Caring Currents

Does Older = Wiser?

Last updated: Jul 03, 2008


Several recent studies confirm the notion that age confers a certain measure of wisdom. For example, researchers at the University of Texas found that people 60 and older reported more feelings of peace and calm than did their younger counterparts. And a study in the journal Neurobiology of Aging concluded that older people are better able to control and regulate their emotions than younger people are.

If you're caring for an elderly parent or relative, you may be skeptical of these findings, especially if you're frustrated by loved ones' refusal to take steps that seem logical for their own health and safety.

For example, you may find your parents' refusal to leave their cluttered, unmanageble home for an assisted living facility unfathomable -- and extremely unwise. You're baffled by how stubbornly your parents resist your reasonable arguments (and the lure of the glossy brochures you bring by to tempt them). Your parents are putting their health at risk, and creating family discord. Where's the wisdom in that?

If you're trapped in this type of struggle, it's time to employ some wisdom of your own. David Solie, a geriatric specialist and expert, explains that aging involves so many losses that elderly people tend to hold on tight to the areas of life they still control. In your parents' case, their house -- or apartment -- is far more than a home; it represents their past, their memories, their sense of identity.

In a recent interview, Solie describes how he handled the situation when housing became an issue for his aging mother. He also provides helpful advice in his answers to readers questions, and on his blog.

Understanding your parents' experience won't resolve all your conflicts, of course. It won't make your parents' home safer, or diminish your worries about their health. But it will help you and your parents step away from your power struggle, communicate with each other, and take a more empathic, productive approach -- which represents wisdom, no matter how old you are.

Image by Flickr user Konstantin Sutyagin, used under the Creative Commons licencing agreement.