Caring Currents

Good Things Come in 3s for Aging Parents

Last updated: May 23, 2008

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In a relatively rare change from the usual glum headlines about aging parents, several decidedly sunny findings have hit my desk.

1. Mom really is older and wiser.

Certain memory changes short of full-blown dementia are a normal part of aging -- not because the brain is falling apart, but because it's functioning in different, and in some regards, better ways. A New York Times report this week tells how getting older brings a broader attention span that lets you take in more of a situation -- and then process it using a larger store of experiences.

Moral: Presented with all the information, Mom might have as much fresh thinking and ability to make a wise choice as you do. Don't shield her from all the facts, whether financial or medical. Keep her in the loop. Keep listening to her.

2. Dad is one calm cookie.

Starting around age 60, people report more feelings of ease, calm, and contentment than those who are younger, researchers at the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin report. In fact, these positive feeling are far more common than negative ones, like anxiety and anger, especially in men.

Moral: Don't assume that just because parents aren't wild and crazy, they aren't enjoying life. Make time to enjoy their company on their terms: A phone chat, a visit, a drive -- not to solve a problem but to enjoy one another.

3. They're happier with each passing birthday.

I previously blogged about the University of Chicago study that found septuagenarians and octogenarians are way happier than baby boomers.

Moral: Jollier days are coming for us!

This stuff shouldn't be surprising. But I think that all the depressing news we're fed about aging can subconsciously color our mindset and make us forget that our loved ones are still essentially the same people inside. They deserve our attention, empathy, worry, and care -- and, yeah, our admiration and enjoyment.

Image by Flickr user A.M.Kuchling, used under the Creative Commons attribution license.