning as any we've experienced with rebellious toddlers or teenagers.

Part of the problem is that we tend to think about our elderly parents as more wrinkled, less capable versions of the people they used to be. As a society, we take it for granted that old age is a time of decline rather than development and personal growth.

But experts who study the psychology of the elderly paint a richer, more complicated picture of aging. It turns out that aging involves distinct developmental stages and that elderly people have pressing life tasks they need to accomplish if they're to end their lives with resolution and meaning. It's true that aging is challenging and painful -- probably more painful than we can conceive. But the experience of aging can also be fulfilling and profound if it's approached with insight and clarity and with the support of caring children and loved ones.

By understanding your elderly parents' experience, you'll be better equipped to communicate with and help them -- so they'll enjoy an old age you may wish to emulate when your turn comes around.