Counselling Family

Counseling Matters:
Coping with Old Age

Coping with Old Age

Our experienced family counsellors answer your questions on relationships, marriage and family.

Q: We are a retired couple living with our second son and his family comprising of our daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. The other two children and their families live abroad. We have lived independently all these years and run our families very well but now we feel restricted. As we have hearing and vision problems, we feel even more frustrated. In addition, we are dependent on their time and convenience to travel to see our friends or even the doctor. This makes us feel very lonely, unloved and not respected. 

A: After having led busy lives all these years, it is difficult for both of you to take on a passive role in your family. The increasing health issues have made an impact on the quality of your lives. However, it is important to perceive these changes in your family as opportunities for your children to take care of you in your old age. Secondly, it is their concern for your ailing health issues that make them want to accompany you wherever you go.

However, if you still feel restricted, we encourage you to express your feelings openly with your son and family. Today there are various options like engaging a private taxi service or even having a driver at home (if feasible) to take both of you around thus minimizing your dependence on your children. You could also openly express that you value the quality time they spend with you, asking you for your views on various matters, extending financial help when needed as it makes you feel loved and respected.

It is natural to experience feelings of emptiness and a sense of neglect. To cope with these changes positively, you can explore options like pursuing hobbies, going for walks, socializing with the elderly and engaging in social activities that do not take a toll on your health. Then, old age becomes a time of enrichment and enjoyment of the small pleasures of life. Also, see it as a time to cherish and participate in the upbringing of your grandchildren.

Your guidance and support for them is mutually beneficial. All this in turn will help you feel loved, needed and respected. You could also view this phase of life as a time to build up your relationship with your spouse. Years of raising children must have probably left both of you with no time for one another. Now would be the ideal time to pursue activities together thus increasing your bond with one another.

Q: We are two siblings settled abroad. Our parents are in India struggling with a host of illnesses and finding it difficult to cope with their daily routine alone. We are unable to bring them abroad nor are they willing. My father’s illnesses have caused hospitalization many times too. My mother is open to the idea of moving to an old age home, as she is unable to cope up with the demands of care taking. She feels the support, environment; sense of belonging to a community will help them battle their loneliness and struggles of life. However, my father is not open to this idea. His illness leads to a lot of hospitalization too causing us endless worry. We really wish the best for them. It is a constant worry how their needs will be taken care of.

A: I understand the predicament you and your sibling are going through. You wish the best for your parents in the given circumstances. It is indeed difficult for your parents as they battle their old age issues. It is also natural for your father to feel attached to the home which he has built with his hard earned money and sacrifices. With old age comes various insecurities too which we need to consider. It is not easy for many elderly people to consider living in an old age home.

They could probably explore other options other than an old age home too. You could think of having a full time home nurse at their home who is equipped to handle responsibilities of the home as well as health issues. If your parents have fears of having a stranger at home due to safety reasons, you could seek the assistance of your neighbors/ friends/relatives to call on them and check in at intervals on their well-being.

This will give a sense of security for your parents too. These days there are reliable institutions that provide registered, trained home nurses as caregivers. Elders desire to age with dignity. We need to be mindful of their needs as we address their concerns and handle it delicately. Frequently calling them, speaking to them and assuring them of your constant love and support, even though you live far away, could be reaffirming to them.

Your parents could also be encouraged to be a part of social activities in their neighborhood, pursue simple activities that will not take a toll on their health. Above all, calling them frequently, checking on their needs, empathizing with them and lending them moral support would make them feel loved and accepted. Also keeping them updated on the events of your lives will make them feel involved and wanted too.

This would remove any feelings of loneliness for them. Frequently calling them, speaking to them and assuring them of your constant love and support, even though you live far away, could be reaffirming to them. 

Q: I am a widow, retired from banking service and now living a rather secluded life. My daughter and her family live nearby. I was able to manage my life independently all these years but with my retirement and increasing health issues, I have begun feeling very lonely, neglected and useless. I do not expect any financial help from my daughter but the least they could do is acknowledge the struggles that I faced in bringing her up well in life. I have become more irritable, anxious and stressed, as I do not get the needed support from my daughter.

A: It is admirable that you have led your life independently overcoming challenges and having come this far. All these years you were completely occupied with the demands of work and home, giving less time to think or worry on any issue. However, retirement has brought into the forefront many issues suddenly and you find it difficult to cope with it.

Suddenly you find yourself having lot of free time leading to loneliness and a feeling of worthlessness. You should be proud of yourself for bringing up your daughter single- handedly against the odds in a manner that now she is able to lead her life independently with her family. At the same time, I would encourage you to understand that your daughter has her own life and responsibilities too. It must be a challenge for her to divide her time with you too. However, you could express your feelings of loneliness and stress with her and work out together on how to face these challenges effectively.

For example, you could choose to spend the weekends with your daughter and family too or vice versa. You could have your grandchildren staying with you for the weekends thus enabling you to cherish their growing years. You could probably use this time as one to explore new territories – offer professional advice in the banking field, start your own blog, keep in touch with your peers and loved ones, pursue hobbies, go for walks, meditation, listen to music, become a member of a library etc that could keep your body and mind active. This would give you a sense of purpose in your life and you will find yourself becoming increasingly active as well as enjoying the small pleasures of life. 

Q: My husband and I are retired teachers. We spent our hard-earned money educating our son by sending him abroad like he wanted. He is back with us, has a high-end job, is married and has one child. Now that we are retired, we find ourselves very lonely and frustrated. We do not get pension and are dependent on our son for financial help every month. Secondly, we have in very clear terms been told not to offer advice to them on running a family or any other matters. Our interactions with our grandchild feel terribly let down by our son, as he does not seem to value the sacrifices we made in sending him abroad. We feel sidelined in our own family making us feel forsaken and neglected.

A: Retirement can cause a sudden shift in an individual’s life in terms of having a lot of time in hand, lack of identity, feeling of emptiness worthlessness. It is indeed notable that you have been able to send your son abroad for his studies. Being financially dependent on your son could make you feel stressed and frustrated. We would encourage you at this stage to explore various options to broaden your horizon and keep yourself occupied.

Perhaps you could consider taking tuitions for a few hours in the evening thereby helping you earn money, work part-time for one or two hours at a local school, be part of a social group in your area, and pursue activities like having a vegetable garden at home, reading books and having social interactions with your peers. When you begin giving back to society in your own way, you will be utilizing your intelligence, your potential which will make you feel useful and respected.

This would move you from yearning for the past to looking forth to a meaningful future. It would be nice if you could share your feelings of frustration with your son openly, state your expectations honestly and thus work on a solution that would be mutually beneficial for both sides. You could turn an adverse situation into an advantage to you without breaking the family relationships. The solutions and suggestions made in this column are for these specific cases and may not apply to all cases. The basic principles however can be applied to most similar situations.

Leave a Comment