I'm continuing to receive google alerts for news items dealing with aging parents. As I looked through all the articles and blogs, it occured to me that the phrase -aging parents- could have the same problem as a phrase I REALLY dislike - the elderly. "The elderly" bothers me because elderly is not a noun it is a descriptive term. When used as a noun it immediatly lumps individuals into a catagory based solely on age, and implies that frailty and other problems are the result of aging. I wince when I read that "the elderly need this","the elderly think that", or "this is good for the elderly". Considering the vast individual differences in people of any age group (imagine lumping the middle-aged into a single catagory), it makes no sense to assume the majority of people over a certain age are suddenly more the same than different. So I have to ask myself if the same holds true for the phrase aging parents.
When I post a blog it asks me to identify a catagory. Clearly there has to be some method for interested parties to find information on their topic of choice. However, I want to make something really clear. In my opinion age really is just a number that has less to do with who a person is, and what they are capable of, than almost any other factor you could name. As I provide practical strategies to help parents and adult children create a culture and partnership of well-being I will continually ask you to take age out of the equation. Therefore, I will give more thought to every descriptive phrase I use to make sure my message is consistent.
Now I'm curious. What does the phrase aging parents imply to you?
I recently signed up for a google alert on aging parents. It's clear from the articles and blog links I'm receiving that angst is high between boomers and aging parents. There's plenty of information on caregiving statistics, challenges of the sandwich generation, and how to find the right nursing home —when the time comes. But no-one is talking about how to create a partnership between aging parents and adult children that supports independence and well-being on all levels – body, mind and spirit.
After years of creating exercise and wellness programs for the senior living industry I've realized something….all the good intentions and efforts, quality programs, and step-by-step guides to senior care fall short if you fail to create a true partnership of well-being between the individual needing care and the caregiver. It doesn't matter if they are living in an assisted living community or an adult childs home.
A true care partnership focuses on enhancing well-being in body, mind and spirit – regardless of challenges. It doesn't let the medical model of care (i.e. managing illness and chronic conditions) take center stage. This shift in thinking focuses on possibilities rather than disabilities, and actively celebrates all the big and small things that make someone a unique person. The disability movement profoundly changed the lives of people with disabilities by making this same shift. It stopped allowing disabilities to define individuals and what they were capable of and provided support for what they could do rather than lament what they couldn't do. In this new care "environment" many individuals with profound disabilities accomplished amazing things.
It's time to do the same for frail older adults and their families. I want to help adult children and aging parents create partnerships that promote lifelong independence, and support well-being regardless of challenges. Over the next months I'll provide a variety of tools designed to help individuals create environments of well-being rather than illness management. I'll look forward to hearing your feedback.