Monday, October 14, 2019
With the advances in modern medicine, we've increased our life expectancy by an average of ten years in the last 40 years. With this change comes a need to rethink how we provide care for our parents.
Ideally, we would be providing those retiring with the tools necessary to be as independent as possible, both from a professional carer and younger family members — either individually or in groups, meaning, for example, neighbors organising to help one another.
When we think of an adult child caring for a parent, what comes to mind is someone in their 50s taking care of their parents in their 70s. However, it's now common for people 20 years older than that to be caring for a parent in their 90s or older.
My mom has just turned 70 and has been taking care of my grandma for over a decade. My grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer 13 years ago, and it's been an arduous journey. Every day we saw her disappear slowly and needing help with all of her activities for daily living.
These days it's difficult for me to see my mom from far away who also could use more help herself, while still having my grandma to look after.
The benefit of this for my mom is the immense sense of purpose that comes with taking care of a parent that needs you. The act of caring for another is powerful as individuals lean on each other for emotional support.
As part of the difficulty in meeting demand for nursing homes or elderly care, we should encourage more adults to volunteer or even re-enter the workforce by helping their neighbors. Umbrella is a company doing just that (https://www.askumbrella.com/work).
If you're recently retired, there's all the more reason to consider something like this.
Neighbors can and should help each other by merely being in touch. Older adults will inevitably have individual needs that are unique to their situation as they age. They could each offset some of these non-medical needs by helping each other and exchange favors. Favours could include transportations, help around the house, or quite merely through companionship.
So how do we encourage this type of mobilization of individuals for non-medical support as we age?
With the caregiver shortage, encouraging seniors to take jobs in the healthcare sector is a constructive way to counter the effect of the labor shortage. Mobilising seniors to provide non-medical care, or social care, can also help relieve the economic burden after having retired.
Growing old is the first step in losing something, whether that be a sibling, parent, or role in society. It's also why so many of us prefer to stay in denial about it rather than start taking the steps towards being in charge of it altogether.
As an older adult receiving help from a fellow older adult, the best thing is that shared affliction and shared understanding of needs and concerns.
Regardless of your age or how you choose to contribute, we get a tremendous sense of purpose from feeling needed. Being involved in mission-driven work that improves the quality of life for someone improves the situation for both the caregiver and -receiver.
If you've recently retired, consider pursuing a second career or take on leadership roles in a community that helps seniors in your area. Age is not a limit; on the contrary, it's a key differentiator.
Everyone will grow old one day. Seniors should help take care of each other, because if we don't, who will?
For families with expats who don't have family support close by, it can be especially helpful to get involved. One of the efforts under development at Mon Tonton is the ability to register to help connect seniors who either need to receive or would like to help others.
Are you interested in learning more? Join the waitlist here, and you'll be the first to know when Mon Tonton beta is ready!