Maria Olsen, Positive Aging Kuel Category Expert
I just returned from a ten-day cruise with my 80-year-old mother.
I was the youngest guest on the cruise. Going on a trip with older folks is one way to feel young!
I am so grateful for the time I had with my mom. We never before had taken a trip together, just the two of us. The trip had been postponed three times due to the Covid pandemic, but a window finally opened and together we jumped at the chance.
“She cannot hear what people say even if she is wearing her hearing aids.”
My mother would not have gone on an overseas trip without me or my brother to accompany her. She has had quadruple bypass heart surgery and hip replacement. And, she is very hard of hearing and nods yes, even if she did not hear what you said. She cannot hear what people say even if she is wearing her hearing aids. Her English is heavily accented, and I often translate for her. She’s a bit daffy and usually very agreeable.
My parents divorced when I was young, and I primarily lived with my father until I left for college. My mother had my brother and me on weekends and during the summers.
“I am sure your parents helped you along the way as well.”
I Become The Caregiver For My Aging Parent:
There were times when I felt like I was parenting my then-impulsive mother. She would have allowed us candy for breakfast, probably to assuage her guilt in not having us full time. In some ways, I again have become the caregiver, holding her hand as she toddles along, afraid to fall and break another bone.
I help her with technology issues and filling out complicated forms. I don’t mind at all. There was a time when my financially astute mother helped me navigate a financial accounting class in college. I am sure your parents helped you along the way as well.
None of us know when our time will end or how much more time our loved ones have on this earth. My father has passed, stricken with cancer at an early age. Statistically speaking, any of us could perish in a car accident any day.
“Dementia took my grandmother from me, long before she died.”
Spend Much Time As We Can:
So it is important to live with intention and to spend as much time as we can with the people who mean the most to us. The pandemic underscored how much more important relationships are than things. And who could have anticipated that a worldwide pandemic would have prevented us from traveling for a year? Now that restrictions have loosened, I am seizing the day!
While most older people are not as adept at using technology to stay in touch with others, we can teach our parents how to use Zoom or Facetime. Virtual time together is better than no time together.
But I implore you to try to get some in-person time with your parents. Dementia took my grandmother from me, long before she died. It is a nasty thief affecting more than six million people in the United States.
“Children are excellent observers, but poor interpreters.”
Talked Memories With My Aging Parent:
My mom and I had a great time together on our trip. There were some outings that she passed on, but she was content to stay on the ship and read while I explored the port of call. We enjoyed having all of our meals together. We both really love food, especially sweets.
While on cruises, it is common for the passengers to get to know one another by sitting at tables together, I was grateful to have my mother to myself at mealtimes, as the ship’s crew advised us to stay at tables with our own families because one passenger tested positive for the Covid virus during the trip.
We talked about our memories and I got to ask her questions about things from childhood I did not understand. Children are excellent observers, but poor interpreters. I am grateful to obtain clarification about a few things from the past before there was no one who could speak to them.
“One of the greatest gifts you can give another person is your time and attention.”
Before It’s Too Late:
So make time now, before it is too late. I am lucky that my mother lives only a half-hour from me, and I make an effort to see her once a week. We go shopping together, out for meals, or even just sit together. One of the greatest gifts you can give another person is your time and attention. It is something no one can buy or manufacture once it is gone.
Ask your parent or older loved one to tell you stories about the past. Consider recording the information for subsequent generations. Family history is a precious gift and often can have larger implications than anticipated. Work on family trees together and preserve the fruit of your labor for your children, nieces or nephews.
The biggest regrets of people on their deathbeds do not include that they did not work more or harder. They include not spending enough time with the people who were most important to them. Do not let that regret be one of yours. Start now.
About the Author:
Maria Leonard Olsen is an attorney, author, radio show and podcast host in the Washington, D.C., area. For more information about her work, see www.MariaLeonardOlsen.com and follow her on social media at @fiftyafter50. Her latest book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life, which has served as a vehicle for helping thousands of women reinvigorate their lives, is offered for sale on this website.